A day in the life of two Kent goat farmers

PUBLISHED: 21:07 20 March 2011 | UPDATED: 19:01 20 February 2013

A day in the life of two Kent goat farmers

A day in the life of two Kent goat farmers

Meet Deborah Vernon and David Shannon and hear all about their typical working day

A day in the life of two Kent goat farmers


Meet Deborah Vernon and David Shannon and hear all about their typical working day


What sort of farm is it?


Primarily goats - although we also have a small suckler herd of pedigree Sussex cattle.


At what age did you start?


When I was three, an aunt used to sing nursery rhymes to me one of them was Paddy McGintys Goat and I was smitten with goats from then onwards.


Who or what was inspired you?


I actually did a degree in archaeology and I worked as an IT consultant for many years, but I loved programmes like The Good Life and I was always reading about goats and visiting people who kept them. David came from a farming background, had gone into engineering but wanted to get back into agriculture. He was a successful racing driver and said that he would buy me a goat if he won a particular championship in Europe. He won and I acquired my first goat. He won the same championship twice more and gave me two more goats!


How long have you been in the farming industry?


We started the enterprise in 2004 but we didnt start milking until 2006.


What training did you have?


Coming from a farming background, David had acquired knowledge and skills as a part of growing up. My own training has been very much on the job.I joined Kent Goat Club and made some very helpful contacts.


Tell us about the goats


All our goats are pedigree British Saanen, British Alpine and British Toggenburg. We have just over 200, including seven adult males we keep for breeding. The kids are born between mid-February and April. This year we are expecting one lot of quads, several triplets and a lot of twins. We keep all the females - the male kids are either sold to local butchers or direct to London restaurants.


The goats are kept in a very large barn with access to outdoors all the time quite unusual in goat farms but, during the winter months they prefer to be inside.


Describe your working day


We get up about 5-5.30am and I usually begin with door-to-door deliveries to nearby villages while David starts the milking. The goats are given feed while theyre milked, the others we feed afterwards. Routine does vary but I might then spend the day making cheese. It takes a full day to make about 40 kilos of cheese using something like 400 litres of milk. Whilst I am cheesemaking, David is probably carrying out contracting work for other local farmers. We milk again at about 5.30pm, feed then there is the paperwork and other chores. Supper is usually about nine oclock.


Tells us about the farm itself


The farm is owned by Davids parents. There are 70 acres, most of which are rented out to other farmers for grazing and arable production. We ourselves rent another 40 acres of grassland and we make our own hay and straw using as few sprays as possible. We source feed very carefully, with most bought from local farmers


We built our own dairy but, at the moment, we can only milk two goats at a time. This month will see the unveiling of our new unit and we shall be able to milk twelve goats at a time. The milk is raw that is, unpasteurised. There is increasing demand for goats milk and some we bottle and sell door-to-door. We also make two of our own cheeses. One is a mild, soft cheese - the other is a Camembert-type. We wholesale some cheese but a lot of it is sold to local restaurants and pubs. The regulations relating to the milk are very strict. We had to obtain licences from the Dairy Hygiene Inspectorate, Trading Standards and Environmental Health, who all undertake regular inspections, some of which are spot checks. We work closely with Jane Bowyer she trained at Hadlow College who owns Cheesemakers of Canterbury. Jane takes some of our milk and we also supply Taywell for their goats milk ice cream. We are all members of Produced in Kent, the promotional organisation that is owned jointly by Hadlow College and Kent County Council.


Do you compete at shows?


We did, but now we restrict ourselves to selling cheeses and other products. We share a stand with Jane Bowyer in the Produced in Kent area at the Kent Show and the Euro Fair at Canterbury and we also do the ploughing matches and are regular participants in a number of Farmers Markets.


Marks out of 10 for job satisfaction?


Can I say 11? No? Well then, emphatically 10!


GET IN TOUCH


Ellies Dairy


01795 886202 or 07770 777970 ellie@elliesdairy.co.uk

More from Out & About

As the world slows down, we turn our eyes to the skies in search of the best places to watch some celestial wonders this summer

Read more

Here are 12 places that may have flown under your radar before but are well worth seeking out

Read more

Kent is blessed with fine and indeed famous country houses, but over the decades has lost as many of its grander houses as it retains. A new book by Martin Easdown reveals 120 examples that have simply disappeared

Read more
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Take our quiz to see if you can decipher the town or place in Kent from the emojis

Read more
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Enjoy three of Kent’s best and most loved cycle rides which take in lots of the county’s beautiful coastlines

Read more

We look ahead to the end of lockdown and to a quiet seaside resort we can’t wait to visit again – Herne Bay

Read more

Hythe and New Romney, with their peaceful marshes, abundant wildlife and beautiful coastline, are the perfect places to explore when we’re allowed to travel again

Read more
Friday, June 12, 2020

We’ve gathered six of the best dog-friendly pubs in Kent to enjoy a bite to eat after a scenic stroll

Read more

Try these Kent-themed ideas for the ultimate ‘stay-cation’ – without having to move further away from home than the garden gate

Read more
Monday, June 8, 2020

Picnic baskets at the ready because we have gathered 10 of the best places to enjoy a picnic in stunning rural Kent

Read more
Kent Life Food & Drink awards. Open for entries.

Latest Competitions & Offers

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook


Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Most Read

Latest from the Kent Life