WARN­ING: Raw milk in­side

Selling raw milk is a con­tro­ver­sial topic. The peo­ple who pro­duce and use it say it is de­li­cious, healthy and nu­tri­tious, while ex­perts ar­gue it’s one of the most dan­ger­ous foods avail­able for sale.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents - Words & im­ages He­len Frances

The peo­ple who pro­duce and use it say it is de­li­cious, healthy and nu­tri­tious, while ex­perts ar­gue it’s one of the most dan­ger­ous foods avail­able for sale.

The milk­ers

At 723 Num­ber 3 Line, Whanganui, a queue of five cars waits to fill up at the coin-op­er­ated raw milk vend­ing ma­chine at Okoia Val­ley Milk. One cus­tomer fills nine bot­tles to the brim which, she says, lasts two peo­ple for a week. Another cus­tomer fills a bot­tle and his son starts drink­ing it as they pull away. The milk is cold, creamy and de­li­cious.

The milk ma­chine is filled ev­ery morn­ing by the 24 cows be­long­ing to Edo and Anita Mooij. All the cows have names: Milka is a brown Swiss, named af­ter the cho­co­late, then there is Mouse, Pooh Bear, Trudy, Clara, Sandy … and the rest of the girls. The herd is a mix of the Swiss breed, Friesan and Friesan/jersey cross, but Edo likes the Swiss cows best be­cause of their re­silience, docile na­ture and high qual­ity milk pro­duc­tion.

The cou­ple be­gan selling milk at the farm gate last year, and built their num­bers up from the orig­i­nal herd of 12 cows. Edo is op­ti­mistic they will make a liv­ing out of it; they al­ready sell over 100 litres a day and the milk is pop­u­lar with cheese­mak­ers.

“You can’t re­ally make nice cheese out of pas­teurised milk; it’s bland and a bit generic, you don’t get those nice nutty flavours,” Edo says.

He and Anita make hal­loumi, feta and ri­cotta cheeses. An English cus­tomer makes five dif­fer­ent cheeses in­clud­ing a blue Stil­ton, a dou­ble-cream brie, camem­bert, a cumin seed-flavoured hard

cheese and an Ir­ish cheese.

“They are beau­ti­ful. Peo­ple can’t get over how much cheese they get out of the milk.”

Last time the milk was an­a­lysed it was 5.4% fat and 4.4% pro­tein, close to 5% lac­tose, and the to­tal solids were over 15%.

“Which is quite high,” says Edo. “That’s why you get a lot of cheese out of it, and it’s far from ‘green top’. You can taste the cream.”

Edo milks the herd once a day at 6am, four-aside in a spot­less cow shed be­hind the milk dis­penser.

“It’s small, that way I give more at­ten­tion to each in­di­vid­ual cow. We can also have a life, and it’s more eco­nom­i­cal for us with all the wash­ing and labour in­volved. By do­ing one milk­ing the milk is also much creamier. When you milk twice a day, the solids drop.”

The Mooij’s ad­here to high stan­dards of clean­li­ness, some­thing Edo learned in the Nether­lands where cheese is made from raw milk. When the cows come in, he cleans their ud­ders with a mi­crofi­bre cloth

sani­tised in bleach, then dries them with a pa­per towel. Each in­di­vid­ual teat is given care­ful treat­ment. He then milks the first squirts away through a tea sieve to see if there are any clots which tell him if he needs to do a rapid mas­ti­tis test.

“If there’s some­thing wrong with the milk it goes slimy in the test. I do that most days – some­times the clots can be a bit of cal­cium and there’s noth­ing wrong with that. If I find mas­ti­tis, the cow goes on the bucket and is kept sep­a­rate. Be­cause I clean the ud­ders well there isn’t much mas­ti­tis, but they can still get it be­cause they lie in their own ma­nure and although I clean it all off, they can, in that time, de­velop mas­ti­tis.”

He has the milk and the fa­cil­ity tested for bac­te­ria, but bac­te­ria have lit­tle time to de­velop as the ma­chine in­stantly chills the milk.

“We have an over­sized plate cooler with wa­ter run­ning through it. In sum­mer it goes from 38°C down to 18°C and then by the end of milk­ing it’s al­ready 3.5°C - from 38°C to 3.5°C in an hour. There is no dou­ble han­dling with this ma­chine, it goes out of the cow, into the vat and is pumped out of the vat into your bot­tle in one mo­tion.”

When he cleans the vat, it also cleans the ma­chine. De­ter­gent is pumped through the ma­chine when the vat is washed ev­ery other day at 90°C with al­ka­line and acids. If all the milk sells out, he washes it ev­ery day.

“The old­est the milk can get is 36 hours and it’s kept at 3.5°C all the time. The ma­chine gets washed with hot wa­ter (as they do in Europe), whereas a lot of farm­ers in New Zealand wash with cold.”

He feeds the cows a meal mix, onethird milled maize, bar­ley pel­lets and dried dis­tillers’ grain left over from a brew­ery.

Edo went to agri­cul­tural school in the Nether­lands, trained full-time for three years in dairy farm­ing, and did another year in dairy farm man­age­ment in the north of the Nether­lands in Fries­land, where Friesian cows orig­i­nated.

“There was never the prospect of be­com­ing a dairy farmer, land is so ex­pen­sive and it’s even hard for sons to take over from their fathers. You could only pro­duce a cer­tain quota and if you wanted to pro­duce more you had to buy shares.”

Edo and Anita em­i­grated to New Zealand to go dairy farm­ing but were put off by the large scale.

“Cows be­come just num­bers and ro­tary sheds are not much dif­fer­ent from a con­veyor belt in a fac­tory. It’s not the farm­ing I was taught. When I left the Nether­lands a big herd was 100 cows, although that has since changed.”

Edo ran a dog groom­ing busi­ness in Auck­land for 12 years be­fore they es­caped to a 1ha lifestyle block in Whanganui


Milk is pumped

di­rectly from the vat. The dis­pens­ing sys­tem backs onto the vat, which is be­hind the milk­ing area so the milk is chilled im­me­di­ately.

In­struc­tions on the door tell cus­tomers how­to­how to use it.

Bot­tles are care­fully cleaned.

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