The Shetland cow was traditionally a dual-purpose breed – the crofter’s cow would have been milked to give dairy products for the crofter and his family and would have produced a calf each year to be killed for beef or sold to generate a cash income.
As lifestyles have changed, the Shetland cow has become increasingly used as a suckler cow for beef production, often crossed to a commercial beef bull. A few people still keep a house cow and for a while, there was a micro dairy of Shetland cattle in Yorkshire.
However, there is growing interest in small-scale dairying among smallholders and the Shetland is the ideal breed to fill that niche.
We milked our two cows for the first time in 2015 – Blizzard was a fourth calver and Annie a second calver, but both took to it fine. The logistics were a little challenging, but we developed a system that worked for us and in 2016, we machine milked three cows, – Blizzard, Annie and Rosie.
To extend our knowledge, Rosemary attended a nano-dairying course in February 2016 at Monkton Wyld Court, Dorset.