I love my job, and through it how I get to meet passionate people, who are passionate about their work and life. Once such person is Abi Reader, a third generation dairy farmer in South Wales. Last Sunday we had the opportunity to meet Abi and for her to show us around her beautiful dairy farm.
Dairy production, worldwide, positively effects over one billion people. Be that they own their own farm, produce milk for the community on a large scale. Or in Africa, a family owns a cow and produces milk which in turn provides an income for the children to be able to go to school.
Abi told us the history of her land, the heritage of the herd. Her Grandfather owned the farm first, and passed it down the line to her father and then onto her. Her herd of 200 ‘ladies’ are a mix of fresian and short horn cows. All cared for and loved on her 800 acre farm outside Cardiff.
Abi shared how she knew every cow by sight. She said that by standing by the front door of her farmhouse in the morning and looking up the fields, she could name each and every cow there. By knowing her herd, she can treat each cow as a ‘friend’, tending to their individual needs. Knowing their lineage, who’s daughter is who’s and so on. It was lovely to meet Abi’s favourite cow, Marjorie, and her daughter and nieces as we wandered around the barns.
Abi, kindly let Charlie drive her tractor around the farm. They absolutely loved being there and learning about farming life. Charlie is even considering taking up farming as a career now he knows he can drive tractors all day, and when Abi mentioned that Agricultural Engineers are creating ‘robots’ to mechanically work the land in the future – his eyes lit up.
Abi explained that her farm is also used by Welsh farming students who come to learn about dairy farming, as well as a local wildlife group are trying to restore the wild watercress meadow.
During the winter months the cows are kept in the barns as it’s too wet for them to be in the fields. Snug in their sawdust and hay lined barns they are fed on a mix of maize, barley mulch from the local brewery and fermented grass from the farms meadows, which had been cut in the summer months and stored.
Local business and communities coming together. The barley mulch is a by-product from the brewing process and would have otherwise been thrown away. All these ingredients are put into a large mixing machine to provide the cows a nutritious feed.
Each month there are about 15 calves born on the farm, and we met some. So cute! Long eyelashes and soft pink noses… Rufus and I loved the red short horned calves.
Once a new calf is born Abi puts them into a pen in a shed next to the main cowshed, where other calves are housed. They stay in a single pen for their first week before moving into a small group of similarly aged calves to learn to be part of a herd and socialise. The calf drink their mother’s milk for the first week then the whole herds milk until it is weaned at approximately 8 weeks, their milk is always served warm as it would be from their mother.
Bulls (male cows) are given to young beef farmers in the local area to rear into the beef herd. It’s important to Abi to know where each of the cows go, it’s all about animal welfare.
The 200 cows in the herd are milked twice daily – and have a routine. 5.30am and 3.30pm are the milking times, Abi mentioned that she once slept through her alarm, and the cows began to shout at her to wake up – they love a routine.
Her farm produces up to 4000 litres of milk a day – which is collected once a day and taken off to a local dairy to be pasteurised, bottled and sent out to stores.
It was fantastic to meet Abi face to face and learn all about her amazing farm. UK dairy farms are part of a global network with 240 million people directly or indirectly employed on 133 million dairy farms around the world.
Abi is part of this new generation of farmers, and wants to open up the idea of dairy farming as good industry to work in, with great farming practices and is passionate about animal welfare and nature.
A lot goes into our daily pint of milk doesn’t it?
Collaboration Note: This post was written in collaboration with AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board). While compensation was received in exchange for coverage, all thoughts and opinions are always my own.
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Lou Archell, a writer, photographer, stylist and founder of Littlegreenshed. A UK lifestyle & travel blog
Lou is also a busy mum of two amazing boys and the founder of Sisterhood Camp – an annual creative retreat for recharging and empowering brilliant ladies, Lou is passionate about supporting and inspiring others whether through her workshops, writing, photography or lifestyle hacks.