The decision to move away from milking cows was not an easy one for Tim and Marnie Dobson. However, the change in direction has initiated a ‘brakes-off’ approach and allowed the family to embrace new opportunities.
Having been involved in the dairy industry for 50 years as tenant farmers, it took the couple over 12-months to sell the herd, but it was a decision they had to make to be able to move forward.
“I was very frustrated that there was no room for growth in the dairy sector. I was capable of running a bigger business but I couldn’t grow because I couldn’t raise the capital,” says Tim.
“We were stuck in a cycle of price taking, poor growth and boredom but now the only limit to growth is our imagination.”
The move into goat farming was initiated after a trip to Canada and was attractive due to the lack of restrictions on land, capital and quotas associated with the industry.
“We started by running the goats and cows together with the first goats reared by hand, processed by a local butcher and sold at the farm gate.
“The realisation that there was a demand for goat meat led us to believe this was a growth area we could build on, hence the decision to sell the cows in 2008.”
Since then, the family have surrendered the historic agricultural tenancy, most of which they now farm on a 25-year Farm Business Tenancy, and have purchased eight acres with accompanying buildings which has allowed them to build a butchery, café and butchers shop.
“Chestnut Meats is now our core business. We have 25 farms supplying us with meat, and we slaughter roughly 1,500 goats a year, plus pork, lamb, beef and mutton. The online business also does very well and allows us to sell meat across the UK.
Being one of only a few people who are currently able to supply meat on the scale we can means we have access to a broad supply chain.
“We still farm the arable land, run a hog roast business and have a holiday let in Germany which all continue to provide an additional income, but it’s our meat business that has really driven us forward.
“We have doubled the turnover we achieved when we were dairy farming and are already making a profit, which is brilliant considering the business as a whole is still relatively young.
“All of a sudden there is a buzz about the place. All my life I’ve farmed with the brakes on and a hand behind my back. Now we are out there doing what we want to do,” says Tim.
The ‘out of the box’ thinking this couple have been able to initiate has allowed the business to flourish. “If everyone is looking one way we look the other,” says Tim.
“For example, our meat is non-halal, but we import frozen halal goat from Spain which means we can appeal to a wider audience.
“We’ve developed a series of recipe cards to help people understand how to cook goat and realise the potential of the meat – there is still some work to be done for people to see goat meat as an ‘everyday’ option,” says Tim.
“We also now have our bone waste rendered which means we are able to add value to our butchery waste by selling it to raw pet food manufacturers. And the opportunities are endless.
“Although you could say we’ve started from scratch, this has been a breath of fresh air for us, and we’re looking forward to what the future has in store for us.”