One of biggest dairy herds has new owner

ONE of Guernsey’s largest dairy herds has new owners.

Left to right, farm manager Andrew Eastabrook, Charlotte Bolding, Tony Vile and Graeme White.
Left to right, farm manager Andrew Eastabrook, Charlotte Bolding, Tony Vile and Graeme White.

Meadow Court Farm has a herd of 155 cows on more than 700 vergees of land and was previously operated by the Watts family.

After being established by the now-retired Ray Watts in the 1970s, it was operated by his son, James, until being sold in December.

The farm was bought by the Mallard family, which owns and manages two farms and a vineyard in France.

Experienced farm manager Andrew Eastabrook has been appointed to oversee Meadow Court and the family said it was grateful that he would be supported by long-serving staff members Tony Vile and Graeme White.

The transition had gone reasonably smoothly, said Mr Mallard, and that had encouraged the family to get immersed quickly in the island’s farming life.

The farm will be focussing on improving the herd’s genetics as well as supplying milk to the Dairy and the family will continue to farm in a sensitive and sustainable way, he said.

James Watts left the island in February after what Mr Mallard said was an intensive handover period.

‘Tony and Graeme know the farm inside out, and their experience, together with the ongoing presence of Ray Watts, will help us move forward and maintain the local dairy traditions and the important role of protecting the island’s countryside,’ he said.

Mr Eastabrook had developed his passion for farming from a young age.

‘He has become highly knowledgeable and experienced in agricultural practice, but also with a business viewpoint.

‘It is good to have young people coming into the agricultural profession from different walks of life and not necessarily from an agricultural family.’

Mr Eastabrook said that protecting and nurturing the island’s traditional farming heritage and the iconic Guernsey breed were all central to what he planned to do.

‘We plan to spend a lot of time on land management, which will include tree planting, hedge-gapping and continuing with environmental strips and cover crops to help the enrichment of the environment,’ he said.

Mr Mallard said that the farmers of the future were the principal actors of agricultural land management, ‘the essential profession to cope with climate change’.

The changes at Meadowcourt were welcomed by Guernsey Dairy’s managing director Andrew Tabel.

‘The Mallards have a wealth of farming experience and their contribution, along with Andrew Eastabrook’s technical expertise, is a welcome addition to the local farming community complementing what is already a highly-respected industry,’ he said.

Meadow Croft Farm’s new manager Andrew Eastabrook is no stranger to the Guernsey breed.

After spending most of his school holidays helping on dairy, beef, pig, sheep and arable farms in Surrey he went on to graduate from Newcastle University with a degree in Agriculture with honours in Animal Science.

His first job was as a dairy management trainee on a farm in Buckinghamshire looking after a 500-strong herd of Holstein-Friesians, before he went on to manage the Brymor herd of Guernseys in North Yorkshire

His most recent post was at Hartpury University and College in Gloucestershire where he spent the last five years setting up and managing a commercial herd of Guernseys.

During this time, among other things, he undertook genomic testing of the entire herd, being the first UK herd to do so.

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