Dairy delights in Essex
PUBLISHED: 15:53 31 October 2016 | UPDATED: 15:53 31 October 2016
Traditional dairies in Essex are rarer than hen's teeth these days, with a decline nationally and the diversification of many farms.
However, Stephanie Mackentyre has caught up with one long-standing dairy which is bucking this trend, an alternative dairy farm with a difference, as well as two thriving producers who, without dairy produce, wouldn’t be able to function
Boydells Dairy Farm, Wethersfield
Roy Threadgold and his son Kiley run the Boydells Dairy Farm, which is producing dairy products from a herd of sheep rather than cattle.
‘The sheep saved us. We are now one of the biggest producers of sheep milk in the country, but when we were milking cows we weren’t so big. We can now name our price rather than have it dictated to us,’ explains Roy.
Roy has been working the farm for 53 years and started sheep milking in 1987. ‘We were milking them alongside the cows on a smaller scale, but about 20 years ago we got rid of the cows and upped the sheep numbers. What forced it was, as a small dairy herd, we weren’t making a living as a family. Kiley was in his teens then and showed no interest in leaving the farm for another career. I’ve always liked sheep and I promised myself we’d give them a go before I retired.’
The dairying side of the farm wasn’t new to Roy, so the conversion was easy to make. ‘We rather treat them like mini-woollen cows,’ says Roy with a smile. ‘It’s hard work, though. With cows, once the milk is out, a tanker comes along and takes it away and it’s all done for you. Now we have to do everything ourselves, including finding the customers and delivering the milk.’
Boydells is an open farm with some cows and goats too. This year has seen more than 25,000 visitors to the farm, where they also sell raw milk. Roy’s wife Cherry looks after the visitors side, plus finds time to produce her own frozen yoghurt lollies called Yoggi Pops.
‘We produce 70,000 litres of sheep’s milk now each year and its worth five times as much as the cow’s milk. Of course, you can also keep so many more sheep per acreage than cows.’
Bradfield’s Farm, North Benfleet
Bradfield’s Farm is run by Nick and Guelda Lambert and has been in existence since 1922. Daughter Clare Garbutt runs the retail side of the business and her sister Sarah Lambert runs the dairy cows and this month Clare is opening the farm to customers looking to buy freshly pasteurised cow’s milk.
‘We are hoping to sell cheese and cream too. We’ve been supplying cow’s milk wholesale for many years, but this is a new venture for us,’ says Clare. Clare has invested in a vending machine which will supply either plastic cartons of milk or glass bottles, which can be brought back to the farm and refilled. ‘It’s been really difficult running the traditional dairy, we’ve made a loss for the past two years, but these plans mean we can bring in some income directly. We have had to get permission from those who we supply, but as it’s only a small amount, they have agreed to it.’
The farm currently produces 90,000 litres of milk per month and 1,000 litres of that will be sold freshly from the farm gate. The farm is also hoping to supply local pubs and restaurants too. ‘People can come along and fill their own bottles which we think will be really popular with families, especially those with children and grandchildren. Visitors can come and see the cows on the farm and then will be able to get their milk directly from us.’
The team are currently trialling different types of cheese to sell too. ‘Our main cheese is Chalvedon, named after Little Chalvedon Hall. It’s a manchego cheese recipe, but made with cow’s milk rather than sheep’s milk and it’s a firm, semi-hard cheese. We are also trialling West Croft, which is a Lancashire-style crumbly cheese.’
Rossi Ice Cream, Southend on Sea
Colin Gray, director of Rossi Ice Cream, uses dairy produce in the Southend producer’s traditionally made ice cream.
‘We use fresh milk, butter and cream and skimmed milk powder with other ingredients which are carefully weighed into a pasturising vat which is heated to 86C for 15 seconds, ensuring that the creamy base mix is 100% pure.’
Next the mix is pumped through a homogeniser, which makes the mix extra creamy by pummelling the fats rather like a giant liquidiser. The next step is the heat exchanger, to reduce the temperature.
‘It works with refrigerated water in a sealed unit, with the mix flowing through very fine tubes alongside the refrigerated cold water and is pumped into an aging vat at approximately 10C and within 45 minutes it’s down to about 7C.’
The mix is stored in aging vats overnight so that the emulsifiers and stabilisers work. The following day, if it’s to be vanilla, this is then pumped through to batch freezers (ice cream making machines) or for a flavoured ice cream, flavourings are added prior to production and then stored in the freezers.
‘As well as our popular range, we occasionally produce limited edition flavours, for example we’ve recently created rhubarb and custard, which tastes exactly like the rhubarb and custard sweets. A corporate client recently asked us to produce a gin and tonic sorbet using Bombay Sapphire Gin. Insure and Go, the national travel insurance company, also asked us to produce ice creams for their Around the World in 80 Scoops promotion in London. We were commissioned to create 30 to 40 different flavours of ice cream from around the world, including fish flavour ice cream from Japan and tobacco ice cream from Cuba!’
Shaken Udder, Tolleshunt Major
Shaken Udder produces milkshakes with no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. There are more than 30 different flavours to choose from and all are created at their dairy farm here in Essex. They now supply the likes of Harrods and Waitrose as well as many festivals around the UK.
‘At festivals we make our fresh milkshakes with fresh British milk, plenty of fruit or lashings of real chocolate and lots of delicious vanilla ice cream. We have more than 30 flavours to choose from and additional toppings like whipped cream, marshmallows and even a doughnut. For our bottled milkshakes, we closely replicate these flavours by using fresh British milk and real ingredients. Our 330ml bottles include Chocolush, Vanillalicious, Top Banana and Salted Caramel flavours. We also produce kids cartons in chocolate and strawberry flavours, and our 1ltr Uber Udder Vanillalicious and Chocolush cartons. Our milkshakes are delicious as they’re completely natural and use high-quality, real ingredients; Belgian chocolate, real bananas, vanilla beans and glorious Maldon Sea Salt.’
Per annum Jodie and Andrew Howie now produce more than 3million bottles of their milkshakes. ‘This year we started to export to places as far away as Hong Kong. We are always talking to our customers to get their feedback, whether through social media, at festivals and when we’re out and about doing tasting events. We currently have a Facebook poll running on our page to find out what new flavour our fans would like us to make next and our customers are encouraged to get in touch with us all year round to tell us about their new ideas.’
Bradfields Farm Dairy
Burnt Mills Road
Rossi Ice Cream
31 Lucy Road
Southend on Sea
Wicks Manor Farm