Posted: 04/11/2019

Lynher Dairies buys own Ayrshire herd for Cornish Kern

Lynher Dairies has invested in its own herd of Ayrshire cows to improve its award-winning hard cheese Cornish Kern – a move that is part of a wider trend among British cheesemakers for raising milk quality.

The company, which also makes Cornish Yarg, previously sourced all its milk for Kern from local farms, but has bought a 95-strong herd of Ayrshires, whose milk will be exclusively used to make the cheese that was named the champion at the 2017 World Cheese Awards.

The herd was bought from retiring dairy farmers Trevor and Julie Howe at nearby Gadles Farm. 

The cows will be managed for Lynher by farmer Jonathan Hosken, who has taken over the farm as a tenant of landowner Cornwall Council. Under the new arrangement, Lynher owns the cows outright and hires them to Hosken with an agreement in place that defines the milk requirement and the terms of milk purchasing. 

“Ayrshire milk is high in solids and has a good fat-to-protein ration, and Jonathan is keen to work with Lynher on things like feeding regimes,” said owner Catherine Mead. “We’re basically designing our own raw material, which is unusual here but in France they wouldn’t bat an eyelid at cheesemakers working with farms to improve milk quality.”

The decision to take control of its own milk supply was prompted by so-called “late blowing” problems with Kern – a fault associated with bacteria found in certain types of feed that causes some cheeses to expand and crack during maturation.

Other cheesemakers putting greater emphasis on milk quality include Kingcott Dairy in Kent. It is switching its herd from high-volume Holsteins to Scandinavian red breed cows, which produce less milk but with higher fat and protein content. 

Fen Farm Dairy in Suffolk invested in a herd of Montbeliarde cows from France for similar reasons when it first began making Baron Bigod.

A group of British cheesemakers – from Lincolnshire Poacher, Westcombe to Doddington – recently travelled to the Auvergne on a ‘cow club’ study trip, where they met dairy farmers and Salers and St Nectaire producers to learn more about pasture management, breed varieties and the microbiology of milk.

“Thirty years ago, our focus was on making new cheeses and brands, but the industry has matured and milk quality has become much more important,” said Mead.

This story appeared in the October-November issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

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