In 1950 there were almost 1750 Friesian or Ayrshire dairy cows in the county, supplying part of the county’s milk requirements. Most farms had a house cow whose milk was consumed by the farm family and workers. However, over the years a shift in trend away from livestock to cropping on the better quality land saw a marked reduction in the number of dairy units in the county. By 2000 there were only 355 dairy cows left, concentrated into just three herds, but producing far more milk per cow than in 1950.
Pigs & Poultry – George Barton
Pigs and poultry were generally recognized as non-land using enterprises, although the trend in 2000 to outdoor pigs and free-range poultry was testing this assumption. At the beginning of the period, pig keeping was not particularly intensive and about 1275 sows were kept on numerous farms throughout the county. By the mid 1970s the sow herd had doubled to over 2200 but were kept on fewer, more specialized units. In 2000 the number of sows kept was similar to that in 1975 but kept in just eight specialised units.
Similarly with poultry, at the beginning of the period approx 117,600 poultry, including 8500 turkeys, were kept in relatively small flocks on a large number of farms. By the mid 1970s large poultry units had been established and poultry numbers had increased to 225,000 of which 70,000 were turkeys, and it was about this time that the reputation for East Lothian turkey was established. In the last 25 years it was all change again and in 2000 the 187,000 flock consisted predominantly of egg laying hens and breeding hens with only a handful of turkeys and broilers left.
During the 1980s and 1990s two mushroom farms were established, one at Fenton Barns and the other at Halfland Barns, North Berwick. Both establishments produce large quantities of produce for the market place.
In 1989 Mrs. Ann Bell set up a Cashmere goat enterprise in East Linton, after being awarded a scholarship, which enabled her to travel to Australia, China and Outer Mongolia to study the breed. The cashmere from the herd of 300 goats was sent to Dawsons of Selkirk for processing. The enterprise continued until 1992.
Pedigree sheep flocks in East Lothian changed considerably over the period, reflecting the continuing trend from the market place for smaller carcasses and leaner meat. There were a number of small flocks of Suffolks, Texels and Cheviots around the county and until late in the 1990s, there were one or two small flocks of Border Leicesters.
Purebred herds of Shorthorn and Aberdeen Angus were common in the early years and with the importation in the 1970s of continental cattle a number of small herds of Simmental, Charolais and Limousin were established. Progeny from these herds was sold privately or through specialist auction markets in Perth or Carlisle.
Friesian/Holstein and Ayrshire dairy herds, common in the early years, declined leaving just three herds in the county (see Dairy Farms).