Faced with the prospect of having to sell his family farm after three generations because of plummeting milk prices, dairy farmer Bryce Cunningham launched an artisan “micro milk” business.
Milk from native Ayrshire cows at West Mossgiel Farm, near Mauchline, 30 miles south of Glasgow, is now supplied to 21 cafés and shops around the city, in Ayrshire and Berwick-upon-Tweed.
“Ayrshire cows have been native to south-west Scotland for hundreds of years, producing high-quality milk,” says Mr Cunningham. “They’re famous for their excellent ability to convert relatively poor natural Scottish forage into milk.”
In June, Ayrshire Farms also began the two-year process to become organic: farming without synthetic fertilisers, pesticides or chemical sprays, and processing the milk as little as possible.
“We batch-pasteurise and then bottle directly from the pasteuriser to ensure the fullest count of taste is retained,” he says. “As we do not standardise or homogenise the milk, the phenomenon of the ‘cream top’ remains – something that has been missing from milk for so long.”
Café and restaurant owners have also been impressed by the quality. “So many people notice the taste difference straight away – it almost floors people, with messages coming on our Facebook page weekly after people try it for the first time,” says Mr Cunningham.
“We were approached by McCune Smith, an ethically sourcing café in Glasgow, before we even launched Mossgiel Milk, asking if we could supply them. They discovered the milk works excellently in coffee and has a unique ability to froth. “We also received the same feedback from other cafés, and some coffee roasters are getting involved.”
Mossgiel Milk also has a farm shop selling “only Ayrshire produce”, and produce from businesses where the owners have a hands-on approach. “The disconnect between town and country is something I feel passionately about,” says Mr Cunningham.
“One day, I dropped off milk to a café we supply and a customer couldn’t believe a farmer was there.”