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Winners follow up: Paul Griffin, Briddlesford Farm Dairy, 2019 Dairy Innovator of the Year winner

Taking the leap of faith to start direct selling all the milk from his Guernsey herd led to Isle of Wight dairy farmer Paul Griffin being named Dairy Innovator of the Year in 2019. Clemmie Gleeson catches up with this inspirational farmer to find out more.

Just three years ago, Paul Griffin and his family took the big decision to resign from their milk contract and instead commit to selling all the milk from their 140-cow herd of Guernseys on the Isle of Wight direct to the customer.

The processing plant, which started rolling in 2017 however, had been a longer-term project taking 10 years to complete due to difficulties securing finance.

The mainstream banks wouldn’t help so Paul managed to secure some grant funding plus some short-term finance. In the meantime, he and his sister Louise had been selling small quantities of milk, batch pasteurising and hand-filling up to 2,000 litres per week alongside their milk contract.

It was, In Paul’s words, tedious and time-consuming but it showed there was a market for their Briddlesford brand. It was a scary prospect for Paul to ‘jump ship’ from the milk contract and for the farm to start trying to sell its entire 15,000 litres per week.

An extra push came from the terrible milk price. He says: “We lost 10 pence per litre in that last year before we resigned the contract, so it was partly out of desperation. Either we carry on losing money hand over fist or we try to do something about it.


“We decided to take the fairly significant risk to build the processing plant and try to sell the whole lot ourselves. I had to turn into a marketing man overnight.

“I didn’t sleep for about six months and it was very stressful. There was a whole new skill-set needed for operating the plant – at first it felt like stepping into a nuclear submarine.

“I was 50 last year and can do anything with cows, but this required totally different skills and has been a massive learning curve.”

The processing plant has two sections, one for processing and bottling fresh milk and the other for cheese and butter production. Paul knew although fresh milk
sales would be the focus he also wanted to produce longer shelf life products.

This would be particularly important when demand was lower or there was a peak in supply, he adds. He also quickly realised from the start he wanted the plant to have excess capacity.

“It really made sense to go bigger than we needed – it seemed pretty obvious to me really although I didn’t know if we would ever utilise all that capacity.”

After just nine months Paul reached the point where all of the milk produced on the farm was being sold either as fresh milk, cream or as cheese under the Briddlesford brand.

The business produces 800,000 litres per year of which around 80 per cent is fresh milk and 10 per cent is cream, which is the highest value product.

The remaining 10 per cent is made into cheese and the farm now produces four types: Cheddar which is typically matured for six to 12 months, Gouda plus a halloumistyle cheese and a feta-style cheese. Retail customers include independent shops as well as supermarkets and a whole host of food service customers from small cafes to a ferry company.

With part of the processing plant’s excess capacity he decided last year to launch a second brand called Isle of Wight milk. This uses milk purchased from a local Friesian and Friesian cross Jersey herd and is entirely separate to the Briddlesford Guernsey brand.

“We had the capacity to do three million litres through the plant so there is scope to process three times the amount of milk we produce ourselves.”


“We have won many awards for our products but winning the Dairy Innovator at the British Farming Awards is the biggest  accolade by a long way”


The Briddlesford herd was founded by Paul’s great grandfather Charles Griffin and his achievements remain very much in the current fold of animals.

Paul says: “He started the herd in 1923 with 12 cows which he walked across the Downs to Briddlesford.

“Every animal since has been bred from those original 12 so they are all direct descendants and we are now one of the best performing Guernsey herds.”

The Guernsey herd is not just part of the family’s heritage but also the traditional breed of the Isle of Wight.

“I have always taken for granted the quality of the milk until recently. It is second to none, particularly the colour and the taste. Obviously it is creamier, but there is more to it than that.

“There is a distinctive flavour and I can’t tell you exactly why, but it does have high butterfat and protein.”

The herd yields more than 6,500 litres per year on average with butterfat typically around 5.35 per cent and protein at 3.5 per cent.

“We get good years and bad years, it is farming, but generally we are improving the herd all the time.”

As well as the milk processing plant the farm has a shop and cafe, and usually the three complement each other well. But, inevitably, in very recent times the Covid-19 restrictions have devastated the catering side of the business.

“Our cafe is shut and that is a huge loss to our income but the shop has picked up a lot of that slack,” says Paul.

“The milk processing operation has picked up 20 new retail customers who were desperate for a fresh milk supplier.”

The shop and cafe are managed by Louise, along with Paul’s wife Chris. They have been integral to building the Briddlesford brand.

Chris also hosts educational tours, which has raised the profile of the farm. Paul says: “Chris was a teacher for 30 years and has led many school visits over the years.

“This means that lots of school children know about us and it has really helped in terms of getting our name out there.

“We have also spent a lot of money on getting the brand looking good. All these things contributed to helping us break the mould,” he adds.

“Our milk is now sold direct and we are making a profit on every litre. I am incredibly proud of that. We drive yields by feeding enough concentrate.”

Paul likes to feed well into early lactation to keep cows fit and maintain fats and milk quality, without compromising yield.

“Guernseys are prone to acetonaemia, but once they are in calf they seem to be able to look after themselves.”

The 140 cows were turned out in mid-March as they were beginning to run low on silage and straw. Paul also leaves the barn door open for them while night-time temperatures are low and hopes they will be able to stay out until October.

While Paul is no stranger to winning product awards Paul says he didn’t expect to win the Dairy Innovator of the Year award.


“We have won many awards for our products, including Great Taste Awards for our cheeses but this is the biggest accolade by a long way.

“It’s a massive compliment to be recognised. Dairy farming is extremely hard and has been for 20 years, and to get that sort of recognition, I couldn’t ask for
anything better.”

“I would actively encourage other farmers to enter. It really helps with brand recognition and it’s a great evening. I met farmers from all over the country – just ordinary farmers making a living by thinking outside the box.

“Farmers are great when it comes to problem-solving but not so good at entering awards.

“ I would really recommend entering, you might be surprised.”