DAIRY farmers in the UK are becoming fewer and fewer.

And for one grandfather, the failure of forging his way in one of the most challenging industries almost became a reality.

But now Mike Smales’ Lyburn Farm has becoming a shining light for other cheesemakers after claiming three golds at this year’s prestigious International Cheese Awards.

The New Forest based farmer saw his Old Winchester, Stoney Cross, and the Lyburn Smoked cheese awarded the top honour at the ceremony in Nantwich - with his garlic and nettle being labelled very highly commended by judges.

Cheeses from across the world were entered into the competition and for Mike is was a just reward for his hard work and dedication to the profession.

He said: “Old Winchester is usually in the frame somewhere, but we are particularly pleased with the smoked.

“We are using a new smokehouse and giving the cheese a little bit more smoke than we used to.”

At Mike’s Lyburn Farm they have a herd of 170 dairy cows and it is their milk which is used to make a selection of cheeses popular not only in Hampshire and Wiltshire but across the UK.

The focus on cheese has enabled Mike to add value to his milk whilst creating an award-winning product.

He said: “We feel fortunate to have had the cheese business to help us survive the tough times.

“Not everyone has been so lucky.

“It has also become a large part of our business as we are passionate about producing only the very best quality cheese and take great pride in our work.”

Old Winchester is Lyburn’s biggest seller, finding international success.

It is a very hard cheese made with a vegetarian rennet and matured for at least 18months, and is used in cooking as well as on cheese boards.