Farming in general is changing and over the past two years we have been making changes here on Park Farm. Following many emotional discussions on how the farm should evolve in the changing world we decided to make some radical changes and we are continuing to work towards making the farm more sustainable, profitable and creating something resembling a work / life balance.
This led us to the decision to disperse our more commercial herd of Holstein Friesian cows and return to a family herd by investing in some beautiful pedigree Jersey cows. Our Holstein Friesian cows were sold to other dairy farms and the majority of our Jersey cows have been purchased from the superb farms based on the island of Jersey.
So why the change? Commercial Holstein Friesian cows are bred for their volume of milk. They are likened to athletes, requiring top notch nutrition, and are very labour intensive and very high maintenance, which in itself is not a problem, but this is not what we wanted out of our dairy herd. We wanted to get back to a more natural way of keeping our herd, which would be better for the cows, for the environment and for us too. Unfortunately, we felt this was not possible with the Holstein Friesians and rather than stop the dairy side of the business completely, we felt the Jersey cows would be able to give us that option. So we have chosen quality over quantity.
Jersey cows are much smaller and tend to be hardier. They also have the most brilliant personalities. They may be small but they are definitely more inquisitive and often more opinionated. Whereas the Holstein Friesians can produce 60 litres of milk per day, the average Jersey only produces around 30 litres. We have reduced our herd size from 180 milkers to 70. This has dramatically reduced our income but has also reduced our outgoings and allowed us to focus on providing a more natural lifestyle. Now, instead of producing high volumes of good quality milk, we produce high quality milk with high levels of butterfat. Some of you may remember the days of trying to be the first to the milk bottle to get the cream for your cereal!
What next? We have some ambitious plans for the future that are progressing steadily. We are installing a pasteuriser to enable us to process the milk ourselves, cutting out the middle man. Current legislation means our raw milk can only be sold from the farm gate and not everyone is able to consume this, for example those who are immunocompromised and pregnant ladies . The vending machine will be able to dispense both raw and pasteurised milk. Being able to offer pasteurised will also allow us to continue to sell milk in the event of any of our cows reacting during the regular TB testing, at which point we have to cease selling the raw milk until the heard is clear again. We also hope that being able to offer pasteurised milk will allows us to supply local shops and cafes and offer a milk delivery service within the local area.
We will eventually be able to produce and sell homemade cream, butter and ice cream with the amazing milk our Jersey girls produce and hope to be able to offer semi skimmed milk in the future. As well as beautifully creamy milk, the majority of Channel Island cows produce milk with the A2 Beta Casin, which is often more easily digested. We are continuing with our original breeding program using specifically A2 bulls and are starting to test the herd for the A2 gene.
On the arable side, we are continuing to grow a variety of crops, including rape, wheat, beans and maize. We use the straw from the wheat as feed and bedding for the cows and the maize is grown specifically as cow feed. Our rape seed is sold to make rape seed oil and the majority of the wheat is sold for breadmaking, due to its high quality.
We are trying to do as much in house to reduce our reliance on contractors. This means that we can do the work that is needed when the weather is right and we aren’t reliant on contractors being available at the right time. As an example we need to harvest many of our crops when the moisture level is below 15% otherwise we incur addition charges for drying the grains when we sell it. By harvesting the crop ourselves it means that we can take regular moisture level checks and combine it at its peak. We are also preparing the land using minimum tillage (no ploughing) as this reduces soils erosion, sowing (drilling) the seed, fertilising, spraying and bailing straw and silage ourselves. The reduction in the number of cows has enabled us to turn more land over to crops and to place more of the farm into environmental schemes. These environmental schemes allow us to use more of our land as wildlife areas, with the aim to encourage pollinators and nesting birds. It also gives the wildlife a safe area when the crops are combined.
We have enjoyed welcoming the public onto our farm as part of the Open Farm Sunday scheme in the past and look forward to welcoming you all again to see how things have changed and to meet our beautiful pedigree Jersey girls at Open Farm Sunday in June 2022.
Jersey heifers at Park Farm