This Farming Life’s second series gave the public a real insight into the dairy industry by featuring the Roan family, who farm two neighbouring dairy units in Dalbeattie, Dumfries and Galloway.

The original family farm at Barnbarroch has been milking cows since 1898 and brothers Stuart and Steven have taken over the reins from parents Derek and Kathleen, along with their wives Aylett and Tracey, combining efforts in a family business which has survived during a time where 50% of UK dairy farms have gone under.

Stuart and Aylett farm at Barnbarroch with their two sons Fergus and Fraser, running a modern dairy unit complete with milking robots. Steven and wife Tracey farm three miles away at Boreland of Colvend farm, along with daughter Lucy and farm enthusiast son Andrew, where they run a traditional dairy parlour to milk the cows.

The families run separate units but work together under the Roan's Dairy business, supplying milk direct to the doorsteps of the local community. Taking every opportunity to develop and grow their business, their efforts have been duly noted, winning runner-up in the rural enterprise category of the Scottish Rural awards 2017.

I spoke with both families about their separate farming operations and joint business; reflecting on their journeys to get to where they are today, their experience filming with the BBC and what plans they have for the future of Roan's Dairy.

Aylett Roan

Can you tell me a little bit about your farm unit and what livestock you look after?

“At Barnbarroch we look after 140 Holstein pedigree milking cows that are milked via two Lely robots producing around 9500kilos of milk each a year. We also run over 600 sheep, mainly North Country Cheviots on the 1000 acres which is shared between the two farms at Boreland and Barnbarroch.

“As was shown during the series we do keep pigs which are Gloucestershire old spot sows crossed with a Landrace boar. Gloria who was a real character and a pet to me sadly died quite traumatically during the filming which was never shown, but her three daughters, two of which went on to have litters of piglets made the programme.

“To make the most out of the land we also run a suckler herd of Galloway cross cows which better utilise the rougher ground. The beef cows are kept outside throughout the year except the young stock which are brought in to be fattened for slaughter.”

How has the last couple of years of the declining milk trade affected your business?

“We have been through some harsh times with unstable prices and losing our milk contract in 2015. We decided to launch our own dairy business shortly after – Roan's Dairy – which at the time was quite scary; having to decide where do you go from there and what are you going to do. We stood strong and shopped around and found another milk buyer with Yew Tree dairy, but times were hard, we had to cut back on a lot of things on the farm.

“Milk prices might be up of recent, but they are already looking set to come down in the new year and are very volatile. Aside from the milk price side of things, we have had a poor harvest with 100 acres of silage having to be abandoned as the weather has been so dire. We have had to bring animals in early as a result of the weather and we are going to struggle getting them through winter without buying in feed as we haven’t got enough silage to see us through.”

Tell me about your doorstep milk delivery service?

“We launched Roan's Dairy in September 2015 and started doorstep deliveries to the local community in Jan 2016. It has really grown from strength to strength through word of mouth and social media and we have been fortunate with local press getting behind us. We have really canvassed the service, getting our name out there and have built up a nice loyal customer base.

“Our milk is more expensive than what you could buy in the supermarket but what we are selling is a much better product and with the BBC programme, people can see where their milk is coming from. Education is key to our business and we want people to ask questions about where their milk comes from and build a relationship with us as suppliers.”

Being on the BBC programme has really highlighted the hard-working dairy industry to the public – how did you find the whole experience and the aftermath of the series?

“We found the whole experience and the positive feedback we have had since hugely humbling, and we really welcome any opportunity to raise awareness of the dairy industry to the public.

“It’s not often chances like this come along where we can take the opportunity to show the public what we are doing. What you saw was very much what happens, especially trying to fit in family life around a busy farm with us rushing on the school run and doing late night farm checks with kids in tow.

“My husband Stuart was a bit disappointed not to be able to demonstrate about the male calves being fattened as this is an area that often gets bad press.”

How did you end up working on the farm and what role do you play in the business?

“I studied my HND in agriculture at Oatridge and many years later I met my husband on a young farmers weekend in Dumfries. I moved to the farm from the Scottish borders to start our family. I have always been good at doing what needs to be done and quite flexible with tasks. Since we started Roan's Dairy my main role is running the business along with the daily routine.

“I found the BBC experience very thought-provoking and it has really got me thinking about ways to further develop the business and new avenues to explore, I hate to miss out on new opportunities.

“Since the programme I have really developed my own twitter page and give regular updates on what is happening on the farm, letting people who are still interested keep up to date with progress. We really believe in what we are doing and have nothing to hide so want to give people a real insight in to what is happening behind the scenes, including the many ups and downs.”

Do you have any plans to expand the farm at Barnbarroch and what is next on the calendar?

“Our aim is always to maintain and grow the milk business. Certainly at Barnbarroch we won’t be increasing the size of the herd as our shed and two robots can only accommodate 140 cows. So as far as the farm is concerned we want to maintain and improve what we have.

“We are coming to Tupping season and with the weather everything has been delayed so we are two weeks behind. We also are hoping to host a farm open day in April 2018 where the public will be able to come and see the cows out at pasture and we will be in lambing season then.”

Steven Roan

Tell me a little bit about the history of Boreland and what you look after on the farm?

“The Roan family have farmed at Boreland for around 38 years and we were lucky enough to purchase the farm 2 years ago. We run a pedigree Holstein herd of 210 cows which are traditionally milked in a Deleval 1818 parlour. We milk the cattle twice daily, producing 9,500 kilos a year per animal.

“We used to milk them three times a day but when milk prices and demand was so poor we went back to twice as the incentive for production dropped, things have been in such a bad way.

“We have three full time members of staff between the two farms, one who works full time with the herds milking, another carrying out tractor work and finally our on-site mechanic, general fixer.”

During This Farming Life we witnessed the Holstein assessor rating the efficiency of your cattle, how are you finding the quality of the herd?

“We have been using sexed semen for about 10 years now to help cut down on the number of bull calves. Conception rates aren’t as good as conventional semen, but it has been important in breeding replacement heifers for the herd. We have been carrying out embryo transfer work to try and breed good daughters from our best cows

“Our aim is to improve the herd by putting our best cows to the best bulls available, we are continuously striving to improve herd production and confirmation.”

“We also sell a large number of replacement heifers each year, we were disappointed that footage featuring us selling at Carlisle Market wasn’t shown on This Farming Life”.

Tracey Roan

Tracey, how did you and Steven meet and what is your background in farming?

“It was an easier life before we met! We both studied at Auchincruive SAC, I was in my first year of Rural recreation and tourism management and Steven in his second year of his HND in agriculture. We met during fresher’s week but it took him three terms to pluck up the courage to even speak to me.

“My mum and dad had a dairy farm when I was younger, so I knew what I was getting in to. I was always adamant to have a career outside farming and became a senior housing officer for a local housing association. I was involved in night milking, but it wasn’t a full-time thing. When I had kids and the milk prices became so low, coupled with a guy leaving the farm, it became more difficult to juggle kids and childcare so felt like the right time to come back to the farm full time. Roan’s Dairy was also taking off so timings all worked well.”

Tell me more about Roan’s Dairy and about the udder bar which has been a huge success?

“We set up Roans dairy as a new family business venture between ourselves and Stuart & Aylett back in September 2015.

“We have had great support locally and demand for our milk has been good. People seem to like the idea of locally sourced milk with traceability, they can make a connection from carton to the cows they see in our fields. Customers seem to love the taste and we have had brilliant feedback.

“We had never initially planned for the udder bar, but we were at a local farmer’s market and one of the organisers from Dumfries show overheard our enthusiasm for our milk whilst talking to customers and they approached us suggesting that we do a milkshake bar at Dumfries Show. It was too good of an opportunity to miss and our Udder Bar was officially launched at Dumfries Show in 2016, since then we have attended many local events over the summer months. This season has been very busy and next month we are doing a wedding which is another new venture for us Roan`s ladies.”

We saw how enthusiastic Andrew is for the farm during the series, does he really love working on the farm?

“We are so proud of Andrew, he loves working on the farm and he really is wise before his years. We have never had to force him to work on the farm and he is out with Steven and I whenever he can. Sometimes I think Andrew knows more about what’s going on on the farm than I do. He watches the tractor going by from school and needs to know where they are going or what they are carrying – he has a natural eye for it.”

How did you find your filming experience with the BBC and what has life been like since you appeared in the limelight?

“We had a really good experience with the BBC and found them to be non-intrusive, letting us get on with the daily running of things. Sometimes you would forget you were mic-ed up and would have to be careful what you said.

“We were disappointed they missed Dumfries and Stewartry show which are two of our biggest events on the summer calendar. We had the milkshake bar at both events and Andrew won champion with his calf in the show section.

“Since the programme we certainly get noticed a lot more which has been quite a shock especially when you’re out shopping and people are coming up to us having seen us on the television. We worried about the impact it might have on the kids – Andrew has a wee fan club now, I’ve noticed kids pointing him out at swimming.

“A lot of people have said we have helped put Dumfries and Galloway on the map which makes us feel very proud to be raising the profile locally.

“It is still early days to see an increase in sales, but we have made a presence and a lot more people are aware of us. Social media has increased, phones were in melt down with notifications when the series aired, I’ve never been so popular in my life.”

What plans have you got for the future?

“To survive! There is always another project in the pipeline, we aren’t a family to rest. At the moment a little more family time would be nice, but that is the nature of family and farming.”