Wellsford sharemilkers Guy and Jaye Bakewell were running along nicely selling the milk from their 150 cows to Fonterra.
But at the same time, they realised they were never going to make a lot of money at it.
Then one day about a year ago, standing at his cowshed, Guy looked around the farm he manages on Wayby Valley Road, just off State Highway 1, and a thought struck him: What a perfect place to sell milk from here.
The more he looked into it, the more attractive the idea seemed. This was especially so after connecting with Richard Houston, a South Island farmer who imports milk vending machines from Italy.
The couple established a business, Bakewell Creamery, and Guy began modifying his cowshed to accommodate the vending machines. Two were installed just over a month ago – the first of their kind in Rodney.
One machine dispenses milk, the other dispenses glass bottles. Customers, who drive up to the milking shed, can choose to purchase a bottle from the machine or else bring their own. It costs $5 to purchase a bottle but customers can clean and reuse it as many times as they like.
The milk vending machine dispenses raw milk at $3 a litre and it’s a point of pride to Guy that it undergoes minimal interference after leaving the cows’ teats, just a few metres away.
This is in sharp contrast to the milk Guy continues to supply to Fonterra. This milk is first pumped into a truck then pumped out of the truck again when it reaches the processing factory. From there, it is pumped around the factory and is heated to 70 degrees to be pasteurised. The milk is then homogenised and fats and proteins added or extracted to create various milk products – trim, light blue, dark blue, silver top and so forth.
Guy says the milk’s flavour and nutritional value is degraded at every stage of this long-winded process. Raw milk, on the other hand, is both delicious and better for you.
“If you have never tried it, you will not realise how good it is. It’s full of flavour, it’s creamier, it’s richer and it’s got all the good bacteria that you miss out on when you buy from the shop,” he says.
Among the reported benefits are reduced susceptibility to allergies and eczema in children, and Guy says many lactose-intolerant people find they can drink raw milk, even if it’s impossible for them to drink the homogenised kind.
Currently, the Bakewells are selling about 70 litres a day via the vending machine and have 17 cows dedicated to supplying it. The teats of each are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before their milk is extracted.
The milk is piped into a 300-litre vat, which fills from the bottom to prevent the milk splashing about too much. The vat is then rolled into the back of the vending machine. An agitator stirs the milk for just one minute every 20 minutes – just enough to keep the cream from separating but not too much that it damages the milk.
Apart from health and nutritional benefits, Guy points out there are also environmental advantages to vending milk this way.
“If a family is drinking 10 litres of raw milk a week from reusable glass bottles, that adds up over a year.
It means a lot of discarded plastic is no longer clogging up the system,” he says.
Behind the machine, a 300-litre vat.
The milk supply is tapped to supply to the vending machine.
The vending machine takes coins and notes, but not EFTPOS.
Cows are milked just metres away from the machines.