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As I’m sitting in a field on a warm sunny Monday afternoon thoughts of the good life are running through my mind, maybe one day I’ll have something like this of my own, a small holding maybe, enough land to have a few animals, grow my own veg and be self-sufficient….
But the hard work is just about to start!
I’ve come to my local dairy Manor Farm in Chesterfield.
I’m not here to enjoy the sun, peace and tranquillity…
I’ve come to see how the raw milk I’ve been drinking for the last 24-months is produced and get up front and personal with the ones that have the job of making it all happen.
Manor Farm has been in the Rodgers family since 1927.
Andrew, the 3rd generation of his family runs the farm with his brother Richard.
Together they see that the 134 cows currently based on the farm are kept in tip top condition throughout the year to ensure the 650,000 litres of milk produced each year are of the highest standard.
It’s the middle of June so the Friesian cows are out grazing on the pasture.
Andrew tells me this gives the milk its strong colour and rich supply of vitamins and minerals, along with antibodies, protein, fat and carbohydrate.
When the cows can’t be out grazing on the grass they feed on silage which is harvested and stored until the colder months.
He goes onto explain how 25,000 litres of the 650,000 litres produced per year is sold directly from the farm as raw milk which is unpasteurised.
To read more on this subject check out this previous post http://www.realfoodfunc.com/the-raw-power-of-milk/ .
The remaining 625,000 litres are sent to the dairy company Arla to be bottled in Derby.
Andy explains how milk produced at Manor Farm meets the quality levels needed to be sold on in its liquid form in the video below…
As a dairy farm producing milk for the public to consume it’s of vital importance that the health of the cattle is kept in check.
I’m shown the records that are used for each cow showing everything from the total amount of milk produced by each cow over its life so far to the level of white blood cells present in the milk.
These details can be used by Andrew and Richard to assess whether or not the cow is in a healthy state to provide milk.
If not then the cow will still be milked as it could become ill if left but the milk is simply discarded before being sent through to be cooled and stored in the main container.
One of the key messages I get when speaking to Andrew is that as a farmer you get to know instinctively whether a cow is in good health or not.
Just like a human, they will exhibit certain signs that can be picked up on over years of being amongst the herd.
This is a driving factor in why I want to champion those local producers around us.
They have a depth of knowledge that is second to none and this should be utilised to our benefit as a consumer when we look for food that is produced in a sustainable, ethical and health conscious manner.
When it comes to calving the health level of perspective mothers is vitally important.
Andrew notes that you preferably want to use your healthiest cows as they will pass on the genes needed to continue the herd being able to produce milk of a high quality and maintain their own health too.
Over a cows life cycle it will hopefully produce 14 calves in its 16 years.
One way of reducing the risk of disease spreading on the farm is the use of artificial insemination to get cows into calf.
Andrew talks about how having this control over the quality of bull used can play a big role in the calf’s health, reducing the risk of disease been brought onto the farm by a bull and reducing the chance of cows not coming into calf.
This is also known to be less stressful for the mothers to be.
When looking at the benefits of getting your milk from a local dairy such as Manor Farm a key factor for me personally is being able to understand where the product has come from.
Being able to look through the health records of each cow at Manor Farm is something that reasserts this fact for me.
Every cow in the herd is known on a first name basis as is explained in the video below.
Raw Milk Fat Content
A key factor that strikes home is the subject of fat content in the milk.
For example Amanda 0434 produces milk with 4.16% fat. This is a figure that represents full fat milk across the board and may strike you as a little lower than you expected.
To make this more representable think of a classic 1 pint bottle of milk…
Of the 568 ml only 4% or 22.72ml are actually fat and more importantly still this is where the fat soluble vitamins A,D,E and K are found.
You could argue that these 22.72ml are the most nutritious part of the milk itself.
Cattle Stress Levels
The stress levels of each cow is something that is monitored on a daily basis through both its figures recorded via the white blood cell count when milked and also the herdsman-ship qualities a farmer builds up through his or her hands on experience over the years.
When it comes to the actual milking process Andrew describes how washing the cows udder before milking helps not only to clean any dirt or bacteria away, but also starts to stimulate the hormone oxytocin which enables contraction of the muscles and allows the cow to give milk.
The same way a calf would nuzzle its head into the mothers udder before it drinks.
For many who haven’t seen the milking process in action before you may have the view that the suction apparatus forcefully extract milk from the cow, however that couldn’t be further from the truth.
On my many visits to Manor Farm I have only ever witnessed a calm relaxed environment where the cows even line up waiting for the parlour to be opened.
Contact Manor Farm
If you’re interested in trying Manor Farms milk for yourself use the details below.
Manor Farm, Brimington, Chesterfield.
Or find their page here: https://plus.google.com/101145348205563186805/about?gl=uk&hl=en
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