The Nidderdale Voices column with dairy farmer Norman Shepherd.

Dairy farmer Norman Shepherd.
Dairy farmer Norman Shepherd.

So many people work in the societies, clubs and businesses to make life very pleasant in Nidderdale, but the area would be nothing at all without the main guardians of our land – the farmers.

Sheep naturally flourish on the hills and moorlands and in the fields we see bullocks being fattened for beef. Dairy farming has declined but it is still alive and well on Kingstone Farm, Fellbeck, where we meet Norman Shepherd who was bred and born on the farm that he now runs

Norman Shepherd with farm dog Mel.

Norman Shepherd with farm dog Mel.

Kingstone Farm is 310 acres and a herd of 240 Holsteins and Montbeliardes is looked after by Norman, his son, and two other hard working helpers.

As well as cattle, the farm takes in nine week old piglets and fattens them up to about 21 weeks.

Describe a typical day

Up early because we start milking at half past five.

The whole process including swilling out takes us usually two and a half hours. In the summer the cows are turned out into the fields and I come in for my breakfast.

The cows are brought in for the winter during October and we are thankful for our automatic scraping unit that keeps their indoor quarters clean. Bedding up with sawdust has to be done at least twice a week in the winter.

After breakfast the general work on the farm begins. Although we do our own AI we still keep a docile Aberdeen Angus bull who has his own bull pen.

The maternity unit is ongoing and we tend to average around 20 calvings a month.

All year round the milk lorry arrives to collect the milk. In summer we endeavour to have four cuts of grass for silage.

We also grow 40 acres of barley which we mix into our own cattle food.

Contractors are hired in to cut grass and harvest as this saves us the cost of owning and maintaining machinery.

Fortunately, pigs do not need milking, but they still need attention.

On top of all this land has to be maintained and improved.

Friday is market day. I tend to use Leyburn and Pateley. The beef calves are taken to Leyburn and the dairy females are kept to join the herd.

Providing our CCTV cameras do not show us that there are any difficult births my normal working day usually finishes at six o’clock after the afternoon milking.

What would be your perfect day out?

A round of golf with my wife. We are both members of Masham Golf Club.

If I was to go further afield it would be up to Kinlochleven in May to compete in the classic Motorcycle two day Trial.

What is your favourite part of the dale?

Dallowgill moor when the heather is in flower. The smell is as wonderful as the views.

What is your favourite Nidderdale business?

The Half Moon Inn, Fellbeck. Good food, good company and a good welcome. We go there for a relaxing Saturday night.

What is the biggest change you have seen in Nidderdale?

When my father farmed there were 20 dairy farms in the area. Now there are three. With the onset of supermarkets and households spending on average 10% of their income on food compared to 33% sixty years ago, money has gone out of milk.

Now only the larger farms can survive. My father used to take the milk churns down to the railway as there was no milk lorry collecting from the farm.

Now, even the railway has gone.

What makes Nidderdale special?

Even though Nidderdale has grown it still puts its emphasis on farming and we have kept our own auction market. Our Nidderdale Show is a real agricultural event and a showcase for all the farming way of life. Nidderdale is also a lovely place to come home to when you have been away.

What would you like to change?

Less speed cameras. Are they really necessary on our derestricted roads where there is very little traffic?

Also – How about bringing back the railway. I was on a school trip to Harrogate on the very last journey of the old railway. It would be a definite tourist attraction – especially if it went up to Scar.