As you might have seen from a recent press release in Scotland myself and fellow Director Neil Darwent from Free Range Dairy Network where invited to meet with all the dairy farmers on the Island of Bute. It might only be 35mins on the ferry from the mainland but that short journey takes you to a very tranquil beautiful place full of lush grass that sweeps right down to the sea. A very happy place for cows.
The farmers on the Island like many across the country are really feeling the squeeze as the dairy crisis continues unabated. Although things are looking bleak, instead of just accepting their fate they’ve joined together and are proactively seeking a way out. The farmers want to be able to continue the legacy left to them by their ancestors and continue as guardians of the Island dairy industry, because unless a solution can be found they’re facing a very difficult future.
Neil and I were pleased to be invited to the Island to discuss the feasibility of the farmers becoming Free Range Dairy. Like lots of pasture based dairy farmers they are not being rewarded for the hard work they do. Consumers have said they want to pay more for their milk to support farmers that graze their cows and Free Range Dairy Network with the farmers are looking at ways we can make this happen. Due to the climate and size of the Island all the farmers are able to meet the Free Range Dairy standards. They don’t have to worry about milk segregation as it’s all from cows that graze the lovely Island grass and goes into one tanker ready to be quickly delivered to the mainland. The Island of Bute could be the first Free Range Dairy Pasture Promise Island anywhere in the world!
As one of the farmers and local SNFU chair Nr Nairn said
“As an island we already offer a great level milk supply of 15 million litres a year. We haven’t missed a delivery in the five years our milk’s been processed off island. My milk can be on the M8 on the outskirts of Glasgow in under an hour. The public clearly want their milk to be coming from cows that are able to live the type of life on farm that the television adverts promote, ‘happy cows’ demonstrating their natural behaviour grazing grass. For me the commitment to Free Range is about building on what we already have – which is a great milk product.”
Mr Nairn went on to say: “Our big concern is that the price we are currently getting threatens to put us out of business altogether without getting an opportunity to take advantage of these opportunities.”
It will be a travesty is the farmers go out of business after their families have lived and farmed this Island for generations but Free Range Dairy with the farmers and the Mount Stuart Estate will be working hard to make sure this doesn’t happen.