Company built out of raw passion

Steve Mears, daughter Katie and wife Shelli Mears, of Palmerston, launched their Otago Fresh Milk...
Steve Mears, daughter Katie and wife Shelli Mears, of Palmerston, launched their Otago Fresh Milk company six weeks ago and last week started raw milk home deliveries in recyclable glass bottles. PHOTO: MEARS
Shelli and Steve Mears have taken their passion for dairying in a whole new direction.

They, along with daughter Katie, launched their Otago Fresh Milk company six weeks ago, selling raw milk in recyclable glass bottles from the farm shop at their East Otago farm.

Their first door-to-door delivery to clients between Oamaru and Dunedin was last Thursday.

"That was quite a lot of excitement for us, to be at the start of this business.

"It is something we are passionate about," Mrs Mears said.

The Mears family were originally sharemilkers in Southland and South Otago but moved to a 24ha dairy block near Palmerston a year ago.

"Steve and I have always loved our cows, and they are our passion. We are getting older now and we were looking at the next step for us, which will allow us to keep our precious cows.

"We went through a process of each making up a list of the cows we wanted to keep that was non-negotiable.

"We wanted our show animals, everybody’s pets, and our cow families.

"Then we looked around for a property where they could have a useful function and pay their way."

They had always enjoyed raw milk and decided that was the direction they wanted to go in.

"It ticked all the boxes."

They and the 50 cows moved to the property and Mr Mears built a milking shed and effluent system.

He did most of the work on the building over a year, in-between working as a serviceman for OceanaGold’s Macraes mine.

They also had to adhere to the Ministry for Primary Industries’ strict hygiene, delivery and customer recording regulations for raw milk sales, including testing the milk every 10 days.

"We have a rigorous hygiene and cleaning procedure, including washing down every cow when she comes in, then drying her with her own towel.

They have Holstein Friesians, Jerseys, and Red Factor Friesians under their Kirbydale stud name, and Katie, who is studying to be a vet nurse, bought two Brown Swiss cows under her Underdale stud name.

Mrs Mears works on their farm and is also Dairy Women’s Network regional leader manager.

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