Raw milk producers serve up a success
By Lyndsay Oxley - Reporter
A FAMILY-run dairy farm is continuing to evolve following the success of its raw milk venture.
Just 18 months ago, farmer William Alderson set about diversifying Scorton Road Farm, in South Cowton, which has been in the family for almost 100 years.
Having experienced the effects of the milk crisis which hit the industry in 2015, the 25-year-old came up with the idea of cutting out the middle man and selling Atley Hill raw milk from a self-service vending machine at the farm gates on the B1263.
The farm is home to a herd of 65 pedigree Ayrshire and Holstein cows who produce about 2,000 litres of milk on a daily basis.
Since March last year, the raw milk has proved popular with customers, who have collected 50 litres almost every day from the vending machine.
Meanwhile, the rest of the herd’s milk continues to be sold to suppliers.
Mr Alderson said: “The machine needs to do 40 litres a day to cover your own time and labour.
“It is doing that and we are glad we have done it. With us not being in a village, we don’t have as much passing trade. We did notice a drop come winter time.”
He added: “When the cows are outside during summer, the milk they produce is sweeter. In the winter they are fed silage. A change in their diet makes the milk taste less sweet.
“I think we saw a drop in the winter because of that. Since then though it has picked up.”
It’s not only customers who have taken a liking to the product either.
Judges at this year’s Great Yorkshire Show judged Atley Hill raw milk as the best in its class. Milk from an Ayrshire cow named Ella won gold in the category for raw milk from one individual cow.
Mr Alderson said: “We have entered in the past but not for a couple of years.
“There were nine other entries in the class.
“We were up against all other breeds of cow’s milk, from your Jerseys to your Holsteins. We were really pleased to win it.”
Mr Alderson runs the farm alongside his parents David and Anne Alderson.
Mrs Alderson is exploring the idea of producing cheese from the raw milk.
She said: “It is a skill that people have lost. It is an add-on if it works.”
Mrs Alderson has already began a trial run using Ella’s milk to make a hard cheese.
Meanwhile, discussions are underway with Environmental Health officials to determine whether the venture would be feasible.
Mrs Alderson said: “With it being raw milk, it is quite high risk.
“It is a fairly niche market. It is artisan too and you don’t have control over some of the conditions.
“The product varies on the land the cows eat and the silage they eat.”
She added: “All those factors come into play when making the cheese and trying to get the standardisation that we require. No two batches of cheese would ever be the same.”
If possible, the Aldersons hope to be able to launch their own range of raw milk cheeses next spring.
Mr Alderson added: “A lot of farms just keep on getting bigger and bigger. We are on 65 cows now.
“You either keep on pushing your numbers or you have to try to find a niche to diversify. It’s a learning curve. We are always looking for new ideas.”
The raw milk costs £1 per litre and is available from the vending machine seven days a week from 7am until 7pm.
Following on from its success last year, the farm’s pick your own pumpkin patch will also be returning this Halloween.