My name is Andrew Ayrton and my wife Louise and I are third generation tenants of Bower House Farm, which is part of the Bolton Abbey Estate belonging to the Duke of Devonshire, in the Craven District of the Yorkshire Dales. The farm gets its name from a four acre field below the farmhouse, surrounded on all four sides by trees and this is known as a bower – a shady place under trees.
My grandfather first took on the farm in 1930 and began selling milk out of a churn to people in the nearby town of Skipton. Even back then dairy was a tough business and the dining table in our farmhouse was received as payment for a bad debt by my grandfather. Louise and I have two sons and a daughter. One of our sons is currently studying Agriculture at Askham Bryan College, near York and we hope one day he will become the fourth generation of our family to run Bower House Farm.
The farm is currently home to around 210 milking cows and 150 young cattle that are reared as replacements for the dairy herd. I am very proud of the fact that we have maintained a ‘closed herd’ since taking on the farm, which means all animals are born and reared on the farm. No cows are bought in from other farms, which helps to reduce disease risk amongst our animals. We are passionate about breeding cows and the long lived family lines we established in the herd. We regularly hosts events for Young Farmers Clubs, including the Yorkshire Federation of Young Farmers stock judging competition in 2016.
The cows at Bower House Farm supply Free Range Milk under the Pasture Promise label to Dales Dairies in Grassington, 10 miles away from the farm. The farm enjoys a southerly aspect in the vale running between Wharfdale and Airedale, which means the grass grows well in the fields surrounded by traditional stone walls. We believe that going outdoors in the spring and summer months is a basic freedom that all cows should have and we want to help people understand more about how the life we afford our cows and the farming that lies behind their food. Being a part of the Free Range Dairy Network gives us a great opportunity to work with other farmers to promote great British milk.