Over the generations the breeds of cow that have looked after us on the farm have changed but one thing remains the same – they are the stars of the show and looking after them so that they produce the best quality milk for our cheese is the most important job of them all.
When the farming and cheese making first started at Maryland Farm, in 1833, the county of Somerset had its very own breed of cow – the Somerset Sheeted - so called because of the distinctive white “sheet” forming the mid-section of the cow’s torso. Renowned for its versatility as both dairy and beef cow it was unfortunately extinct by the 1930s as farming requirements changed and new breeds were introduced from other areas of the UK and Europe.
Since then many other breeds have played a part in producing the milk that we need for cheese making including: Shorthorns, Ayrshires, Jerseys, Holsteins and Friesians. You will notice that these cows and their contributions to our cheese over the years are celebrated on our packs of cheese elevating them to their rightful place as centre stage.
Today our cows are predominantly the familiar black and white Holstein Friesian cross but we are also reviving some traditions by bringing back more diversity in the form of other breeds incorporated into our herds. Regardless of breed all of our cows are looked after with the same respect and to the highest welfare standards. Our starting point is the independently accredited Red Tractor Assured Dairy Standard which is the biggest food standards scheme in the UK, covering animal welfare, as well as food safety, traceability and environmental protection. A copy of the standard is available here.
From the day a new calf is born they enjoy some of the best farming conditions anywhere in the world. From light and airy purpose built barns for their early months to some of the best grazing conditions you’ll ever see once they have transitioned to a grass diet. By the time they are two years old they will join their own milking herd on one of our ten small farms looked after by the family that lives on the farm. There they spend as much time outdoors on lush green pastures as they possibly can. When the bad weather finally drives them inside during the winter they have plenty of space in which to roam as well as their own “mattress” to lie down on when they want to. We like to keep the equation simple: happy cows = great milk and that’s the biggest secret to great cheese making.