Bella Vacca Jersey is nestled just west of Kawakawa in Northland’s sunny Bay of Islands. It’s here that Gav and Jody own a herd of Pedigree Jerseys that they milk on a farm that belongs to Pat and Nin Goodhue. In fact, the farm was originally established over 100 years ago by Pat’s father when it was essentially just a block of land covered in Manuka and other native trees. Back then only the cream was collected from the cows when they were milked and this was placed into cream cans, taken to the local railway station and put on the train to Whangarei.
Many things have changed since then, and probably the biggest change is that now Gav and Jody and their herd of Jerseys are producing and processing fresh single-farm milk right on the farm. It’s been three years since the idea was first conceived, and now they operate out of a mini dairy factory next to the cowshed (when the cows are milked the milk is piped directly into the pasteuriser and the process begins). It’s then bottled into glass bottles before it’s distributed around Northland and Auckland. The factory has been approved by MPI and now works seven days per week.
The A2 Jersey cows are milked once a day and spend all their time outside although there are many pockets of native bush and many Poplar trees on the farm to provide shelter from the rain and sun. They are treated more as members of the family than just a commodity - many of them come when called by name and they all have distinct personalities and little traits.
The cows are fed mainly on grass and grass silage. Gav and Jody try very hard to farm sustainably, keeping a smaller number of cows on the farm that normal dairy herds but by adding value to the milk it means it’s still a financially viable business. The use of any antibiotics is kept to an absolute minimum, in fact, there are many animals on the farm that would have never had any. They also don’t have ‘bobby’ calves, all healthy calves are reared on the farm and many of the boys go on to other farms where they are used for breeding.
As a way of trying to maintain a constant supply of milk, they calve three times per year. This means the cows can have a longer break each year as they prepare to calve.
The A2 Jersey cows are milked each morning and the milk is piped directly into the pasteuriser which is right next to the milking shed. There, it is gently heated until it reaches 69 degrees, then it's cooled back down and placed into reusable glass bottles, sealed and dated; then placed into the chiller ready for delivery. Absolutely nothing is removed or added to the milk so you get all the creamy goodness that Jersey cows are known for.
Finding bottles that would work took a little time - the one litre bottles are strong and should last an estimated 50 return trips before they require replacing.
Gav and Jody own the cows and in the beginning, did everything themselves. As things have grown, so has the team. They’ve been joined by daughter in law Amy, who fortunately lives on the farm across the road and is the Jill of all trades being able to fit in anywhere. Glen is another local who can be seen out and about delivering milk around Auckland, and Paula is the team’s newest addition and is normally found washing and refilling bottles.
Two things that haven’t changed since the start is Gav still rising early to milk the cows each morning and Jody still arrives at the shed and sets the pasteuriser going before feeding calves followed by doing the paperwork.
Bella Vacca milk is available from Farro Grey Lynn. You can purchase a bottle of milk for $8.99 each (original purchase) or swap your last Bella Vacca milk bottle for a refill token and pay only $3.99. Bring your empty bottle to our service butchery to exchange for a token