The Stewart family have farmed at Falside since the 1930s, and the dairy has always been central to the business. The farm is now run by Robert Stewart – assisted by his wife Jane. They have 3 sons.
As well as the dairy herd, Falside Farm grows wheat, barley and oilseed rape.
The cows are predominately grass fed, but the diet is supplemented with – amongst other things – silage, and home grown wheat and barley.
From late spring, throughout the summer and into early autumn, the cows graze outside day and night – only coming in to be milked twice a day in the modern ‘herringbone’ parlour.
When the winter chill approaches, however, the weather turns wet and cold and the grass stops growing, so the cows – just like us – prefer to be indoors.
The cubicle shed is fitted out with individual pens so every cow can lie in comfort on a special mattress, bedded with waste paper (which is very absorbent, and keeps the cows clean and dry).
All the cows are born and raised at Falside. Bull calves are raised as ‘entire bulls’ (not castrated), and sold for beef at maturity. Heifer calves go to the bull and produce their first calf at approximately 2½ years old. When that first calf is born, the mother will start to produce milk, and will join the milking herd. Expert stockmanship is required to ensure that each cow is happy and healthy, and she will give birth to a new calf every year (so that she will continue to produce milk) – but she has a ‘maternity leave’ for 6 weeks before every birth (that is a longer holiday than most of us can hope for!)
Traditional farming methods at Falside continue in time honoured fashion – dung from the dairy is spread back on the land, crop rotation is carefully planned, hedges around the fields encourage wildlife and song birds to flourish, and now, traditional cheesemaking completes the circle ‘from field to plate’.