WITH great concern for making the dairy industry more sustainable, a young farmer from Northern Ireland has started delivering his own cow’s milk in reusable glass bottles.
The bold move was made by Gareth Baird, 22, who operates a farm on the outskirts of the town of Carrickfergus in County Antrim, which has a population of over 40,000. Such has been the success of the move, it seems ready to build a new dairy unit, with a processing plant next door.
Gareth’s vision is not only to add value to his own milk production, but also to reduce the use of plastic containers normally used by retailers to sell milk.
Together with his family, Gareth milks 150 cows on their Carnrassie farm and normally supplies the milk to Glanbia Cheese. But, he had always had the ambition to bottle and sell the milk of the family herd since he had left agricultural school.
Gareth said, “We had to increase farm income to justify coming from college to farm full time. Increasing the number of cows was not an option here, so we had to find an alternative.
“I’ve always thought about bottling our own milk and after a lot of research we decided to launch the new side of the business in July of last year. This involved setting up a pasteurizer and a bottling, washer and sterilizer plant. It also meant getting all the proper hygiene certificates to get started.
Gareth’s cows are primarily Fleckvieh and the herd has an average yield of 7,500 liters per cow per year at 4.35% BF and 3.35% P.
With only 115 acres on the farm for growing grass, Gareth added, “I find Fleckvieh more suitable for pasture, is more resilient, and produces better quality milk.
Using its own one-liter glass bottles, Baird’s Fresh Farm Milk began production in July 2020, with a smooth social media launch. Initial demand was overwhelming and now Gareth delivers over 1,700 liters of bottles of milk per week on Monday and Thursday evenings at £ 1.20 a liter.
“The response we received from Facebook when we launched was totally overwhelming,” Gareth said. “Our goal was to come out with 30 bottles on the first night’s delivery, but the response was so good that we delivered 120 bottles that night.”
Baird’s Farm fresh milk is pasteurized but not homogenized which makes it really creamy and flavorful, especially on cereals and in tea and coffee. The family invested in a pasteurizer with a capacity of 500 liters to process milk in batches.
Deliveries take place on Monday and Thursday evenings and that means all systems are working for Gareth, who relies heavily on family members to help get the milk to the door.
“Right now we have four vehicles delivering milk on both nights,” Gareth said. “It’s great that family members want to help. We hope to streamline deliveries later and have three branded vehicles four hours each per night. ”
As local deliveries in town are optimized, Gareth plans to increase his deliveries by going further. The family also plans to build a new dairy with an adjoining milk processing plant.
Currently, the farm only produces whole milk, but when the new processing unit is built, the goal will be to add semi-skimmed milk to the range, as well as cream-based products.
“We plan to build a brand new dairy unit and processing plant on green land here at the farm,” Gareth said. “I hope that the processing unit will be built first by January 2022. A new separator will be installed which will allow us to produce skimmed milk and creams.
“There are also plans to add a new dairy unit next to the processing plant with a 20-point pivoting parlor, which should reduce milking times to just over an hour.
“Right now we are using a six point milking parlor with no ACR installed since the 1970s and it can take almost four hours per milking. A new milking parlor and easier facility for the buildings will save us a lot of milking time and give us more time for processing and delivery.
“The overall goal is to build a good round of delivery and sell most of our milk that way, so we need to invest in infrastructure now to achieve that goal,” Gareth added.