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Yesterday we took a tour of Farmer's Gregie's 4Real Milk Dairy Farm at Tamrookum in the Scenic Rim. I met Gregie at a networking event recently where I won the dairy pack he'd donated, along with a free farm tour. Always keen to check out what local farmers are up to, I packed up the family and we headed out on a gorgeous Sunday to see Gregie's robotic dairy.
Robotic? Don’t worry, the cows and the milk are still real! But they’re milked by a very clever robotic system that knows which cow is which, which teats to milk, how much milk to expect per cow and then sends all the milk off to a central vat where it’s processed and bottled. The cows choose when they’re milked – they just wander in at any time of the day, line up and wait their turn to jump into one of the three sections where they’re milked.
It’s pretty impressive stuff and well worth the investment when you consider that each cow chooses to be milked around three times a day and that Gregie has almost 500 cows!
When they’re not being milked, the cows have tonnes of space to roam around and eat grass. It’s a far cry from very sad images I’ve seen of factory farmed dairies.
4Real Milk is not certified organic, because Gregie chooses to treat sick animals with antibiotics when necessary, something not permissible on certified organic farms. He has an exclusion period for any animals that require such treatment though, to ensure that no antibiotics are found in the milk.
4Real Milk is also only pastuerised, not homogenised, which means it’s far less processed that most other milk in Australia. If he could, he’d sell it raw with all the enzymes intact, but we know that’s not permissible here!
Personally, I haven’t had milk or cheese in years as I’m somewhat lactose intolerant and a bit sceptical of the Australian dairy industry in general, so I was interested when Gregie told us that a large number of his customers who also considered themselves lactose intolerant, are actually able to consume his dairy products with no adverse reactions. He puts it down to the purity and minimal processing of his milk.
Of course for a cow to continue to produce milk, it needs to be pregnant or recently have had a calf. Gregie’s cows have calves around every 12-16 months. The female calves stay on the farm to become dairy cows while he finds homes for the male ones (otherwise known as bobby calves which, on many other dairy farms, are slaughtered soon after birth).
Gregie shared with us many of his struggles as a dairy farm with larger producers trying to put him out of business and price wars with Coles and Woolies. It’s pretty evident that these large companies would like complete control of the market, which is not good for the animals, the planet or for us. At $1 a litre, Coles and Woolies are knowlingly selling milk at a loss and this is crippling local dairy industries. When local dairies no longer exist, that gives way to them importing cheap, heavily processed, long-life crap from overseas. Don’t help them do this!
So if you choose to eat dairy, please use your money to support small family businesses like Gregie’s 4Real Milk who care about their animals and farm in a way that is far better for the planet.
I’ve long been passionate about avoiding the big supermarkets and sourcing everything I need directly from farmers or from local, ethical businesses. There are still a small number of things we get from the supermarkets, but not many now.
If you’re similarly inclined, what are your favourite places for getting all the grocery items you need (in addition to us of course!)? I’d love to hear your thoughts.