A young Shawbost crofter is set to bring milk production back to Lewis as he prepares to bring young stock Guernsey cattle to the islands.
Fourteen year old Scott Mackay, from North Shawbost, alongside his father Gordon are keen to establish the diary herd on island and end the supply of, at times, five day old milk to the Western Isles.
“Milk coming onto Lewis and Harris is a few days old before it is delivered to the doorstep or supermarket,” explained Gordon. “With the dairy we can produce our premium product of fresh milk that customers can be guaranteed is produced right here in Lewis.”
And for Scott – who has followed his father on the croft since an early age – the dairy is a dream come true.
Not only will the Mackays provide fresh milk, but the choice of cows – Guernsey cattle – will also supply the healthier A2 milk (most UK milk sales are A1) which has a high content of beta carotene, a good source of Vitamin A; a high butterfat content (5%) and high protein content (3.7%).
“The milk is also cheaper to produce than that of the black and white cows as it takes less feed to produce the milk,” said Gordon, adding: “And they are a hardy breed, so they should fit well up here.”
Scott and Gordon have already welcomed four Guernsey cows from the south of England and Isle of White to their crofts, and their bull will be arriving on the island shortly.
The rest of the young stock will arrive in September from a dairy in Wales which is closing.
“Just now nine dairy farmers a week in the UK are giving up as the supermarkets will only pay for the cost of production,” commented Gordon.
“And 1.5million litres of milk a day is imported into the UK, which will only increase as more farmers give up.”
Yet, from next year when current milk quotas end, island residents could be able to enjoy island produce full and semi skimmed milk from the new high health status closed herd, as well cheese, butter, yoghurt and ice-cream products.
Preparing for the new arrivals, Scott and Gordon are busy re-fencing and re-seeding as well as building a new premises to house the herd, milking parlour and dairy plant.