Lots of excitement this week at FarmED as we prepare to welcome young farmer, Hallam Duckworth’s, trio of in-calf fleckviehs, which will mark the start of Hallam’s new microdairy venture - The Dairy at Honeydale. We filmed Hallam this Monday, with just seven days to go until the cows arrive here on the 22nd March, all being well.
The three Fleckveihs are travelling to the UK from Germany and are due to calve at the end of April.
Fleckveihs are originally a three purpose breed, used for dairy, beef and draught and Hallam is as interested in the calves as the milk. Unlike more common dairies, where calves are separated from their mothers at birth, or within a couple of days, Hallam’s microdairy will allow the calves to run with their mothers. This is a system that’s called cow-calf dairying in the US.
‘The focus of my micro-dairy will be 50% beef and 50% dairy,’ Hallam says. ‘The Fleckveih calves are larger than dairy calves at weaning and have a higher value.’
The yield is slightly lower, but this suits Hallam, as too much milk will be a problem to sell or process.
Cow-calf dairying is beneficial in terms of animal welfare, since natural suckling provides antibodies and is better for the calf than a milk replacer. It’s also better for the cow and udders as it avoids mastitis. Benefits to the dairy farmer include improved yield and cost savings by reducing the need for antibiotics and post-dipping.
Cow-calf dairies work by striking a natural balance between milking and suckling to keep the yield up. The process involves ‘quiet weaning’, whereby cows and calves are separated overnight. The cows are milked first thing in the morning and the cows then run with their calves for the rest of the day, with the calves suckling at will.
‘Natural hormones mean the cows never milk themselves out if they’re feeding, so the calves never go short,’ Hallam explains.
Meanwhile once a day milking helps to keep the yield up for the calf.
This traditional way of farming has become increasingly popular in America, where there are lots of micro dairies, particularly on farmsteads.
The weaning of the calves will depend on the lactation curve. Milk usually peters out at 8-10 months, with the calf beginning to need a greater proportion of milk from around 6 months. During December - March, when the cows will not be producing any milk, Hallam plans to have other products on offer - including lamb, beef and pork.
The cows will be milked in the milking parlour that’s been created in the agricultural building at FarmED and they will be completely pasture fed, grazing on the herbal leys,sainfoin, rye and vetch and permanent pasture at Honeydale Farm. They will be rotating with Hallam’s herd of sheep which works very well, he says.
‘The cows take off the tops of the plants while the sheep drill down for better regrowth and the combination of sheep and cow muck benefits the soil. It’s all designed to be sustainable and holistic.’
‘We are thrilled to host Hallam’s microdairy at FarmED,’ says FarmED Founder, Ian Wilkinson. ‘Hallam shares the frustration of many young, first generation farmers who struggle with access to land and this is one of the issues that FarmED aims to address, providing facilities and encouragement to new entrants in farming by providing opportunities to establish micro businesses in order to gain knowledge, experience and a foothold.’
In the first year, Hallam will be concentrating on producing pasteurised whole milk which will be sold in returnable glass bottles on a doorstep scheme - with collection from FarmED or through a similar box scheme already used by the Kitchen Garden People at FarmED. Running the dairy part time, fitting it around his work as a sheep farmer, Hallam will gauge demand as he experiments with running cows with their calves and builds his customer base.
What he really wants to do, however, is diversify into ice cream, so watch this space and do give Hallam and The Dairy at Honeydale a follow on Instagram @the_dairyy_at_honeydale.