The 2,000 acre estate provides the majestic and picturesque backdrop for the Clandeboye herd of Holsteins and Jerseys, owned by Lady Dufferin.
Crowned the UK’s Premier Holstein herd in 2007, the prefix and brand name has quickly gained national recognition. Not just because of their award winning cows, but also following the successful launch of Clandeboye Estate yoghurts.
Lady Dufferin, affectionately known as Lindy and officially as the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava comes from the Irish Guinness family twice over. Her father from the banking branch and her husband , Sheridan Hamilton-Temple Blackwood a distant cousin from the brewing side of the Guinness family. Married in Westminster Abbey in front of 2000 guests, Lindy and Sheridan divided their time between London and Clandeboye. At the fore of the London socialite and contemporary art scene during the 1960’s and 1970’s, the parties at their London mansion were legendary and eccentric, frequented by the rich, famous and royalty.
Lying on the outskirts of Bangor in County Down, Northern Ireland, the estate has been the home of the Blackwood family since the early seventeenth century. Since the death of her husband in 1988, Lady Dufferin has worked tirelessly to keep Clandeboye Estates intact. Determined and opinionated in her desire to secure Clandeboye’s long term future, the estate does not depend on charitable foundations or trusts but is sustained by a series of home-grown enterprises, including a golf course and spa, the Ava art gallery, a banqueting hall used for weddings, a sawmill, the dairy herd and Clandeboye’s own brand of yoghurt.
Though the estate has been in the hands of the Blackwood family since 1674, the Georgian mansion and centrepiece of Clandeboye dates from 1801. Frederick Hamilton Temple Blackwood one of the Victorian era’s most brilliant ambassadors and a Lord-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria received postings to Canada, France, India, Italy and Russia. Awarded the title of the Marquis of Dufferin and Ava, in recognition of his services as Governor General of Canada and as Viceroy of India, County Dufferin was named in his honour. Acquiring countless treasures and artefacts for the Clandeboye Estate during his postings, whilst the house is not open to the public, it remains a fascinating and constant reminder of the Blackwood’s history, showcasing armour, weaponry, sculptures, carvings, and hunting trophies from all over the world.
Within Agricultural circles, the estate is extremely well known for their award winning herd of Holstein and Jersey cows. Cows have been milked at Clandeboye since the 1950’s, when Ayrshires were imported from Scotland, then replaced with British Friesians. When herd manager Mark Logan joined Clandeboye, 23 years ago, the Friesian herd was winter calving, in calf to Danish sires and averaging just over 4,000 litres. “There was significant room for improvement”, recalls Mark. “But the cows started to respond with better management, and soon profits were improving”. Lady Dufferin had always expressed a keen interest in the cows, and prior to moving to Clandeboye, Mark had briefly worked in New Zealand before share farming for seven years. With Mark’s enthusiasm and interest in pedigrees, Lady Dufferin backed him 100% when the decision was made to grade up the herd in 1992. Just 15 years later, under Mark’s guidance the Holstein herd was recognised with a Master Breeder shield and awarded the ultimate accolade of being the UK’s Premier herd. “When Clandeboye transitioned to pedigree, Lady Dufferin and I discussed a common goal to have one of the best herds in Northern Ireland”, recalls Mark, “Winning the UK Premier herd, a competition judged solely on type, exceeded all our expectations”.
It’s evident that Lady Dufferin has assembled a team of employees, who share her passion, drive and enthusiasm for whichever sector they front, and she respects this. “I couldn’t work anywhere else, and have the same privileges which are afforded to me, concerning the management or direction of the herd”, says Mark.
National statistics show that within the UK herd size is expanding, but in 2001 Clandeboye showed solidarity in reducing cow numbers by 30% and overhauling their existing infrastructure to modernise the parlour and cow housing. “At the time everyone was increasing numbers to be more efficient”, says Mark, Lady Dufferin posed the question –did we want to milk more cows and did we feel that was the right thing for Clandeboye? Ultimately Mark believed that reducing cow numbers but improving cow comfort and the working environment were key factors in moving the herd in the right direction.
An extension to the existing building housed a new 16 point Boumatic parlour, and the cubicle housing was renovated. New cubicles and mattresses for both the Jerseys and Holsteins were installed, sacrificing 30 cubicles for a central feed passage. The increased loafing areas and improved cow flow have had a positive effect on feet and legs and the cows spend visibly longer periods led down.
Mark’s passion and knowledge for the Jersey breed has seen their numbers within the Clandeboye herd increase. Running both breeds as one with the exception of winter housing, Mark appreciates the qualities of both breeds. “The Jersey breed can be so docile yet when it comes to halter breaking they can be either end of the scale”, remarks Mark. “Good as gold or the stuff nightmares are made of”. Mark is quick to jump to the defence of the Holsteins acknowledging that recent years have seen them soak up criticism for longevity and health issues, most of which are unfounded and can be blamed on management. Mark does find the Holsteins a little more predictable when it comes to udder depth and quality in successive lactations. “Consistency within the mammary systems of a Jersey cow, one lactation to the next is a concern of mine, and an area I would like to see the breed improve in”, says Mark.
“Cows have to have consistently good udders and legs and feet,” says Mark, confident these traits when combined with fertility have the most positive impact on longevity. Lower replacement rates provide the farm opportunities to cash in on surplus heifers. Whilst few cows or embryos have been purchased in recent years, the acquirement of Templedale Molly Prelude EX-94 6E at the Eastern Reflection sale in Ottawa in 1994, proved a shrewd investment. Landed in the UK for £2,500, she bred 10 daughters (8 EX and 1 GP), produced over 120,000kgs of milk, never having her foot lifted or having a case of mastitis. Other Holstein families leaving an indelible impression on the herd are the Dellia (Regancrest), Fawn (Quietcove), Marq I (Hanoverhill) and the Star family from Bondhaven , that has a promising heifer by Fever just fresh as a 2 year old.
Purchased in 2000, Ballymagee Astre Willow, a daughter of Wedgewood Willow Pat EX, was secured at a local breeder’s dispersal sale for a single bid of 500gns. Scoring EX in her sixth lactation, a flush to Maughlin Storm resulted in five females, four of which scored multiple Excellent, including the 7E dam of Clandeboye Champion Willow EX-94 4E, the most prolific show cow to date. Twice Supreme Champion at the Irish National Holstein show and All-Britain Intermediate Cow in 2009, Champion Willow has yielded in excess of 80,000kgs over six lactations, producing VG and EX daughters by Hidden-View Best and Picston Shottle.
Exhibiting at four shows a year, their Jerseys have become a regular feature in the winner’s circle. Clandeboye Rocket Mabel EX-92 2E, who’s third dam was bred in Elmira, Ontario at Earlyrise Jerseys was purchased from Walkerbrae Farms. She provided Clandeboye’s first major success in the show ring when she won Champion Jersey at the Royal Ulster Winter Fair in 2010. In 2011 they repeated the feat with Clandeboye Jazz Evita EX-94 3E, a daughter of Rapid-Bay Jazzman, that calved in for the fifth time and came back to be Reserve in 2013. Her daughter Clandeboye CR Evita (sire: Clandeboye Rocket) scored Excellent in her second lactation, and in the same year went one better winning Champion Jersey and Supreme Interbreed Champion at the Royal Ulster Winter Fair.
The whole team take immense pride in ribbons and awards, whether it’s for the cows or the yoghurts. Mark is quick to praise the efforts of Richard Jones from Hallow Holsteins who clips and helps with the shows, citing his professionalism and cool demeanour as a key factor in their success.
Clandeboye Estate Yogurt
With the margins in milk production minimal, Lady Dufferin and her team looked at ways they could increase profitability from the milk side of the business, excited to explore the possibility of adding value to Clandeboye milk. “I wanted to create a business that was sustainable in the long term,” enthuses Lady Dufferin, “A company with sound eco values and a commitment to local produce”.
Launched in 2007, and manufactured a short distance from the farm in a purpose built industrial unit, the yoghurt is blended by hand using traditional techniques. Milk is delivered direct from the farm on a daily basis, prepared and cultured very gently over 24 hours in small batches, which helps create an exceptional flavour and creamy texture. Increasing production every year, in 2013, 267,000 litres of the milk produced at Clandeboye went towards the production of Natural, Greek and flavoured yoghurts. Every week day, between 60-70% of the yoghurt produced is potted up for retail, the remaining is packaged in larger containers for catering. Only the production of Greek yoghurt results in any wastage, with 40% of the milk used in its production ending up as whey. In November 2013 Clandeboye launched a range of low-fat yoghurt smoothies, which blends whey with fruit purees to create the smoothies, eliminating any waste product.
Available in many of Northern Ireland’s major supermarkets and independent retailers, the Clandeboye range is targeted towards the luxury market, unable to compete with international labels who sell the majority of their products on price promotions. General Manager, Bryan Boggs has been instrumental in marketing and growing the yoghurt business, securing new distribution outlets throughout the UK and Ireland and exploring new business as far afield as Dubai. An exciting recent developments is the procurement of a deal with “Costa Coffee” (the world’s 2nd largest coffee chain behind Starbucks) to supply Clandeboye’s Greek style yoghurt for their Breakfast Granola pots. “The fact that we are the only yoghurt made in Northern Ireland, and the milk comes from a prize-winning herd of cows has been a great selling point,” says Bryan. “The story has certainly helped sell and market our product”.
Resolute that Clandeboye should be self-sufficient; plans are currently in place for an anaerobic digester to be installed, resulting in an additional 200 acres of crops being harvested. The digester will generate electricity and hot water for the farm and surrounding estate, whilst returning some to the National grid or local businesses, whilst the digestate will be invaluable to the land.
Despite advancing years, Lady Dufferin remains at the fore of the estate, and certainly shows no signs of taking life easy. With a simple goal to keep the estate intact, securing the future and sustainability of Clandeboye, a valued part of Ireland’s provincial heritage is a long-time dream of Lady Dufferin and her team of loyal staff.
CLANDEBOYE ESTATE YOGHURT
• Launched in 2007- it is the only yoghurt produced in Northern Ireland.
• 3 full time employees, headed by Bryan Boggs
• Retail and manufacture Greek, Natural, and 5 flavours of stirred yoghurt, smoothies and also layered yoghurts under “Heavenly Herd” range.
• Winner of Gold Great Taste Awards, 2007, 2009, & 2011
• Sold in Asda, Sainsburys, Tescos and other independent retailers, and in the Clandeboye farm shop
• Supermarkets work on 40% profit on return (shelf price of £1 they take 40p)
• 1litre of milk makes 1litre of yoghurt and 600ml Greek yoghurt
• Average retail price flavoured (150g) 74p, Greek (450g) £1.79, Natural (450g) £1.39
• 4-5000 pots of yoghurt produced daily
• In 2013, 267,000 litres of Clandeboye milk were used in the production of the yoghurt range
• 2013 Annual Turnover of over £400,000- Net profit of £57,000 (an additional 21ppl milk)
CLANDEBOYE ESTATE FACTS
• Owned by the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, otherwise known as Lindy Guinness or Lady Dufferin
• Located near Bangor, Co. Down Northern Ireland, 10 miles West of Belfast.
• Clandeboye is one of Irelands largest and oldest estates totalling 2,000 acres
• The estate has been in the Blackwood family since 1674, the house was built in 1801
• Clandeboye Estate employs 12 full time staff
• Clandeboye is home to a small herd of Irish Moilies(Ulster’s only native rare breed of cattle)
• 80% of the popular TV series Game of Thrones is set in Northern Ireland- the real life location of Craster’s Keep is filmed on location at Clandeboye Estate.
• 7,000 visitors attended 3 Garden open days and a Food festival in 2013
• Dufferin County in Canada-named after The first Marquess who was Governor General Canada 1872-78
CLANDEBOYE Holsteins & Jerseys
• 320 acres, including grassland (210), Maize (60) and Wheat (50)
• 35 inches of rainfall per year
• Holstein herd (65 cows + 45 Youngstock) 24 EX, 19 VG, 8 GP- Avg Class 88.5 points Herd Average- 11,235kgs, 305d, 4.06%f 3.19%p
• Jersey herd (26 cows + 25 Youngstock)P 11 EX, 10 VG, 5 GP- Avg Class 87.8 points Herd Average- 6,476kgs, 305d, 5.23%f 3.83%p
• Ration: TMR of 50:50 Grass & Maize silages.8kg purchased blend/head (fed for M+32 HOL- M+25 JER)
• Current sires: Holstein: Crackholm Fever, Gen-I-Beq Sammy, R-E-W Seaver. Jersey: Bridon Excitation, Riverdale Excitement, and Three Valleys Country Miles.