Organic Whole Milk

World Milk Day 2024

Friday 31st May 2024

It goes without saying here at Yeo Valley Organic, we love a bit of milk, but why? Is it because of the nutritional benefits, its creamy texture and delicious taste, or simply because we know exactly where it comes from and all the hard work that goes into producing one of the world most popular pints. Well to be honest, it’s all the above. Whether you like a full pint first thing in the morning or just a splash in your tea, milk really is marvellous and what better way to celebrate this delicious drink than dedicating a full 24 hours to its existence.

With World Milk Day just around the corner we decided to catch up with the Queen of Dairy herself Mrs Mary Mead, who will hate BEING called that. Here’s what she had to say about her favourite breed of lovely ladies…

“The British Friesian is well-suited to life in and around the Yeo Valley.

Mrs Mead with her favourite British Friesian
Mrs Mead with her favourite British Friesian

The origins of the breed can be traced back to the low countries of Northern Europe, specifically Friesland, where the Frisian people were cattle breeders of some repute. It is likely that the Dutch brought them over from Friesland when the east coast fens were drained in the early 1600s.

The British Friesian was becoming the UK’s predominant breed during the early 1960s when we took on our own farm. Roger’s family had kept Dairy Shorthorns and then Ayrshires, but he was convinced that Friesians were the future.

During the early days, we bought cows from good herds at dispersal sales, looking for strong animals that would last, and these proved to be the foundation animals that we have in our herd today. We can certainly trace our ‘Barbara’ line back to those times.

Many UK farmers began to look towards the North American Holstein breed during the 1970s and 1980s to increase their milk yields, but we remained true to the British Friesian: they might not have given us the same volumes of milk, but the quality was high, they had superior fertility and they also lived longer. In addition, their pure  male calves are suitable for rearing for beef unlike the Holstein.

Our Lakemead herd of pedigree British Friesians has been a closed herd for more than 20 years, which means we haven’t bought in any replacement livestock during that time.

One Breed Society exists for the registration of pedigree black and white cows in the UK.  Somewhat unfortunately the name has changed several times over the years and more latterly from Holstein Friesian Society to Holstein UK, whilst the Irish have maintained theirs as The Irish Holstein Friesian Society.

Walking with the Cows
Walking with the Cows

Therefore, British Friesian enthusiasts continue to promote their Breed through the British Friesian Breeders Club which was formed in 1990 and covers the whole of the UK. It is affiliated with HUK and has a section in the Society Journal.  I have served on the committee for many years. It is entirely due to the Club that type evaluation and production records are produced for this internationally renowned Breed. I represent the Breed on the Genetics Advisory Forum.

I’m proud of the role I played in getting separate data for both type and production for the British Friesian, whose reputation for fertility and longevity has long been recognised around the World. Exports of semen continue to flourish, and it is pleasing that our Lakemead bulls have contributed.

It pleases me greatly to see how many farmers are now re-discovering the advantages of the breed and I believe British Friesians have much to offer, especially in terms of organic systems.”

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