Spotlight on The Ethical Dairy

The Ethical Dairy cheese storage

No bull, happy cows are healthier and produce more milk

Emma visited David and Wilma Finlay at The Ethical Dairy on Rainton Farm in Southwest Scotland as part of the Guild of Food Writers’ South of Scotland Destination Alliance Trip funded by Scotland Food and Drink. (Read about the day here).

Visiting any dairy farm is an interesting prospect, but visiting The Ethical Dairy is extra special.  Not only does the farm make traditional cheeses using organic milk, David and Wilma Finlay are pioneers of Europe’s largest cow-with-calf dairy.

david finlay

The intensification of dairy farming is a growing concern for many consumers.  Where this farm is different is that it is the first commercial dairy in the UK where the calves are left with their mothers for extended periods.  In traditional calf dairy farming, the calves are taken away from their mothers within the first 24 hours of birth causing stress and upset for both mother and calf.

The radical new approach from this dairy farm is different from conventional dairy farms in that the dairy calves are left to suckle from their mothers, and this includes the male calves.

the ethical dairy french women
Draw me like one of your French girls came to mind with this relaxing lady.

The Finlay family have been conventional dairy farming since the 18th Century.  In 2012, David Finlay decided to find a way to keep the cows with the calves and have a financially viable farm. The first venture into this system was a financial disaster, however, the cows were happier, so in 2016 they gave it an udder go.  By re-designing the dairy system on the farm, they gave themselves a three-year timescale to make or break the new regime.

The Ethical Dairy, take two

This time around it was a complete success and in 2019 the Finlay family moved over to this system permanently.  The calves stay with their mothers and benefit from their mother’s milk.  Milk production has increased as the dairy cows are happier, in turn, the use of antibiotics has decreased by 90% yet the productive life of the cows has doubled, and farm biodiversity on the farm has also increased.

Not only is animal welfare a priority at this farm, but traditional styles of cheese are made onsite meaning that the art of cheesemaking is not lost in the local community.

the ethical dairy cheese making area

Look at all that cheese..!

the ethical dairy cheese storageI was surprised by the wide range of cheese styles on offer.  From the Alpine style of Rainton Tomme to tangy Laganory and the earthy Barlocco blue.

Farm tours are available where you can see the system at work, and then of course taste the delicious produce made here.


Rainton, Gatehouse of Fleet, Castle Douglas, Dumfries & Galloway DG7 2DR

Farm Tours

Click here to book

Book a cheese-making class

Click here to book

Buy Cheese from their online shop

Click here to buy




I am Emma and with my husband Mark write Foodie Explorers, which is a food and travel website.

I am a member of the Guild of Food Writers and British Guild of Travel Writers.

We have a wide range of judging experience covering products, hotels and have judged, for example, for Great Taste Awards and Scottish Baker of the Year.

Along the way Mark gained WSET Level 2 in Wine and I have WSET Level 2 in Spirits as well as picking up an award with The Scotsman Food and Drink Awards.    

Usually I can be found sleeping beside a cat.

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