AS people begin to wind down, forget about work and look forward to a week of festive over-indulgence, spare a thought for the nation’s farmers.

For the likes of Chester’s Arthur Fearnall, of farmer-owned co-operative Arla, it will very much be business as usual.

From milk for Santa and cream for cakes, to the all-important Christmas cheese board, there’s little time for feet up and mince pies in December.

Cows will still need milking, and if nature calls, some might even need to calve.

Behind prison workers and clergy, farmers are said to place in the top three when it comes to industries pulling shifts on Christmas Day.

Arthur owns some 400 Holstein cows and produces 3.2 million litres of milk a year. As part of Arla’s 2,400 UK farmers, his team of five produce top-quality milk which goes into products sold across the UK.

The co-operative estimates it will sell over 7,000 tonnes of Cheddar in the country this December.

On his preparations for Christmas, Arthur said: “The run up to Christmas is business as usual. We still milk and feed the cows twice a day.

“We keep a normal routine because the cows don’t know it’s Christmas! We do as much as we can on Christmas Eve, such as changing all the cow bedding, so on Christmas Day, all we have to do is the basic milking and feeding.

“We have four people rather than three on the farm at 4.30am Christmas morning making the job even quicker and our staff can go home to their families and mince pies!”

Arthur orders feed and essentials for the farm in advance because the mill does not open again until after the festive period. As a result, he can take a little time off on the 25th to put his feet up.

He said: “Ordering in advanced also means we have more family time. We like to keep Christmas traditional and have lunch, but it’s certainly hard work feeding and milking in the afternoon after a Christmas feast!

“This year, I have eight to ten cows that are due to calf over the Christmas period and if nature calls, we’ll have to be on hand! We always keep our fingers and toes crossed that nothing breaks down at this time of year.

“We have a quote in the farming industry that it’s bad luck to be looking at your cows at midnight on New Year’s eve, so I’ll be having a drink instead!”