Unique Jersey farm branches out

Sitting on the hills above Port Chalmers with a backdrop of the Otago Harbour isn’t where you would usually expect a herd of Jersey cows to be.

Last week, reporter Ella Stokes caught up with Holy Cow which creates a range of dairy products.

Merrall and Alex MacNeille moved from the USA in 2002.

Although they were new to New Zealand they were not new to dairy farming and had plenty of previous experience. They had, in fact, met when they were working on a small dairy farm in the 1970s.

Alex (left) and Merrall MacNeille say they love what they do and enjoy creating more than just milk. Photo: Ella Stokes
Alex (left) and Merrall MacNeille say they love what they do and enjoy creating more than just milk. Photo: Ella Stokes

They bought their property a few months after they moved with the intention of selling heifers, but ended up milking them instead.

The pair now have a herd of 50 Jersey cows and milk up to 30 at a time.

Mr and Mrs MacNeille have sold raw milk from the farm over the past 15 years.

However, about two years ago Tess Trotter and her husband Sam McMullan have started helping out on the farm after meeting the MacNeilles through the community.

Merrall MacNeille works during a milking in his boutique shed where cows are milked once daily. Photo: Ella Stokes
Merrall MacNeille works during a milking in his boutique shed where cows are milked once daily. Photo: Ella Stokes
Over the past year the four of them have formed a business and Miss Trotter said that Holy Cow was going from strength to strength.

Ms Trotter deals with the marketing and publicity side of things while MrMcMullan helps with a lot of the practical work on farm.

Ms Trotter said Holy Cow had gone through enormous developments over the past 14 months.

It had gone from selling, raw, untreated milk at the farm gate to gaining Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) approval for an onsite pasteurising unit and dairy — selling atthe farmers market, as well as several other outlets and cafes.

Mr MacNeille carried out most of the milking duties, which involved each cow being milked individually in the open barn.

Milk wasn’t pumped but was instead carried up to the dairy to be pasteurised and turned into its respective products.

He said he enjoyed experimenting and they were starting to create more and more different products.

Mrs MacNeille said, there was more to it than just milking cows.

‘‘There is a sort of social fabric that the farm creates, people can come here, see the cows getting milked and buy their milk from the fridge that has pretty much come straight from the cow.’’

All of the bottles, lids and labels were re-usable and people were able to return them to the place of purchase.

Cows snack on hay during milking. Photo: Ella Stokes
Cows snack on hay during milking. Photo: Ella Stokes

Ms Trotter said this was a great advantage as it allowed for interaction with the customers.

‘‘We soon work out what’s working and what’s not.’’

She said a big advancement had been introducing the milk to cafes and other outlets throughout Dunedin and the wider Otago region.

‘‘It has given the opportunity to people to try our milk who may not have previously considered it.’’

ELLA.STOKES@alliedpress.co.nz 

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