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.
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.
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
THERE IS NO DOUBLE HANDLING WITH THIS MACHINE, IT GOES OUT OF THE COW, INTO THE VAT... AND INTO YOUR BOTTLE.
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.