Cleveley House, near Forton in Lancashire, is home to dairy farmer John Carr – a 4th generation farmer looking to change the way he produces milk.
"I divide my time between the store and the dairy herd that my family has farmed here for four generations. I’ve been farming since I was a boy, back when the milking was carried out in the cattle sheds (or 'shippons') where our café now stands.
Until last year, I milked 100 pedigree Holstein Friesians in the parlour system. They produced 7,500 litres of milk every year from self-feeding silage – a popular feeding method which lets the cows help themselves to a store of compacted grass.
Due to low yield and increasing costs, I've decided to change how we produce milk and focus on grazed grass. This has meant a switch to Jersey/Friesian cross-bred heifers – plus a few other changes around the farm!
I plan to keep 150 cows on 150 acres. The farm itself is split, with 90 acres close to the buildings reserved for grazing, and 60 acres further afield for heifer rearing and silage. My target milk yield is 6,000 litres per cow, meaning the herd will produce 900,000 litres a year to be sold on to a national supermarket chain.
I'm using a modified version of the New Zealand system to suit Lancashire conditions. So, for example, during bad weather, the cows come in at night for shelter and silage. Also, if the temperature is below freezing in the morning, we'll keep the gate closed for an hour until the frost has gone off the grass.
My focus now is paddock grazing, but I've kept the self-feed silage system for when grass growth exceeds cow demand. I use a plate meter to measure the height and density of the field cover once a week, and determine how quickly the cows are rotated on the paddocks.
In addition to being a farmer, I also manage my farm shop! I got my first taste of working in a shop when visiting my mother’s family’s farm. They ran a successful store, and I always loved its friendly atmosphere and the fact that you could buy things there that you just couldn’t get anywhere else. This is what led me to convert the old cow sheds into a shop.
We started small in 2002; farm supplies, clothing and a tea room were all crammed into the space now occupied by our café. Nowadays, the store is part outdoor clothing specialist, part quality pet supply store and part café. As we’ve grown, we’ve converted more of the old farm buildings just to fit it all in! We also send out a monthly newsletter to help keep customers up to date on all the latest products and the Cleveley herd.
What would I do if I wasn't a dairy farmer? Be a milkman!"