Belfast Telegraph

Forget the festive lie-in... Caryn will rise at 5.30am to milk cows

Caryn Webster with daughter Tilly on the family farm at Islandmagee
Caryn Webster with daughter Tilly on the family farm at Islandmagee

By Chris McCullough

A Co Antrim mother has described how she will balance family life with running the farm this Christmas.

Caryn Webster (34) from Islandmagee will be up at 5.30am tomorrow, just like any other day.

The mum of three young children aged between six months and five runs the family dairy farm at Brown's Bay while husband James works full-time in nearby Kilroot power station.

The farm has been handed down to Caryn by her father Jack, who still helps out with some milkings and feeding young calves, while mum Caroline assists with babysitting duties.

And even though it is the Christmas holiday period there is no rest for farmers like Caryn, who continue with business as normal to produce the food we eat.

"I will wake up at 5.30am on Christmas Day to milk the cows just like every other day," she said. "The kids are going to open a couple of presents before I go out and the rest when I get finished up. The farm work doesn't stop just because it's Christmas and I don't get two weeks' vacation like most other people over this period.

"But it's farming life and I wouldn't have it any other way."

Caryn runs 65 Holstein cows on the farm and came home to work there after studying for a degree in agriculture in England and gaining work experience for a year on a dairy farm in New Zealand.

"I have been at home farming since 2008," she said.

"I am the fourth generation on the farm with my great grandfather and his brother moving here in 1876.

"Although the farm has been split up over the generations it now comprises of around 47 hectares of land.

"Dairying started to be more of a focus on the farm around the 1930s with Dairy Shorthorn cattle, changing in the mid-1950s to the British Friesian breed and then progressing to Holstein Friesian, as it is today.

"We are currently milking approximately 60 to 65 pedigree Holstein Friesian cows under the Bayends prefix twice a day and they are yielding an average of 7,000 litres at 4.62% butterfat and 3.73% protein."

On a normal day Caryn gets her two oldest boys Benjamin and William ready for school before taking over the milking from her dad.

Once the milking is over there are other mouths to feed before Caryn can have breakfast. "Mum looks after our youngest, daughter Tilly, which is a super help," she said. "I always liked farming and it was a bit of a surprise to dad that I wanted to take over the farm instead of my brothers.

"However, I enjoy working with the cows even though it can be somewhat of a lonely existence being a farmer. As anywhere else the main problems on this farm are weather-related.

Being on the coast we get quite strong winds, which are laden with salt."

Caryn hopes that Christmas will still bring a chance to relax - even as life on the farm goes on. "I am really looking forward to some quality family time over Christmas while still watching the clock as I know the cows will need milking again come 6pm every evening," she added.

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