The triumph of Guernsey cows in Tarporley and the birth of Cheshire Yoghurt
PUBLISHED: 11:31 18 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:24 20 February 2013
It has taken hard work, patience and a lot of Hope to turn the milk at a Tarporley farm into a golden opportunity. Emma Mayoh reports PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON
I love walking around the farm right at the end of the day, said farmer Andrew Hope. Everything has gone quiet, I can have that final check and I know the cows are happy. Its my favourite time.
Listening to Andrew talk about the joys of farming paints an idyllic picture. But the 59-year-old, who keeps a herd of Golden Guernsey cows at Tiresford Farm, Tarporley, deserves this moment of calm at the end of each day at 10pm - hes normally up milking at 5am. Its also something he has had to relish over the past few years as he and his wife Sue and sons John and Peter have overcome numerous setbacks.
There was the time his dairy floor split in two, for instance. He was doing a trial run on machinery in his new state-of-the-art dairy, preparing for their first venture into producing milk on their own farm, when the floor started to warp and crack.
It happened the first time we went into the dairy, Andrew said. We had to take everything out again and start again.
And then there was the uncertainty of not knowing whether they would be able to continue making the yoghurt they are well known for.
But the largest obstacle to overcome was the death of friend and business partner, John Posnett. Andrew joined him at the Tarporley farm in 1990 and the herd became one of the best known in the world. They had a lot of success at county and agricultural shows including seven Supreme Championship titles and wins at European level. But then John died of a heart attack in 2005 and Andrew was left with a difficult decision about whether to carry on alone or leave farming behind.
He said: John had set about trying to raise the profile of the Guernsey cow and hed done a very good job of it. I didnt just want to let all of that go. Guernsey milk had always been a less popular cows milk but John was doing great work to change that.
It is great milk. It is a rich golden colour and more people should know about it. I decided to go for it. Im so glad we did.
The leap of faith paid off; despite the hurdles they have had to overcome. With the help of Reaseheath College they were able to keep producing Cheshire Yoghurt and Golden Cheshire Brie sells well in shops and delis across Cheshire as well as at farmers markets.
And in recent years Andrew and son John, again with the help of staff at Reaseheath College, have been researching and testing the benefits of Golden Guernsey milk.
The milk contains a protein called A2 which has been discovered to help children with autism. Interested parents across the region were offered the opportunity to give the Tiresford herds milk to their children to see whether it could make a difference. The effects were positive.
Andrew said: It is not medicine but it has been proven to be benign to them. A lot of children who have autism cannot tolerate cows milk. Its been shown that A2 protein can help.
We have been supplying it and parents have said it has helped their children. Their behaviour has improved and they could drink the milk. People came from all over the north west to get it. There was one parent whose child would eat nothing but toast and water. She took some of the milk and he drank it. It was quite an emotional thing for us to know we had helped that family.
There is a marked difference between Andrew and Johns plans for Tiresford Farm -John, 28, sees the long term opportunities of the milk and the potential to expand. Andrew is more concerned with keeping small scale making sure they maintain the high quality and good conditions for the cows.
Andrew said: I have done the big scale farming. Im not interested in that anymore. I want it to stay at a scale where we can continue to be nice farmers. I dont expect the business to make us millions of pounds.
I cant feel proud yet because there is still a lot to be done. The last few years have been hard work and there have been times when weve questioned what we were doing. Its been difficult but its also been really inspirational.