Buttercup Dairies sweetens dairy industry through its raw milk supply

Hauraki Plains farmers Glenda and Neil Gray with their cows at their 183-hectare farm.

They were sick of the public flak that the dairy industry was getting, so Hauraki Plains farmers Glenda and Neil Gray set out to sweeten its image by supplying raw milk under the label of Buttercup Dairies.

The Grays farm 183 hectares and supply Fonterra with their 480-cow herd of Kiwi-cross cows, but they branched out into raw milk supply in 2017 using 40 A2 cows whose calving is evenly spread between spring and autumn. “We thought the bad press dairying was getting was quite unjustified and wanted to do something to counter it,” Glenda Gray says.

“We saw an article in a local paper about a small Taranaki raw milk operation and that piqued our interest, and we saw it as a good opportunity to showcase the industry and, at the same time, provide a good wholesome product. Raw milk is the perfect food, a complete food which can sustain the human body on every level with all the nutrients, and it’s 100% digestive.”

Glenda concedes that there’s a danger in raw milk “because it’s a very good medium for bad as well as good bacteria, and that’s why we have to be so careful.”

We’re not aiming to expand the business any further – it’s at a comfortably manageable level, and we want to keep it that way.

When the Buttercup Dairies raw milk cows come in for milking, their udders are washed, dried and sprayed with an approved iodine product to kill any bugs, then left to dry for a couple of minutes. The udders are then wiped, and after the milking, resprayed with an approved teat conditioner.

The milk is then immediately cooled to below 4° and put into a double-dispensing machine, a DF Italia model that was supplied by noted raw milk pioneer Richard Houston of Takaka and is available for sale within 20 minutes of being extracted from the cow.

Buttercup Dairies charges $2.50 a litre for their raw milk from the dispenser at the farm gate, though Glenda says that costs have skyrocketed so much of late that the price will soon have to be revisited. Clients can bring their own containers or buy one-litre glass containers that Buttercup Dairies supplies at $4 each.

The business sells between 1400 and 1500 litres a week, and demand is quite consistent with supplies running out on some days. “We can accommodate an increase in raw milk output but we’re not aiming to expand the business any further – it’s at a comfortably manageable level, and we want to keep it that way,” Glenda says.

The Hauraki Road farm has been in the Gray family since Neil’s great-grandfather settled on it in 1911, clearing away kahikatea and puriri stumps and cultivating the land with horse and plough. Glenda and Neil bought the block in 1996 and have since added three neighbouring blocks to it.

When Teagan Gray, the second of the Grays’ three daughters, takes over from her parents, she’ll be the fifth generation of the family at Buttercup Dairies. The commercial herd, which is not all A2 but close to it, produces between 170,00 and 180,000 kilograms of milk solids a year.

© Waterford Press Ltd 2023 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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