In a bid to future-proof their business, Otaki dairy farmers Andrew and Stacy Faith have just installed a raw milk vending machine.
Within just a fortnight of starting up, they say business is booming with sales exceeding expectations.
The couple currently run 340 cows on the 90-hectare home farm, supplemented by an additional 70 ha, which they lease. Their cows are on once-a-day-milking and produce about 120,000 kgMS each season with the milk being sold to Fonterra.
But Faith says there is a risk that they could lose their lease, which has been earmarked for a subdivision, and that would mean they would only have their own 90 ha block – hence the decision to embark on the raw milk project.
The decision to sell raw milk was, in some ways, was a moment of madness, he says. They’d looked at the idea of selling raw milk about three years ago, but it wasn’t until they saw an article in a farming newspaper that they decided to give it a go.
“We were getting 50 cents a litre from Fonterra and we can sell raw milk for $2.50 – so it seemed a good idea at the time,” he told Rural News.
The Faiths’ farm is situated on SH1, just south of Otaki in the Lower North Island, and they have erected a special building to house the two vending machines. It is a very distinctive building with a large cow on the roof and is located off the road where there plenty of parking space. Already the customers are coming in thick and fast.
The milk comes from a herd of 20, A2 cows which have been drafted out of the existing herd. While they don’t market their milk as being A2, they note on their signage that their raw milk contains A2 protein.
“Under the regulations MPI requires us to have a separate herd if we are supplying the public directly. These cows are run on a different part of the farm to the main herd and are milked at a different time, in this case OAD in the afternoon. The main herd is milked OAD in the morning,” he told Rural News.
However, Faith says the regulations around the supply of milk to the public are very strict. For a start, they can only sell directly to the customer and not sell it through a third party. He adds that while signing up to sell milk at the farm gate is relatively easy, meeting the very strict regulations is demanding.
“There are lots of regulations we have to comply with, such as recording what cows are in the herd, keeping all the equipment spotless and then getting the milk tested every ten days,” he says.
“Just keeping within the testing requirements is difficult and if we fail, we risk being shut down for a week. Then every year MPI audit the business and we have to make sure our recording keeping is absolutely correct.”
A family business
The Faith family have farmed their land, near Otaki, for more than a century.
Andrew’s great grandfather bought the block back in 1911 and initially sheep and beef were run on the property. It was Andrews’s grandfather and later his father Paul who converted it to dairy.
Andrew’s sons Keegan and Reon are now taking an interest in the farm business.
The family are confident about the future of their new venture. Faith points out that there are 50,000 people in the Kapiti District which takes in the townships of Paraparaumu, Waikanae and Otaki.
“We are lucky being on a state highway, but even when the new expressway is completed, we know we will get good local clients who will support us,” he says.
Since they opened, the Faith family have taken turns to be on hand to teach people how to use the fully automated vending equipment. The aim is to have the facility open from 6.00am until 10.00pm
“If you can use an ATM you can use the vending machine. You simply put your money in to buy a one litre glass bottle and then pay again to fill it up,” Faith explains.
In their first week of operation they were expecting to sell about 100 litres of milk a day.
However, just two days after they opened for business, they sold 278 litres on a single day. The couple can’t remember a time when there hasn’t been a customer at the shop.