Jonny Crickmore, owner of Fen Farm Dairy was good enough to have a Zoom session with me during one of those horrible lock-downs. I told him what my big idea was for my next novel and he told me all about dairy farming.
French cows: Montbéliarde
Fen Farm has a dairy herd of 300 Montbéliarde cows – these French cows are considered to be great for cheese making. As well as raw Milk (unpasteurised and therefore full of probiotics), they produce the much-admired Baron Bigod cheese, raw Butter and Skyr Yoghurt.
The cheese, by the way, is like a French camembert only better according to some English people. (Don’t tell the French.)
I learnt a lot about cows and how they are kept and milked during that session but I knew that actually experiencing the milking shed was going to be my best bet before putting fingers to keyboard. Jonnie was happy to oblige.
In my novel the main character, Wanda, calls all the cows, Daisy, hence collectively they are the Daisies.
So one bright sunny but cold afternoon I set off up towards Bungay. I opted to observe
the afternoon milking as the morning milk started at 4am and I’m not at my best at that time. I think the photos say it all, but it was certainly an experience not to be missed.
A smelly experience
All three hundred cows go through the shed, with 28 at a time surrounding the pit ready to be milked. Cows are big beasties and quite noisy. They are also pretty smelly and I nearly got doused in urine at one point as a cow decided to relieve itself. This was definitely good story-telling material.
The cows are fed pellets as a treat while they are being milked and pop music plays for them which apparently they enjoy. They are very keen to be milked and relieve the weight of their udders and then keen to get back to munching and so will jostle for a position of advantage whenever they can.
I was very grateful to Jonny for his help. They run a great operation at Fen Farm Dairy; their willingness to diversify and produce raw milk has led to their current success.