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Caithness farming family ready to start doorstep milk deliveries

By Alan Hendry

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David Campbell, daughter Faith (right) and wife Lesley with some of the Jersey cattle last year. Picture: Willie Mackay
David Campbell, daughter Faith (right) and wife Lesley with some of the Jersey cattle last year. Picture: Willie Mackay

A farming family from Thrumster are ready to launch their new business providing doorstep deliveries of Jersey milk and cream.

David and Lesley Campbell, of Campbells Dairies, hope to have the service under way by midweek, covering communities in the east of Caithness to start with before expanding to take in the whole county.

"It was a dream, but the reality is starting to kick in now," Mr Campbell said yesterday. “We'll build it organically and see what demand is out there."

The range of milk will comprise red-top, blue-top, green-top and Thrumster Gold, along with single, double and extra-thick cream, all produced from the growing Jersey herd at Thrumster Mains which is currently 30-strong.

Mr and Mrs Campbell are being assisted by their 16-year-old daughter Faith with support from son Taylor (25) and daughter Shannon (19), who is studying business management in Aberdeen.

"Our cows graze from early spring to late autumn and are housed over the winter months, where they are not forced like large commercial dairy farms but are fed a traditional grass-based diet along with a small amount of concentrates," Mr Campbell said. "We believe this is reflected in the quality and taste of our milk."

The milk will be supplied in recyclable plastic bottles and delivered from a refrigerated van.

David Campbell in the milking parlour.
David Campbell in the milking parlour.

Mr Campbell said: “The milk round is between ourselves and Joe Hargreaves, who has got Hill Croft at Occumster. He is going to be doing a range of sheep's milk, milk shakes and cheese made with sheep's milk.”

Orders are being taken online, although Mr Campbell said there would be options for customers who do not use the internet.

“We'd prefer if the bulk of it went through online but we do understand that not everybody works that way,” he said.

The venture had to undergo stringent environmental health inspections, and Covid meant a delay in getting officials on site.

Initially the deliveries will cover the area between Latheron and Dunbeath up to Keiss. In time, the Campbells hope to extend it to the John O’Groats, Thurso and Reay areas and, if possible, the county as a whole.

Mr Campbell explained: “We are just finding our feet, but we're hoping in maybe March or April to start producing a small farmhouse cheddar as well.

“It all depends on demand, but we're hoping maybe to purchase a mobile vending machine with glass bottles going to a different village every day around Caithness. That means the consumers buy their own bottle and then they come back with it and fill it up themselves.”

The Campbells have the most northerly herd of Jerseys and the most northerly producing dairy on the Scottish mainland. They are bucking the trend with Campbells Dairies as many dairy farms have been lost over the decades.

“I think there were something like 114 dairy farms Caithness about the time of World War II," Mr Campbell said. "Between Wick and Thrumster alone, nearly every second farm was dairy."

Their produce can be ordered at www.caithnessdairies.co.uk or through the Facebook page Campbells Dairies.

Local councillor and agricultural commentator Willie Mackay said: “I wish David and Lesley at Campbells Dairies all the very best in their retailing on quality Jersey milk.”

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