19 Oct 2020

Farmer Focus: Sark Dairy Farmer

CIS customers, Jason and Katharine Salisbury were on holiday when they saw a BBC appeal on the breakfast news for a dairy farmer to set up a dairy on the Island of Sark. The island had always produced the highest quality milk and cream up until the last dairy farm dispersed leaving the island relying on imported dairy products from neighbouring islands.

The Salisbury’s sent an email and within a week, one of the trustees of the Island visited their farm in Suffolk, who ended up staying for 10 hours. Shortly after, they visited the Island, the Trustees decided to give them the opportunity.

Jason and Katharine currently milk a herd of 60 pedigree Guernsey’s with Delaval robots, under the prefix of ‘Sharnford’, on their farm near Creeting St Mary in Suffolk.  The decision to move to Sark means they will leave the day to day management of their farm and their cheese-making business, Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses, in the hands of a long-standing employee.

Jason and Katharine are the perfect couple for the island of Sark, they wholeheartedly believe in the future of small farming and artisanal produce.  Jason has over 30 years’ experience of the dairy industry, and Katharine is a cheese-maker and qualified Veterinary Surgeon.

Covid-19 has delayed their move to Sark and the plan now is to officially move Spring 2021.  A new purpose-built dairy is currently under construction on the 42-acre plot.  The steel-framed, timber-clad building will house the cows, a milking parlour (with viewing gallery) and dairy processing.

The first 8 Guernsey’s have been selected from herds on the Island of Guernsey, with the long-term plan of expanding up to 20 cows over the next three years. The Trust will hold the property for the community and lease it to Jason & Katharine as a dairy business.

Sark welcomes 52,000 tourists a year. The milk from the dairy will be used to supply liquid milk and cream to the island’s cafes, restaurants and shops through the summer peak season and in the winter months they will make butter and cheese in readiness for the next tourist season.

The new herd will be solely fed on feed grown on the Island as it is not cost-effective to import concentrates due to the logistics being very difficult. They have sown Lucerne and Barley this summer in readiness for the new herd’s arrival. The herd will be run as a low input, low output system.

Jason and Katharine currently use CIS to milk record their current herd in Suffolk which they do on a 6-weekly cycle and also test for Johne’s.  They understand the importance of milk recording to measure herd performance and health, therefore will use the CIS DIY milk recording service for the herd on Sark, posting the samples to the CIS accredited UKAS laboratory in Shropshire.

The advice Jason and Katharine share with anyone considering diversifying using their own milk is to go for it and get the message out there telling everyone about your herd/product.
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