Bye bye Buttercup
By Claire Peters
As farmer John Gallichan says good-bye to his herd we ask if it's a sign of things to come for the Jersey dairy industry.
Dairy farming is a traditional way of life in Jersey, but, as with many traditions, it’s changing to keep up with modern life.
As part of a major restructuring of the dairy industry approximately 350 Jersey cattle are being moved to the UK.
The time has come
The Gallichan family have farmed their land in Trinity for nearly 130 years - now they’re hanging-up their wellies and milking their herd for the final time.
Originally running a mixed farm the Gallichans decided to concentrate on dairy farming back in 1995, but have now decided to get out of farming altogether.
“My son spoke to me about it and we decided that this could be the time to come out,” explained John Gallichan. “It is a hard decision – my family moved to this farm in 1880.”
The herd will swap Jersey grass for Devon's fields
Their cows are being sent to a new pastures in Devon where “there is good demand at the moment for Jersey cattle” to produce superior quality milk.
“I suppose the sad thing is you won’t see these cows anymore – there’s only two herds left in the parish now,” he said.
However he is hopeful that his departure from the industry will be of benefit to the island’s remaining dairy farmers who will be able to sell more of their own produce.
Mr Gallichan is considering turning the farm’s granite outbuildings into self-catering holiday accommodation, whilst his fields are being passed over to his son-in-law, who is also a farmer:
“That’s one of the plus sides really because they’re staying in the family,” he added.
The out-buildings may become holiday accommodation
Less but bigger
Although the number of dairy herds in the island has dropped since the industry’s origins, those that do exist are bigger than in previous generations.
“In the ‘60s every small farm holding had seven or eight or up to maybe 15 cows. Now of course you have larger herds…maybe 150 to 200,” explained Mr Gallichan.
A sign of things to come?
With around 350 Jersey cattle being sent to the UK already this year, is this a sign that the end of the island’s dairy heritage is nigh?
Not according to the president of the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society, Derek Frigot.
“I don’t think there are going to be any more farmers departing the industry at this point,” he stated.
The Gallichans have worked their farm since 1880
Moving with the times
Mr Frigot explained that the dairy industry has been through a number of changes over it’s long histroy as farms meet demands of the modern world.
“Twenty-five years ago there might have been something like 180 herds,” he said.
“Back in those years there was a large departure very quickly when the system of milk collection changed from churn collection to bulk tank collection.
“We lost about sixty herds in one year but they were all very small.”
When the Foot & Mouth crisis hit farmers in the UK in 2000 the industry in Jersey was re-structured and around 20% of the island’s cows were sent to the mainland.
The industry is going through another restructuring as a new Water Law brought in by the States requires farmers to put in slurry tanks.
“For farmers we’re talking about a lot of money – hundreds of thousands of pounds for some of the larger farms,” described Mr Frigot.
However, the RJAHS president believes that once the necessary alterations have taken place Jersey will still have a healthy dairy industry.
“This restructuring is designed to give a springboard for the future.
“We’re going to have a smaller number of farmers, probably a better industry, or at least a better designed industry for the future,” he explained.
“In a year or two’s time, when all these farms have got their new structures in, we’re going to have a stronger dairy industry.”
last updated: 29/04/2008 at 12:24
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