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It's kids' stuff for Bowland goat farmer

PUBLISHED: 22:50 12 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:42 20 February 2013

Mark and John with newborns, Cheryl and Nadine, named after Girls Aloud singers

Mark and John with newborns, Cheryl and Nadine, named after Girls Aloud singers

A Lancashire dairy farmer took the bold step of waving goodbye his herd of cows. Charlotte Taylor reports

DON'T complain to John and Barbara Gorst about the nanny state - they are delighted to be living in one!

The couple operates one of the few dairy farms in Lancashire where you would struggle to find a cow. Instead, Dolphinholme Farm in beautiful Bowland, is home to more than 1,000 goats.

Their flock produces around 3,000 litres a day and much of it is used to make Lancashire goats' cheese. John and Barbara, who run the farm with son Mark, were conventional dairy farmers until just over 18 months ago when financial and environmental reasons persuaded them to wave goodbye to their herd of Holsteins and put down the welcome straw for hundreds of goats.

'You could call it insanity,' says John, who hopes to build the herd to 2,000. 'Mark's great grandfather bought the farm in 1933. What he and his son would have thought about goats is probably unprintable and most of our neighbours think we have lost the plot. But they have helped us to build a much bigger business and enter a new market.'

Previously home to a large herd of dairy cows, the 350 acre farm has undergone a transformation to house its smaller residents. With changes to farm buildings and the introduction of new bedding and feeding facilities, Dolphinholme farm is not only goat-friendly but safer for visitors too.

'A goat parlour is much safer for visitors than a cow parlour and overall it is better for the environment,' says John. The demand for goat milks and cheeses is stronger than ever and it looks like the farm is adding more creamy produce to a thriving market.

There are a wide variety of Dolphinholme cheeses, ranging from the more conventional goats cheese to smoked, mild, ripened, and crumbly textured cheeses. The cheeses are produced by family cheese maker JJ Sandhams Ltd, which is only a short distance away from the farm, ensuring that the milk used is as fresh as possible and of the highest quality. There are even creative variations such as goat's cheese with cranberry, an interesting addition to any cheeseboard.

The Gorsts hope to encourage more people to try goats cheese. 'A lot of people have never tried it before and we hope that people will realise how great they are and that will hopefully help to bring the farmers and consumers closer together.'

All Dolphinholme Farm cheeses are widely available at Booths and Waitrose supermarkets and Mark runs a stall at Lancaster Farmer's market each Saturday and the Cheese Shop in Garstang always has a fresh supply.

Those wanting to experience a slice of dairy farming life can visit Dolphinholme and learn everything from goat milking to cheese making. The farm is home to a small Feather Down Farm holiday complex. It offers a different type of holiday to anyone looking for a back to basics experience. Families can stay in one of seven Feather Down Farm tents, on site. There is also a shop and some on-site activities for families staying there. There are even cookery demonstrations to attend, of recipes using the farms fresh goats' cheese, with the chance to try them afterwards.

After a successful Open Day in September the Gorst family are hoping to have another this summer. Visitors will be able to take a nature trail, have a tour of the farm, view the stunning landscaped gardens and 'meet the girls' - each goat is named after a female in the news.

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