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

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