Hollis Mead Dairy: Healing the disillusion with modern dairy
UK milk consumption has dropped almost 50% since 1974 (DEFRA). This drastic reduction has several possible contributing factors. These range from health considerations such as weight loss and lactose intolerance, to concerns for animal welfare and the environment.
A downturn in dairy
More and more consumers are weighing up the environmental impact of their diet. One glance at images of poorly treated animals on factory farms and it’s easy to understand why the British public has altered their purchasing habits.
Here at Eversfield, we of course want to restore faith in British dairy, but we have a responsibility to protect the environment and champion animal welfare at all costs.
Luckily, we had the perfect solution, a visit to our friends at Hollis Mead Organic Dairy and a dive into the benefits of pasture.
Situated on the outskirts of Dorchester, the picturesque farm is an Eden of untampered beauty. Founded in 2020 by Oliver and Charlotte Hemsley, the couple's primary vision of counteracting the increased industrialisation of dairy farming.
It was immediately evident upon arrival that the couple were smashing their target. “We’ve added around 20km of hedges across the farm”, Oliver beamed. “The number of hares has escalated dramatically since our arrival. The same can be said for the bird population. There were virtually no skylarks before we began our journey and now, we’ve got a huge number.
"The reason is the changes we’ve made to the soil. We've removed any trace of pesticides or herbicides which kill all the insects that birds use to feed their chicks.”
Image: The beautiful Hollis Mead Dairy.
We can vouch for Oliver’s wildlife haven, having encountered a magnificent deer crossing the road just a stone’s throw from the entrance to Hollis Mead! A farm tour was first on the itinerary, and it didn’t disappoint.
Oliver began by explaining the history behind the Hollis Mead name. “The farm is named after the original owner, philosopher, and writer Thomas Hollis, who is now buried in a field called Hollis Mead along with his horse.
"He was a well-respected Libertarian whose actions included fighting against colonisation and sending sizeable amount of money to Harvard University to help start their library. I’d like to think he’d have been ready to invest in our mission today!”
Why choose pasture-raised dairy?
Oliver offered a perfect summary of the animal welfare issues that are likely to be at the forefront of the consumer's mind when purchasing dairy. “Welfare really is the overarching priority for us.
"The most telling comparison when we compare ourselves to industrial dairy systems is the yield. The natural daily lactation of a cow is 12 litres, so, we use automatic clusters that will release from the udder as soon as the milk flow begins to reduce. On the other hand, the average industrial farm is taking between 40-50 litres per cow, per day.
“The reason they are producing yields this high stems from the diet. The cows are being pumped with maize, soya, palm oil, grain and other nasty, unnatural feeds which forces their systems to over-produce. This effectively destroys their insides, leading to an uncomfortable life. "That life is also cut short, with the average industrial dairy cow living four years, compared to our happy free-range cows who live an average of 12 years.
"In those 12 years, they’re treated like royalty here at Hollis Mead, pasture fed on nothing except fresh grass, and supplemented with homemade silage and hay during the Winter months.”
Image: Our founder, Mark, introduces himself to the herd.
As Oliver began to wax lyrical about his Pasture for Life certified herd, we fittingly stumbled across the lovely ladies in question. 220 Ayrshire and British Friesian cows spend most of their days roaming the gorgeous Hollis Mead fields.
Oliver and his team make this blissful life possible through their care and dedication. This natural approach also has tremendous positive effects on the herd’s offspring.
“The calves are so healthy, you can see them shimmering when it’s sunny!”, exclaimed Oliver. “They’re still fed Mum’s grass-fed milk, whereas almost every other farmer is feeding formula, perhaps a more convenient approach, but the results are incomparable.”
Image: The bond between a farmer and his cattle.
A crucial decision Oliver has taken is to only milk his grass-fed dairy herd once a day. “We only milk once a day as it’s much less stressful on the cows, fitting with their natural lactation. It’s also less stressful for all the workers, so creates a happier dynamic between the humans and the animals!
"As we free up more time through just one milking, we’re able to ensure the herd lives in luxury. During winter months, we clean their beds twice a day, using a sprinkling of lime to disinfect all areas and keep it as comfortable and hygienic as possible.”
We got a good look at the herd’s Winter abode, which Oliver covers in fresh homemade straw to keep them cosy while the fields are given time to repair. “If you want the best milk, you’ve got to give the cows the best nutrition and that applies 12 months a year," he claimed.
"Our silage here has much higher protein and omega-3 fatty acid levels than conventional non-organic silage, meaning more wholesome, nutritious milk at the end of the day.”
It's clear that Oliver is steadfast in pursuing the Hollis Mead mission to change the scope of British dairy. “I’ve never supported intensive farming as it kills nature for cheap food. We’re trying to show that you can enhance nature through slower, more ethical farming. I’m confident that we’re on track to doing that.”
Image: Delicious, ethical grass-fed milk.
You can support the ethically and environmentally conscious work that Oliver and the Hollis Mead Dairy team are so passionately completing. Check out their superb 100% pasture-raised dairy product range. With a large variety of kefir, cheese, yoghurt and milk, your fridge will be brimming with grass-fed goodness.