Our head chef Damian recently paid a visit to Acorn Dairy – the supplier of some of our dairy produce – to discover what makes a happy, healthy cow, and, in turn, better quality milk.
Acorn Dairy is a certified organic dairy farm that has around 700 acres of land and 30 cows. They’re based at Garthorne Farm at Archdeacon Newton and the owners, the Tweddle family, have now been farming there for four generations.
When Caroline, who’s been farming there since 2005, invited me to visit the farm to find out more about what they do, I couldn’t wait to go down and get stuck in. Here are just a few things that I discovered Caroline and her team do to ensure their cows are the happiest that can be.
The sheds are spacious and clean
The cows are housed in a purpose built cow shed designed by Acorn themselves. It has plenty of ventilation, heat and space. The cows have memory foam beds and can choose where they lay down. If they don’t want to lay next to a certain stable mate, they can move to another part of the shed. They also have toys and automatic scratching stations to keep them occupied. I was pleasantly surprised at how clean and fresh it smelled!
The calves are given more time to develop
All the calves have a human mum, Amy, who teaches them how to suckle. Unlike normal farms, the calves at Acorn are left to grow and mature longer so that they naturally develop antibodies and their internal organs are mature enough to handle being in the fields. Most farms feed the calves antibodies so that they can go outside quicker.
The welfare of the cows is a top priority
Every time the cows go into the milking shed, the team check them over to ensure they’re healthy. The floor has been designed to be non-slip and soft on their hooves, and it’s details like this that make me so happy we work with them. If a cow looks or behaves differently to normal, they remove her and place her in a separate barn where they can assess what’s wrong with her. If she needs antibiotics, then and only then, will she be given them by a vet and her milk will be withdrawn from supply.
The cows are fed top notch grub
The silage (fermented grass) that the cows are fed is enhanced with apple cider vinegar and seaweed. It smells both savoury and sweet, and, above all, clean and fresh. Better food means less cows getting sick, and a good diet also plays a key part in them leading healthy, happy lives.
In fact, the silage smelt so good, that I’m going to try and make an ice cream from it. We’ve played with hay-infused ice creams in the past, but this will be on another level. I had a similar ice cream last year when I visited Fäviken in Sweden and the complexity of flavour blew me away!
We use Acorn Dairy not only because they are local and produce top quality organic milk, but because I simply love the passion that Caroline and her team have for farming – something that my recent visit certainly confirmed!