s: all four
Interview with dairy farmers Mahlah + Kel Grey from The Pines, Kiama.
From calf to glass, how long does it take to produce milk?
We hand-rear our calves for approximately 6 months until they’re weaned off milk and continue with pasture feeding. Most heifers can start breeding from 15months of age but we generally wait till they are 20months before putting them in calf (either by Artificial Insemination or by running with our Bull). They have a similar gestation to humans, around 9-10months, and once they have calved they being their first lactation cycle. For the first 5-10 days their milk is called Colosturm and we make sure that the calf gets the full benefits of this important milk. Once the colostrum has transitioned to regular milk, it is included in the bulk tank. We milk the cows twice a day and the milk is generally pasteurised in the morning and on the shelf that afternoon!! So approximately 3 years before we get milk from a cow that we have bred.
Where in the world do Holstein Friesian cows like to graze and when in their milk in season?The Holstein Friesian Breed originated in Northern Europe – namely the Netherlands, Holland and Germany. The breed itself is very adaptable – being popular all over the world including Europe, America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. They do well wherever they can access good quality fresh pasture and the milk will often taste different depending on what grasses are growing. In Australia there is no ‘season’ as we pasture graze all year round.
Something interesting about Holstein Cows that we may be surprised to learn?
They are known as the ‘Black and White cow’ but the recessive colour gene is red. We have a Red Holstein called ‘Sherry’ who comes from a famous Red Bull in America – She’s beautiful and very special!
Where did your interest in farming come from?
Kel grew up helping his Dad on the farm. He has many fond memories of being in the milking shed and around the cows. He always had it in the back of his mind that he may end up on the farm and after seeing a bit of the world knew he was ready to make a commitment to full time farming. For me, it’s the animals. I’ve always loved being around all types of animals, which led me into a career as a Veterinary Nurse. I enjoy all aspects of dealing with the cows, and still find the general wellbeing and breeding program fascinating!
As a farmer, what are your thoughts on better understanding the process and origin of our food?
It’s an ongoing struggle, across all areas of farming in Australia, to highlight the importance of supporting local, quality produce. Anytime a customer can interact directly with a farmer, it is hugely beneficial – allowing the customer to ask questions and the farmer to better understand what the public wants. To this end; social media, blogs, farmer markets, SlowFood Groups, and the support of the local food industry has begun to make a huge difference. As the demand for local produce increases, so will the number of producers! This is a win/win for the region as a whole and we would love to see the South Coast become a food destination area.
What is the best part about dairy farming?
It’s a combination of things – being your own boss, working outdoors, being around animals. There’s something that feels very right about doing a job that leaves you so bone achingly tired but in the best possible way.
The worst part?
The really wet mornings. There’s nothing nice to say about being soaked through at 4am.
What is your favourite way or recipe to enjoy milk?
Kel can never go past ice cold milk straight from the fridge – I’m a huge Pannacotta fan!
Mahlah and Kel Grey, along with Kel’s dad Garry own and run The Pines Kiama, a 6th generation dairy farm. Their 18 Holstein cows (who all have names, have sweeping views of the surrounding hills and ocean and who are all very well loved) are milked twice a day to produce hand bottled, non-homogenized and minimally processed milk on The Pines farm. The Grey family have to be some of most dedicated and thoughtful dairy farmers around. Their commitment to sustainable and ethical dairy practices is a relief for us mindful milk drinkers out there, and their farm is a true local gem. Although it is Kel’s dream to one day make a hard, mature cheddar cheese, currently the Pines makes a range of flavoured gelato as well as cultured yogurt. Their products can be found all around the South Coast at selected cafes and stores as well as the weekly Kiama farmers market.
Coming soon: a recipe using The Pines yoghurt and milk.