Open any dairy farmer’s fridge and you will likely find it stocked with raw, untreated milk.
Now more and more urban consumers are catching on.
Four days a week in Auckland’s inner-city suburbs many people look twice as a sign-written truck delivers raw milk in glass bottles to residents.
“It’s just like it used to be done back in the day,” 31-year-old Guy Bakewell says.
“You know, when you could buy raw milk and it’d be delivered in a glass bottle.
“ And you’d leave your empties out and they’d be swapped out by the milkman. That’s exactly what we’re doing.”
For Guy and his wife Jaye their raw milk delivery business is as much about earning extra income as it is about helping educate consumers.
On an average day their cows are milked in the morning, the milk is bottled by hand and delivered by truck to consumers in just hours.
“Our truck gets a lot of attention,” Jaye says.
“It’s amazing the amount of people who look at it and, clearly, are thinking ‘what is that?’
“I get a lot people come up to me wanting to know how they can buy our milk.”
It’s a venture the couple least expected they would pursue.
Originally from Palmerston North, Guy hadn’t milked a cow until he was 16.
“I had a weekend job pumping gas at a petrol station but I wanted to make a bit more coin,” he says.
“I heard there was good money in relief milking so I initially offered my services free-of-charge to a local farmer. After a few months in the role I was on the timesheets.”
It didn’t take long for the dairying bug to take hold.
The Bakewells milk 150 cows on the 80ha farm at Wellsford. They consistently produce 50,000 kilograms of milksolids.
They’ve been guided by Richard Houston, who started Village Milk in Golden Bay in 2012 after importing the first vending machine from Italy.
“Hiring Richard as a consultant was a no-brainer,” Guy says.
“I don’t think we would have been selling milk as early as we were without his guidance and expertise.”
Normal milk sold in supermarkets is pasteurised to kill any bacteria.
Raw milk is unprocessed, which means stringent hygiene practices are needed when the milk is harvested to ensure it’s free of bad bacteria.
“Richard showed us how to carefully wash, disinfect and dry each cow’s udder prior to milking,” he says.
“Before we started the raw milk business we also replaced every piece of rubberwear in our milking plant and overhauled our cleaning procedures.”
The business is registered with the Ministry for Primary Industries and has a food safety inspection twice a year.
It’s also inspected a third time to ensure it meets Fonterra’s supply conditions.
“It’s completely different to traditional dairy farming where you just put your milk in the vat and leave the rest to someone else,” he says.
Guy reckons supplying raw milk would suit younger farmers who are social media savvy.
But they have to have access to a big customer base and be prepared to put in extra work.
Guy and Jaye aspire for Bakewell Creamery to be the preferred choice of raw milk in Auckland.
“We’ve got the supply, now it’s about growing the demand,” Jaye says.
“We believe we can take this to 1000 litres on our farm before we need to look at buying another property in order to increase our supply.
“Eventually, we’re hoping to have our business servicing more customers across Auckland. We think that’s an achievable goal we’ve just got to keep taking steps forward to get there.”
Those steps involve maximising the farm’s production, employing more staff, installing a bigger vat and erecting a purpose-built bottling facility to keep pace with growing consumer demand.
“We’re only limited by our imagination as to where this goes.”
Owner: Duncan Johnson
Sharemilkers: Guy and Jaye Bakewell
Location: Wellsford, Northland
Farm size: 80ha, 65ha effective
Cows: 150 Jersey, Friesian and crossbred
Production 2018-19: 50,000kg MS