Finlay Farm Cheese : Full of Flavour and Welfare November 01, 2016 13:39

Hi Everyone,

Regular customers and readers of the blog will know that we are huge believers in provenance here at PB and in the eleven years we’ve been going we’ve got to know hundreds of producers, suppliers and foodie artisans.  With this has come a great many stories of how a product came to be – some are second, third and fourth generation producers, others have given up corporate jobs in the city to follow their dream.  Whatever the journey, the end result is always top notch produce and a passion for the product.

This month’s blog comes from Rainton Farm, where David Finlay is a third generation dairy farmer.  As you’d expect from someone whose family has been tending the same land since the 1920s, his story is steeped in tradition, however it is also one of forward-thinking, progressive ideas made possible by dedication and a deep belief in animal welfare.

To set the scene you first need to know how a typical dairy farm works.  A cow must calf every year in order to be productive and once born, the calves will suckle with their mother for 24 hours before being removed. At this point the cow is milked for our consumption and the calf is fed with a powdered substitute. 

Now, much the same as humans, calved raised on their mother’s milk will fair better so when David’s farm went all organic in 2001 there was a switch to continue feeding calves real milk once they’d been removed.   This may be more expensive in the short term but in the long term they are healthier animals who need far, far fewer antibiotics. 

David was astonished at the difference in his calves health and in the past 15 years has gone from being a cynic to being an ambassador of feeding calves on real milk.   Four years ago he decided to explore this further and the farm experimented with allowing the calves to suckle directly from their mother, 24 hours a day.  The idea was that the cows would be milked once instead of twice, thus reducing the stress on the cows even further..

It worked on a number of levels, both economically and from a welfare point of view.  The calves grew strong and healthy far quicker to the point where the male calves were ready to be sold earlier and female calves were ready to be impregnated earlier.   All of that was great.

However, once the calves had started suckling the mothers, there was resistance from the cows to allow David to milk them.  A dairy cow should yield four times as much as a calf needs but the calves were greedy and the cows were reluctant to let David have much at all!  As well as this, the mother wasn’t coming back into season and so therefore wasn’t ready to calf the following year. After five months of trial they had to say stop.      

Four years on though and David is trying again, this time with a slightly different system that he predicts will bring all of the benefits to the animals and to the long term health of the business.   Many of his fellow dairy farmers think he’s nuts! A typical cow will produce 9000 litres of milk each year but David’s system will produce only 6000.  However, a typical dairy cow will live 5 years but thanks to the welfare and health benefits that come with David’s techniques his cows will live until they are 9 or 10.  That’s double the productivity per animal.

His new system will see calves suckling with their mothers for only half the day and then being removed; alongside this a vasectomised bull will run with the herd to keep hormones working and cycles in tact!  This will ensure the rich, creamy milk produced on Rainton Farm will continue for years to come, all the while bringing an even better environment to the herd that produces it for us.  You can read more about it on David’s blog here>>> 

We were so impressed with this amazing story that we’ve just taken stock of ALL of the cheeses produced on the farm – sold under their Cream O' Galloway Finlay’s Farmhouse Cheeses brand - and will be featuring four of these as our cheeses of the month.     They are as excellent as you’d expect from a farmer who puts this much care and attention into his product – do drop into the deli for a taste when you’re next in town.

It’s not just us who’ve been dazzled; this year, their Tomme won a silver award at the British Cheese Awards held at the Bath Show during the spring bank holiday and they won four awards including Best Micro Producer, at the Artisan Cheese Awards held in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire at the start of May.  As well as scooping the Best Micro Producer title, three different cheeses from the Finlay’s Farmhouse Cheese range won individual gold, silver and bronze awards - Carrick cheese was awarded gold, Tomme received a silver and the Laganory cheese was given a bronze award.

Good going for a company who’ve only been making cheese since 2013!

CHEESE OF THE MONTH: From 1st to 30th November you can get 10% off on Carrick, Laganory, Rainton Tomme and Fleet Valley Blue.

CHEESE TASTING: Pop in and meet Helen from Cream O' Galloway at our first Finlay’s Farmhouse Cheese Tasting on Friday 2nd December 11am – 3pm.