WITH huge focus on making the dairy industry more sustainable a young farmer in Northern Ireland has started delivering his own cows’ milk in reusable glass bottles.

The bold move was taken by Gareth Baird, 22, who farms on the edge of Carrickfergus town in Co Antrim, which has a population of more than 40,000 people. Such has been the success of the move, he looks set to build a new dairy unit, with a processing facility alongside it.

Gareth’s vision is to not only add value to his own milk production but also to cut the use of plastic containers normally used by retailers to sell milk in.

Together with his family, Gareth milks 150 cows at their Carnrassie Farm and normally supplies the milk to Glanbia Cheese. But, it had always been his ambition to bottle and sell the milk from the family's herd ever since he left agricultural college.

Gareth said: “We needed to boost the farm income to justify me coming come from college to farm full-time. Increasing the cow numbers was not an option here, so we had to find an alternative.

“I’ve always thought about bottling our own milk and after a great deal of research we decided to start up the new side of the business in July last year. This meant setting up a pasteuriser and a bottling plant, washer and steriliser. It also meant obtaining all the correct hygiene certificates to get started.”

Gareth’s cows are mostly Fleckvieh and the herd has an average yield of 7500 litres per cow per year at 4.35% BF and 3.35% P.

With just 115 acres on the farm to grow grass, Gareth added: “I find the Fleckvieh is more suited to the grazing, is hardier and produces better quality milk.”

Using their own sourced one-litre glass bottles, Baird’s Fresh Farm Milk started production in July, 2020, with a soft launch on social media. The initial demand was overwhelming and now Gareth is delivering over 1700 litre bottles of milk per week on Monday and Thursday nights at £1.20 per litre.

“The response we received from Facebook when we launched was totally overwhelming,” Gareth said. “Our goal was to go out with 30 bottles on that first night’s delivery, but the response was so good we delivered 120 bottles that night.”

Baird’s Farm Fresh Milk is pasteurised but not homogenised, which leaves it really creamy and tasty, especially on cereals and in tea and coffee. The family invested in a pasteuriser with a capacity of 500 litres to batch process the milk.

Deliveries are on Monday and Thursday evenings and that means it’s all systems go for Gareth, who relies heavily on family members to help get the milk to the doorsteps.

“At the moment, we have four vehicles out delivering milk on the two nights,” said Gareth. “It is great family members want to help out. We hope to streamline the deliveries later on and have three branded vehicles out four hours each per night.”

With the local town deliveries optimised, Gareth has plans to increase his deliveries by going further afield. The family also have plans to build a new dairy unit with an adjoining milk processing facility.

Currently, it is only whole milk that the farm produces but when the new processing facility is built, the goal will be to add semi-skimmed milk to the range, as well as cream products.

“We are planning to build a completely new dairy unit and processing plant on a green field site here on the farm,” Gareth said. “I hope to have the processing unit built first by January, 2022. A new separator will be installed which will let us produce skimmed milk and creams.

“There are also plans to add a new dairy unit beside the processing plant with a 20-point swing over parlour which should reduce milking times down to just over one hour.

“Right now, we use a six-point parlour with no ACRs installed from the 1970s and it can take almost four hours each milking. A new parlour and an easier set up for the buildings will save us a lot of time milking and give us more time processing and delivering.

“The overall goal is to build up a good delivery round and sell most of our milk this way, therefore we need to invest in infrastructure now to achieve that goal,” added Gareth.