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By Hugh Boag
Dairy farming on Arran is all but over ending hundreds of years of tradition.
The only two remaining dairy farms on Arran confirmed this week that their herds had been advertised for sale and were likely to end milk production at the end of September.
It follows the closure by First Milk of Torrylinn Creamery at the south end of the island at the end of last month, ending the main outlet for Arran milk.
The two farms, the bigger Clauchlands in Lamlash, which has a 200 strong herd, and Tigheanfraoch in Blackwaterfoot, where there are 50 cows, are up for sale and both would hope to sell them as a herd.
At the annual farmers’ show on Wednesday, where there were no dairy cattle on show, director John McBride told the crowds. ‘There are no dairy cattle here today and there will be none in the future. Thanks to First Milk policy there will never be any dairy cattle ever again.’
Now 62-year-old John Murchie, who farms at Tigheanfraoch, has the heartbreaking decision of whether to call it a day to a way of life he has known all his adult life with his Fresian type dairy herd up for sale.
John said: ‘If they go that will be the end of it, but I would like them to go away as a unit rather than one by one at the markets on the mainland.’ He says he has had a few enquiries and the best option may be for the animals, which range for calves to adults to produce year round milk, to go ‘sooner rather than later’.
Should they not sell John has the option of continuing to produce milk, most of which now goes to Mauchline or Kintyre on the mainland. One option would be to bottle the milk himself but John says that would be cost prohibitive. ‘The supermarkets sell milk as a loss leader cheaper than water so it would be very difficult to compete,’ he admitted.
So the current situation could mark a sad end for Tigheanfraoch – the house of the heather – which has been in the family since John’s mum and dad Cathie and Nazer Murchie took over the tenancy in 1953. John started working at the farm with twin brother Donald when they were old enough and bought out the business in 1993 with his mum remaining active in the farm until she was 90. She died 18 months ago. The dad-of-three now runs the farm with wife Fer.
John was recently reminded that there were 70 milk producers on Arran but the introduction of bulk tanks in 1973 saw the gradual decline of smallholding producers who would see any excess milk to the creamery.
At the height of his heard John had upward of 90 milking cows but now has under 50 after adopting a ‘low input, low output’ system, but milk producers work on very tight margins these days.
John is sad to see the creamery go but wonders if it had just ‘run its course’ and if dairy production followed he warned: ‘It is just another thing that is although, given the uncertainties of Brexit, it may not be the last.
Stuart Reid at Clauchlands told the Banner. ‘Everything is up in the air at the moment. The herd is for sale and there has been some interest. I would like to see it go in one lot.
‘What happens at the farm remains to be seen, but my focus is on the of September just now. It is sad as the farm has been in my family since 1968.’
Two farm jobs and a part-time post are at risk as a result of the herd sale.
The distinctive Fresian cows in the field at Tigheanfraoch. 01_B32cows01
The calves who face an uncertain future at the farm. o1_B32cows02