Family-owned boutique milk business brings glass milk bottles back to Canterbury

Posted by on 13 September 2019 | Comments

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A new family-owned boutique milk business is set to bring the clink of glass milk bottles back to Canterbury streets.

James and Chloe Davidson, who have two young children, have established Darfield-based Roan Farm.

The couple has leased 24 hectares of land where they will produce sought-after A2 milk to sell door-to-door.

“There’s something nostalgic about having fresh milk delivered to your door from the farm just down the road,” said Chloe.

Animal welfare, the environment, sustainability and the consumer are a key focus for the fledgling family farm to fridge business.

“The conventional dairy industry has some image problems and we want to lead by example and show what is achievable,” said James.

“Our cows are grass-fed, our A2 milk will be delivered in reusable glass bottles and we plan to leave calves with their mothers.”

James is a former FMG Young Farmer of the Year grand finalist who has carved a name for himself in the traditional dairy sector.

“It can be a bit disheartening when you work long hours and your milk gets collected by the milk tanker and you never see it again,” said the 30-year-old.

“I want to interact with the people who buy and drink our milk and share with them the story of where it comes from.”

Like many other eager young food producers James and Chloe are educated, skilled and brimming with ideas – but don’t own land, or until recently, a milking shed.

The demise of another operator was the catalyst the couple needed to launch their new venture.

Last year they spotted the company’s mobile milking equipment for sale on Trade Me.

“We knew that if we didn’t take a gamble and buy the milking equipment then, we probably never would,” said James.

The equipment James refers to is a unique mobile milking shed on a trailer, which provides huge flexibility for Roan Farm.

“We move it every day. So our cows, which are 100 per cent grass-fed, walk up onto the trailer and they’re milked in the paddock,” said James.

The mobile shed suits the “calf at foot system”. The young calves wait nearby until the cows are milked.

Roan Farm is milking 15 cows, including a number of Milking Shorthorns, with plans to expand as demand grows.

Once the milk is harvested, it’s pasteurised then bottled. There are a couple of reasons behind the decision to pasteurise the milk.

“Pasteurised milk has a longer shelf life, so there is less wastage and it means we can sell it in cafes and supermarkets,” said Chloe.

James learned a lot about the problem of food waste when he attended the recent Boma NZ agri-summit in Christchurch, which he described as “thought-provoking”.

Initially the milk will be delivered to Darfield, West Melton and Christchurch. Routes will increase with demand.

“Our aim is to ramp up slowly. A local café has come on board to sell the milk, as have a couple of small grocers,” said Chloe.

Getting the new venture off the ground has been a big learning curve for James and Chloe.

“We’re farming our land organically. We’re in the conversion stage, which is a three-year process until we’re fully organically certified,” said James.

“We’ve been replacing a lot of dryland cocksfoot pastures with a mixed sward of 20-odd species of herbs, pasture and legumes.”

James and Chloe may not know it, but they’re role models for young dairy farmers in other regions eager to strengthen their connection with consumers.