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Are we pushing our farmers overseas?
Thomas and Amy with a kid
Thomas and Amy approve of the new goats

After five generations in farming, we talk to one dairy farmer who almost quit the industry after becoming disillusioned with Britain's milk market.

What do you think about the state of this country's farming industry? Have your say.

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A North Yorkshire farmer has described how he nearly quit the UK because he was finding it so hard to make a living out of dairy cattle.

Jonathan Robertshaw says he was disillusioned, and unhappy with the way the milk market was set up in Britain. He's now switched to producing goats milk and secured his family's immediate future in farming.

Jonathan Robertshaw's two children, five year-old Thomas and two-and-a-half year-old Amy, like the new animals on their dad's farm near Grewelthorpe.

Their father now has 500 goats - British Saanen, British Toggenburn and British Alpine. They produce high-quality milk which is sold on to St Helen's Farm at Seaton Ross in the Vale of York where some of it is also made into butter, yogurt and cheese. He sees it as a good move.

Jonathan Robertshaw
Jonathan Robertshaw

"Really, I wanted to move into a sector that was going to be more profitable for my business. There are two reasons why I felt goats were the answer. Firstly the dairy I supply, St. Helens near York, have had a positive, steady growth for the last 15-20 years in the goat dairy market.

"Secondly, and probably more importantly for me, there is the potential to make a very good margin out of it."

But it could all have been very different. Jonathan Robertshaw, who's the fifth generation of his family in farming, felt dairy farming was no longer going to keep him in business.

"I was disillusioned with the dairy cow industry so I started to look at the various options available, goats being one of them.

"Basically it's the price and margin at the end of the day. The supermarkets and large national dairies that have control of the market place, and I decided I wanted to try and do something about it.

Jonathan Robertshaw
Jonathan Robertshaw

"I always wanted to stay in farming, my options were going abroad rather than staying in the country but thankfully I have been able to stay in this country and hopefully, create a future.

"If the choice was between milking dairy cows in this country or abroad, would go abroad straight away. You'd be moving into a society that would be more inclined to view agriculture positively, less regulations and your money would definitely go a lot further."

How do you think this country views farmers? Are we sending them overseas? Have your say using the form at the bottom of the page.

The switch from dairy to goat farming was made possible by a grant from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

For Jonathan Robertshaw, his herd of goats, which he hopes to add another hundred to before long, suggests a bright future and one he and his family can enjoy in North Yorkshire.

Mike Kemp
BBC Radio York

Have your say on this issue

If you have a comment, fill in the form below

James Hamilton
It's a little more complicated than Mr Kenneth Firby's comments indicate, but essentially i completely agree with him--Amen.

David Peacock
All credit to Jonathan, firstly for staying in this country and secondly for thinking through what has transpired to be a sound and deserved business decision. I personally think this gives a great learning opportunity for young children. I hope Jonathan (if he hasn't already)considers having organised tours for schools. I've heard of one or two farms that have even erected or converted an existing farm building into a learning centre where teachers can interact with the children. They can also rest and eat their packed lunched there.

Kenneth Firby
I am offended that at least 50% of the Western world holds disdain for rural lifestyle. My father was a farmhand in an orchard. My grandfather raised dogs and farm animals, growing vegetables for home usage. His father professionally delivered milk and eggs from door to door. My other grandfather landscaped for a living. None of this seems appealing to the new wealth which wants a purely urbanite-capitalist lifestyle. I wonder why the cosmopolites would ridicule the genuine people, but elevate those who have been popularly known to be guilty of many crimes in fraud and the like. I praise the farmer for being a hero to his people in filling their bellies, rather than the avarice of libertines.



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