By Karen Carruth

Photographs: Rob Haining

A tribe of dairy goats has arrived at Walston Braehead Farm, in Carnwath. Their arrival heralds a few things to the Cairns family who own the farm business. It’s the start of a new business stream, and they hope it is the beginning of the end of a turbulent few years, it has also meant that they have learned very quickly just how naughty and patience-testing goats are.

Errington Cheese has been operating from the farm since the early 1980s, when Humphrey Errington set up the business while looking for a diversification project to run alongside his mixed farm. Now his daughter Selina and her husband Andrew run the farm as a dairy with Lacaune sheep and the new additions, Yorkshire dairy goats.

Errington Cheese is known for its award winning raw milk cheese, they were selling up to a tonne a week back in 2016. The plan now is to produce their own range of goat’s cheese, which should be a perfect addition to their existing production system as the goats can be milked in their sheep parlour, making the parlour more productive as it will be used more often, and, as goats have a longer lactation period than sheep, they can be producing goats cheese all year round. 

Their market for their existing range of cheeses, Lanark Blue, Lanark White, and Corra Linn, has extended south into England, and in particular, London, as well as the existing market in Scotland.

Selina Cairns meets The SF at the farm, to chat about the goat’s cheese.

She said: “We are now concentrating on using our own ewe’s and goat’s milk to make our cheese, rather than using cow’s milk to fill in the gap when sheep are not lactating. We have around 250 Lacaune dairy sheep which are milked twice a day. We will now we will be milking four times a day, now that we’ve added the goats into the mix. It’s a lot of work having to wash down the parlour between each milking, but it is worth it.”

Goats milk gives half the solids of sheep’s milk, which means there is a lot more whey left. Their herd of Tamworth pigs are seeing the benefit of that.

They have been experimenting with their new range of goat’s cheeses and so far have produced three which have produced terrific feedback from those that have tasted it. Their range consists of the Elrick log, which is coated in ash to help the rind develop, then there is the Wee Welston, and their aperitif, heart shaped, cheese called Braveheart.

They have brought in 100 goats in total. Half in milk and half had to be kidded, and they have found that they are easy to kid, and they are pretty easy to train to get into the milking machine too, but they have one major down side. They are so naughty - they climb everything, they chew everything, but they are lots of fun. Well, they are fun if you are not the one trying to keep them in pens. Selina’s husband Andrew has had many exasperating experiences with them. 

As if by magic, as she tells us this, a six-week-old goat, Bella, has appeared behind us, transported from a seemingly stock proof pen. She looks very pleased with herself. A minute or two later, a little kid, maybe a couple of weeks old has also done a Houdini and is nibbling my trouser leg. They are adorable, but you can see the problem.

The addition of the goats has been a major step in the rebuilding of the company, and there are many other plans in the pipeline. A farm shop and café are the ultimate goal, and Selina has an idea of what will go where within the existing buildings. 

Sister-in-law Angela is now back working at the farm, along with part time cheesemaker Paul McAllister, both re-employed since the farm has just won a lengthy legal battle with authorities.

In early December Errington received a payment from the council in compensation for the cow’s milk cheese which was seized in 2016 and destroyed after a well-publicised claim that the cheese was linked to an outbreak of E.coli 0157 – a claim strongly refuted by the company based on advice from experts in the fields of microbiology and epidemiology.  The company was cleared of breaching food hygiene regulations last year and won a judicial review stating that all batches of cheese were safely produced and safe to eat. The cases against Dunsyre Blue have since been dropped by South Lanarkshire Council.

Selina continues: “It’s been emotionally very tough, and we are hopefully taking a more positive route, working with the milk produced on our own farm. We have shrunk back to a third of what we were making in 2016, however, we are thinking ahead now.”

Selina sells to cheese wholesalers, those that have knowledge on how to handle specialist cheese. She sells whole cheeses and lots of the retailers she supplied have stayed loyal and continue to stock their award-winning ewe’s milk cheese range.

The cheese producer won three awards at the World Cheese Awards last year. Errington’s Corra Linn was awarded two gold medals, their Lanark Blue won best product in the Slow Food Scotland awards and Selina won person of the year at the Slow Food awards last year. 

Andrew deals with the farm side of the business and has recently gained MV accreditation for his Lacaune sheep, and hopes to build up the breeding and selling side of the business too. They have made contacts in the goat meat market and are in talks to supply goats down that route. 

I ask Selina if cheese is still as popular and she says that it most definitely is. Most of her range will end up on a cheese board, or in the hands of chefs, but there is still a huge demand for speciality cheeses, which is why there are around 250 members of the Specialist Cheesemakers Association, as there is a healthy demand that they are happy to supply.

The family and the business has come through a difficult few years, and they know that there are more obstacles to get over, but they seem to have gleaned some positivity from their fun-loving goats and it feels like they are back in business. 


Errington's Corra Linn wins Best Scottish Cheese at World Cheese Awards 2019 

Errington Cheese has won Best Scottish Cheese and Gold for their Corra Linn at the World Cheese Awards in Bergamo, Italy.

Of the record-breaking 3804 cheese entries at this year’s World Cheese Awards, Errington came out on top as Best Scottish Cheese for their Corra Linn as well as a Gold award. They took a silver for Wee Welston as well as winning bronze for their Elrick Log and Goats Curd.

Selina Cairns commented: “We could not be any more pleased with what we have managed to achieve at this year’s World Cheese Awards. After a few setbacks, we have managed to come back bigger and better than ever.

“We care about our craft and will continue to serve our customers high quality cheeses for many years to come.”

The World Cheese Awards has been bringing cheesemakers, retailers, buyers and consumers of cheese together for more than three decades.

The awards, visiting Italy for the first time and the judging of cheeses from more than 42 countries took place in mid October as part of Bergamo’s annual FORME cheese festival.