Mike and I hopped into the car and followed our neighbour Michael (yes, another one) towards Tamrookum.
We got behind a trail of cars heading towards the 4Real Milk diary.
4Real Milk has a lot of local support. There were many volunteers directing traffic, and plenty of cars to be directed. It turns out that this was a relatively civilised event compared with the mayhem of last year when eight thousand visitors descended on this dairy farm, and queues backed up to the Mount Lindesay Highway.
It’s the first time I’ve been to a robotic dairy. How good is this? 24-hour milking, and the cows just rock up when they want to be milked. They wear tags, and during the milking process, they are identified, weighed, the amount of milk they produce is recorded, and after the milking they just walk off. Fabulous!
The cows wear a collar with a weight, which keeps the data tag in the correct place to be detected by the machinery.
Here’s the milk, ready to be pasteurised, although not homogenized. Read about the characteristics of 4Real Milk products here.
Graham, a member of the family team, said “having time” was the stand-out difference of running a robotic dairy. He described how working on a dairy farm is a lifestyle of perpetual shifts, and the machinery enabled them to spend some quality time together as a family.
“The first Christmas we had at the house after establishing the robotic dairy, we were like: Wow, we’re actually all here at the same time!”
There are approximately 450 head of cattle at 4Real Milk dairy farm, of which around 250 are milk-producing cows. The rest are calving, resting or otherwise. The life of a cow can reach 15 years, but the average is nine years, and they produce milk for the duration of their life. I asked whether, at the end of its life, a cow would become meat – for pets perhaps? A cow is currently worth around $2,000 as beef, and will become mincemeat for human consumption.
As a former Londoner, I cannot tell you how continually amazed I am when driving to work. I pass undulating pastures, sparsely peppered with grazing cows of varying colours and patterns, and beyond that backdrops of untouched forest and mountains. Happy cows. Happy me.
There are 7 bulls on site at 4Real Milk. They will use one bull at a time, then rest him after three weeks. This lets them track their calves. Here’s a bull, just hanging out among the cows. Can you see his horns? Apparently this one likes resting here, despite efforts to move him elsewhere. He even knows how to ditch his tag!
The 4Real Milk dairy resides on around 340 acres of land, and apparently this is not a large property. The cows seems pretty happy regardless. They generally sleep standing up (for real? 🙂 ) although they can lie down. They’re also pretty chilled during lightning and thunder, and the dairy has a sheltered area with a long roof and a compost-lined floor, where the animals can rest if they wish.
Here is the man himself, Greg Dennis, founder of 4Real Milk. As fourth generation dairy farmers, you know the family journey will have been one of both strife and triumph. Read about their story here.
What an excellent morning. Thank you 4Real Milk, especially Graham for letting me bend your ear. As we left, what else would we pick up but a bottle of 4Real milk!