Grit Blogs > Maple Field Milk

The Processing Room

Nick Snelgar head shotI want to answer Chris, who emailed the site to say that he wanted perhaps to milk a small herd. We can help in this endeavour and would most definitely like to talk through the finances with him.

We had (a co-director and I) a very interesting meeting with Tim Jackson – the Principal of Sparsholt College of Agriculture (Hampshire ), who wanted to talk through the microdairying business model. For us it may mean an immediate ‘link’ to the student population with training, experience in small scale dairy farming, and the hope of encouraging many more self-employed farmers to get going.

The processing room – the ‘dairy’ – is the super-clean room in which we shall pasteurize, separate and bottle the fresh milk prior to sale on the doorstep. This week we have ordered the materials and equipment to lay the floor screed. The room within the timber barn is 6 metres by 6 metres. Down the centre of the room we shall cut the concrete and insert a floor drain with removable parts for washing at intervals. Then we shall set the floor levels to allow the screed (50mm thick) to drain into the central gulley. The surface of the sand and cement screed (grit sand ) will be carefully trowelled and left to dry. The final ‘hygiene‘ coat will be a gritty, (for traction) Epoxy resin covering laid on  with a trowel to 4mm thickness. 

Meanwhile, we can start the studwork walls which will be covered in Dairy Board (PVC sheets 2400x1200 and 3mm thick). The dairy board comes with clever jointers and cover strips which ensure seamless cleanliness throughout. Prices for the room will follow and will include labour to fix. I have met an ingenious refrigerator man who will help us with the walk-in cool room and who will direct us while we try to construct our own ‘clunky’ fridge doors. The savings are enormous. Details to follow.  

One of the cows has developed a scratched teat from the sharp teeth of the calf. I shall have to deal with this, as when we switch to machine milking through the new milking bail she may, with reason, kick up merry hell. What about the switch over from purely calf rearing to full-on milking husbandry – how will it go? So much to learn. I need to talk to Sue Cole in the New Forest, who is a deft expert in such matters, and I have Caroline Moody (www.moodycow.com) to provide training. Mentor Ian Crouch (source of the Jersey cows) is selling ‘raw’ milk to customers – how good is that? You can now buy fresh, raw (unpasteurized) milk at the Bowerchalke Market every Saturday. 

I think things are really moving. I think more and more people wonder about where milk comes from and who produces it.

Read, at once, The Untold Story of Milk  by Ron Schmid ND (with an excellent ‘forward’ by Sally Fallon, President of the Weston.A. Price Foundation).

And there is no better person to grapple with on this subject than Graham Harvey. Start with his The Killing of the Countryside, and move on to The Carbon Fields, and then all his other work. 

I want to give credit where credit is due. The Prince’s Countryside Fund have been full of support and encouragement and have introduced me to Mark Allen, CEO of Dairycrest, and Paul Whitehead, Director of Operations- Dairycrest, who are constantly on hand to advise us with this new venture.

The Plunkett Foundation provided Jane Ryall as an adviser with whom to talk through our early ideas and financial budgets. She was terrific (a dairy farmer’s daughter) in helping me to form the company and in providing a solid look at the figures with nothing left out or overlooked. Plunkett  is devoted to encouraging all aspects of local agriculture and employment and was founded in the 1930’s.

Notes on the Side:

This addition to the blog allows me to stray ‘off’ track and comment on other things in the village and on the small holding.

I have started a flock of meat chickens along the lines laid out by Joe Salatan in the USA. They live in a fox-proof contraption which is moved every day onto fresh grass.The idea is that they should follow the cow herd and gobble up intestinal parasites before they can even think of completing their grizzly life-cycle!

Next Time:  A look over the County border at Wilcox Milk

History – a talk with Rex Paterson’s grandson – the great milking bail pioneer of the 1940’s.