In the 1940s, great grandfather John Barnes moved with 20 milking cows to Southfields Farm, Somerby. After more than 70 years the original farm buildings and milking parlour for 60 cows were no longer viable. So after much consideration by Mark & Jane, Charlotte & Harry, the current Barnes family, they took the gigantic step and decided to move out of the village. In 2018 they built a brand new modern dairy farm and today they have more than 250 cows in the herd milked twice daily producing milk for the award winning Long Clawson Blue Stilton Cheese.
This created an opportunity to expand an already successful diversification project. Jane is passionate about sharing her farm life experiences and to educate members of the public all about cows! This demand for food knowledge has led the family to include a purpose built “Cow Classroom” alongside the milking parlour with viewing windows and overhead gallery, to watch the cows being milked. Visitors are welcomed and guided through the process of dairy farming in the UK today.
“Every child should meet a cow, take a tractor & trailer ride through open country and smell the fresh air on a real working dairy farm.”
FARM FACTS & FAQ’S
How many cows do you have?
We are currently have 240 milking cows in the herd, but we hope to expand through breeding our own heifers up to 300 by 2020.
What breeds are your cows?
We have some cross bred cows which are black and white Friesian x Ayrshires. The majority are pure bred pedigree Ayrshires which was a breed that started in Scotland (Ayrshire County I presume) which was a cross between a Highland Bull x Dunlop Cow. That’s why Ayshires have lovely long horns if left to grow, just like a Highland cow. It is thought that Robbie Burns was the first to de-horn his cows!
How many acres to you farm?
The total farm acreage is 370 acres or 149 hectares.
How long does it take to milk a cow?
It really depends on where she is in her lactation, but I generally say it takes 7-10 mins for each cow per milking.
How many calves does a cow have?
She needs to have a baby calf every year from the age of 2. However, sometimes we do get twins. If they are twin heifers then that’s a bonus! But if they are a bull (boy) and a heifer (girl) then we can’t keep the heifer as she is known as a Freemartin, and is unlikely to breed later in her life. We keep all the baby heifer calves for life on our farm as they will grown into milking cows and never leave our farm until they die.
What do you do with the bull calves?
All our dairy breed & beef bred calves are reared for 2-3 weeks on the farm, then sold to other farmers who will continue to rear them for the beef market when they are older.
How long does a cow live?
Some of our Ayrshire cows live until they’re 10 years old and occasionally up to 12 years old. They begin milking at 2 years old. As long as she gets in calf (pregnant) every year, then she will produce milk.
How much milk does a cow give per year?
Cows milk production varies throughout her 305 day lactation. This is due to her diet and breed qualities. We aim for each cow to produce between 5500 and 6000 litres per year.
When a cow finishes producing milk, what happens to her?
Our cows have a wonderful long and happy life on our farm, grazing with her friends and relations outdoors for 9 months each spring, summer and autumn. When she can no longer get in calf, we continue to milk her for the last lactation, then she will go to humane slaughter and provide meat for human consumption, her bones go for bonemeal & her hide will go into a leather products.
How many times do you milk per day & how long does it take?
On our farm, we milk twice daily, 5.30am and 3.30pm, every day of the year (365)! It takes between 2-3 hours per milking by one person.
How many cows do you milk at a time through your milking parlour?
Our new milking parlour can take 24 cows per side, so 48 cows in the parlour at a time. However, we only have 24 milking units, so after the first 24 cows have finished, the unit is switched over to the opposite side to milk them, so each unit has two cows to milk.
Why did you build a new Dairy Farm?
Our family has been milking cows in Somerby for generations, and Harry Barnes is the next generation. We used to milk in a smaller farm based in the village and over time the cow numbers have grown from 60 to 240 cows, therefore we needed larger and better factilities to progress. Our milk contract is another deciding factor, as all our milk is made into the world famous Blue Stilton cheese, which can only be made in three counties of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire.
How many dairy farmers are still milking in England & Wales?
In 2019 there are currently 8,500 dairy farmers in England & Wales, compared to 76,000 in 1960’s.
Why are dairy farmers leaving the industry?
We believe the most common reason for dairy farmers leaving is lack of succession followed by financial reasons and also lack of milk buyers in every corner of Britain.
Do you use Bulls or AI?
Both. We have bulls and use AI to inseminate the cows to become pregnant. It is a crutial part of the dairy industry to get our cows in calf otherwise, she’ll not produce milk next year.
How many people do you employ?
We don’t employ any full time staff. We have three self employed people come to do regular milkings per week. The farmer, Mark and his wife Jane and their son Harry are the only full time members on the farm. We use contractors to make our winter silage and maize feed.