In many respects Bruce Braithwaite is undoing the work of his forefathers. In 1853 his family sold their farm in Dorchester and boarded the ill-fated ship the Haidee and sailed from Hull for greener pastures in the new world of South Africa to make a better life.
Now Bruce is doing the same journey in reverse –selling their farm in South Africa where he was born and raised and settling into the green and pleasant Shropshire landscape as head of Sansaw’s much-vaunted dairy farm.
The political situation as well as the violent crime in South Africa, of which his family have been victims, is such that he feels there is not much future for his family in the country of his birth. Bruce’s family will be joining him from Kwa-Zulu Natal in December in time for Christmas.
“It’s funny how we’re doing the reverse of a journey my family did in 1853 and for much the same reasons. Their journey took them three long months at sea from the Port of Hull to the port of Durban. Our journey flying from Durban to Birmingham takes only 18 hours.”
His wife, Tanya, is a veterinary surgeon specialising in Equine Reproduction. They will be bringing three of their children with them – Angus 21, Conor 16 and Jessica who is eight, who is hoping to meet Peter Rabbit. Their eldest son Tim 23, who has lived in the UK for the past three years has recently left to work on a farm in Montana, USA.
Bruce has been farming in South Africa for the past 25 years and decided at the age of seven when his grandfather bought a dairy farm that this is what he wanted to do. He has won over 13 master dairyman awards as well as numerous National showing titles with Holsteins, Jerseys and Ayrshires, as well as winning the winning the prestigious Royal Agricultural Gold Cup seven times and being the only person in the show’s 175-year history to win it three times in a row.
This is Bruce’s second stint on a farm in the UK – his first being the notorious Crouchlands in West Sussex which went into liquidation following the high-profile collapse of its biogas business.
“It was tough at first getting staff on board, I am sure most of them thought being a South African meant I had been milking a cow under a tree, but we eventually turned the agricultural business around and it was a great experience and I meet some amazing people.
“The staff at Sansaw have really made me feel welcome and we have an amazing young team of people full of enthusiasm and who are passionate about cows. Cow welfare is top on the agenda which is what initially piqued my interest in Sansaw and over the next few years we want to be one of the best dairy farms in the country.”