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At this year’s Welsh Dairy Show, on October 29th, Free Range Dairy Network (FRD) will be launching a new collaboration with Welsh dairy farmer Nick Roch, to win badly needed recognition and value for ‘free range milk’, produced on dairy farms in Wales.

According to data from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), 50 dairy farmers in Wales have given up milk production in the last twelve months, leaving just 1,660 in business today. Numbers have fallen by almost 20% in the last ten years, as low milk prices and increasing costs, force more small family farms out of business. Those that still survive today, are coming under increasing pressure from vegans and climate change activists to adopt practices that deliver safeguards for animal welfare and environment. We believe Free Range Dairy Network can help farmers to meet these demands and earn more money for their milk.

Nick Roch runs 130 free range cows on his farm at Stepaside, near Narberth, which are milked by two robot milking machines. The cows wander to and from the fields when the mood takes them, to be milked two or three times a day and are at grass for between 18 and 20 hours each day, in the grazing season. Nick recently took the decision to start selling some of his milk direct to local customers, via a milk vending machine, labelled as ‘Simply Milk’. The love for his super-fresh milk, direct from the farm, led Nick to take on the sale and distribution of milk vending machines across Wales and he is now helping other farmers to sell milk directly to their local communities.

Nick Roch says “People who buy milk from my farm tell me they love my milk and they want to support traditional, family farms where cows are free to graze in fields. I am now using my experience to help other Welsh farmers connect with local consumers and win a fair reward for their milk

We are delighted Nick has joined us and has committed to producing free range milk to Pasture Promise standards Not only has he become our first Free Range Dairy farmer in Wales, he is also our first farmer to milk cows through robots and still be able to commit to keeping his cows in fields for a minimum of 180 days a year (18 hours a day). Until now we have struggled to find farmers who are able to meet our requirements for grazing, whilst milking cows with robots. This is usually because cows can end up some distance from the farm buildings and don’t want to make the journey to robot for voluntary milk.

We are now talking to a few farmers, running small herds of cows, who are able to make free range work with cows on this system. Some tell us people assume their cows are indoors all the time because they milk through robots and joining our scheme helps to bust that myth. It’s great to see how we can combine new technology with traditional farming practices, to make life easier for farmers, whilst still giving cows the kind of life they deserve.

We are now working with Nick, to create new market opportunities for other free range milk producers in Wales. Nick will provide the equipment and know-how to establish on farm processing and vending of milk and we will offer support in promoting and marketing free range milk, through the Pasture Promise scheme. We would love farmers to visit our stand at this year’s Welsh Dairy Show, which we be held at The Showground, Nantyci, Carmarthen SA33 5DR, on October 29th, to find out more.

FRD Director, Carol Lever, says “We know people are concerned about the rise of industrial dairy farming and the impact this has on people, cows and the planet. When Neil and I started Free Range Dairy Network in 2014, as a Welshwoman I always wanted to expand our work into Wales. We are very excited to be working with Nick and recruiting more Welsh farmers to the Network. We want Welsh customers to be able to clearly see where their milk comes from and to help make a difference for farmers and cows in Wales”.

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