When Hauraki Plains farmers Neil and Glenda Gray started Buttercup Dairies, producing raw A2 milk to sell from the farm gate, sales exceeded their projections in six months. Now two years later, with virtually no marketing, they have a thriving side business to their commercial dairy farm.
They make significantly more per litre than they do from their commercial operation.“It’s been a good way to diversify but people have to do this for the right reasons.
You have to be passionate about the concept of raw milk as it’s a lot of work to set up and do this right,” says Neil.Buttercup Dairies comprises seven hectares of their 160ha farm and 20 cows. Ashley de Landes is contract-milking the Grays’ 500-cow commercial herd.
Daughter Teagan works alongside her parents looking after the calves and young stock, as well and working with Ashley. To set up Buttercup Dairies the Grays renovated an old 12-a-side shed, installed a modern effluent system and built a building to house the shop and vending machine.
The raw milk, chilled to six degrees, flows into a 300-litre pod connected to the vending machine. Customers can buy a one-litre Buttercup Dairy-branded glass bottle or bring their own container.
Glenda says it has been a very personally satisfying business. “The feedback we get from people is very rewarding. People just love the milk. When Neil goes to the vending machine he often spends an hour there as people want to talk.”They say part of their reason for establishing Buttercup Dairies was to showcase the dairy industry in a more positive light.
“It’s about telling a positive story. Cows are always close to where the people come to buy the milk. They can lean over the fence and give them a pat or see the calves, depending on the time of year.”
They says customers also love the taste of their unpasteurised A2 milk, which some people find easier to digest.“It’s rich and creamy but with a naturally light taste. It is full bodied and has a real depth of flavour,” says Neil. “We find kids really like it and older people say it is how milk used to taste when they were growing up.”
Buttercup Dairies won the rural section of the Hauraki Coromandel Business Awards when it was last held in 2018. They were also nominated for the people’s choice category.“It was recognition that we are on the right track with this business. The exposure was also good,” says Neil.
It was in 2016 that regulations were put in place around the sale and supply of raw milk. The Grays are in favour of the regulations but also note that it has made it more challenging to grow their business. The regulations are currrently under review so they are waiting to see what changes eventuate.
The Grays would love to sell even more milk through Buttercup Dairies but want to base their business on the local region rather than traffic coming through from Auckland at the weekends as managing supply and demand then becomes problematic. One possiblity they are considering is partnering with a cheese maker to produce cheese made from A2 milk.
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