Secrets of a successful dairy herd
By Lyndsay Oxley - Reporter
MEMORY foam mattresses and rotating back brushes are two of the secrets to success when it comes to ensuring top quality milk production at an award-winning organic dairy.
For the past 90 years, the Tweddle family have farmed at Archdeacon Newton, developing what was a mixed farm, near Darlington, into a successful organic milk supplier – Acorn Dairy.
Siblings Caroline Bell and Graham Tweddle now manage the dairy-only site at Garthorne Farm with the support of their parents, Linda and Gordon Tweddle.
Every day, 20,000 litres of milk leaves the site, along with butter and cream and is delivered across Teesdale and as far away as Manchester by a team of 32 employees.
Alongside 4,000 doorstep deliveries, milk is also supplied to schools, restaurants, hotels and supermarkets including Morrisons and Waitrose.
Ms Bell said: “Black and white Holsteins were on the farm in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. They produce 9,000 litres of milk per cow per year.
“The dairy Shorthorns suit our farming practices today. They produce milk at a natural pace. They don’t produce big volumes, with 6,500 litres per cow per year, but they are a good all-rounder.”
The transition from conventional commodity milk production to organic farming began 20 years ago with the conversion of the land to organic status. As a result, Acorn Dairy was established in 2000.
Happy cows are known to produce the highest quality milk so cow comfort is a priority.
The 500-strong herd enjoy the luxury of rotating back brushes and memory foam mattresses inside the sheds where they have space to roam or rest.
Ms Bell said: “A cow produces most milk when she is off her feet. We give them lots of options of where to lie down.
“A timid cow might want space away from a more dominant cow too so there are more beds than cows.”
The cows are reared naturally on grass grown without chemical fertilisers.
A forage-based diet with clover produces milk higher in Omega-3. The cows can graze whenever conditions allow across the site’s 300 acres.
Inside they also have 24/7 access to feed made up from grass silage, beans, rolled wheat and apple cider vinegar.
The herd is known to thrive on a tipple of apple cider vinegar which is a natural antiseptic and immune system booster. A 90ml serving per cow per day has seen the somatic cell counts, which indicate infections in dairy cows, plunge by 20 per cent.
Since being introduced to their feed in spring last year, it has improved the cows’ abilities to fight off ailments.
However, if antibiotics are used the cow’s milk is pulled from the human food chain. Other organic standards in place include calves being kept with cows for longer and more human contact.