GLASS BOTTLES a thing of the past? Doorstep delivery consigned to history? Family dairy farms no longer sustainable? Try asking Eddie Andrew and don’t be surprised if you get a look of incredulity.
A little over a fortnight ago, this family dairy farm milking 88 cows saw Eddie pick up The Yorkshire Post’s Farmer of the Year Award 2015 in association with farm business consultants Andersons. His father Graham was on hand at the Great Yorkshire Show to claim the award as Eddie had to step in at home as his brother Dan was away.
That’s the way life goes on the 180-acre Our Cow Molly dairy farm in Dungworth, four miles west of Sheffield city centre. Graham milks the cows, looks after the crops and farm work; Eddie deals with the wholesale milk into Sheffield, organises the ice cream production, runs the shop and the social media; his brother Dan runs the processing dairy and delivers the milk; mum Thelma handles the accounts.
Just another hard-working farming family but what separates the Andrews from the rest is Eddie’s taste for marketing and fresh ideas. Our Cow Molly is already an institution and social media reinforces the brand hourly with tweets, but Eddie didn’t like the name at first.
“I left the farm when I was 16 to study at Reaseheath agricultural college to become an agricultural engineer and worked for machinery dealers in Yorkshire and Lancashire. I met and married Madeleine who was studying at Salford University and we lived next to Old Trafford. We moved back to Dungworth with raising a family and countryside in mind.
“Dad had been to the Dairy Event and, after having been enthused by what he saw, had said that if I wanted to come back we should start making ice cream. He came up with a slogan ‘Don’t put it in your trolley, get it from Our Cow Molly’ and when we were looking for a brand name he made me put it at the bottom of the five names on the list. I said that I couldn’t go into a restaurant and sell them ice cream with a name like that but when I asked people what they thought it was the runaway winner.
“We then realised what a difference branding can make. Up until that time our milk had been marketed as Hector Andrew & Co after my granddad who came here in 1947 with the same type of label every other milk bottle had. Granddad is still a partner in the business today.”
While the milk is also now branded as Our Cow Molly and doorstep deliveries of glass bottles runs to 800 customers, Eddie became excited over a call from a coffee shop.
“I’d always thought milk was milk but what really sparked me off about ours was when the owner or manager rang and was so enthused with our milk. So far as he was concerned it was very silky and the Holy Grail of milk. I realised that because we have always milked the cows, put it through the pasteuriser, bottled it, sent it out on doorsteps and into outlets our milk is totally fresh and in today’s world of professional coffee shops that makes an incredible difference.
“We coined the phrase Super Fresh Milk, from cow to customer the same morning. It’s crazy really because we’re doing the same as we have for the past 60 years but now it’s a really unique selling point. The big dairies can’t do it because of the time and transportation involved.
“When we started, my grandfather had no refrigeration and we took the churns and poured it in people’s jugs, pans or whatever they had, so it has always been fresh from us. Now we’re finding this is a major plus.
“When our guys deliver in Our Cow Molly vans they tweet they have just made a delivery of Super Fresh Milk, take a picture of the van at the outlet and there’s an immediate response.”
Graham’s role is still very much the hands-on farmer and he tells of how their dairy herd has changed in the past six years.
“I wanted our cows to last longer and they respond to hybrid vigour so I crossed the Holstein cows with Swedish Reds and then crossed the Holstein X Swedish Red cow with the Brown Swiss. For some reason we struggled rearing that so I switched to the Montbeliarde. From there we go back to the Holstein.
“I have an Angus bull that runs with the heifers for ease of first calving but the dairy herd is all AI. We’d been getting three or four lactations from the herd but we’ve now improved by at least one further lactation right across the herd. We’re getting a lower production per cow of around 8000 litres per year but the improved feet, udders and lactations more than compensates.”
The most recent addition to the farm and dairy operation is the new dairy processing building. It came about following the Dairy SOS meeting in London two years ago that Eddie attended.
“The government put £5 million aside to help dairy farmers form small co-operatives. When the grant was made available I went to talk with two of our neighbouring farms who both have sons around the same ages as Dan and I.
“Our new processing facility can cope with the daily output of up to 300 cows and could lead to greater security for all of us. Since it has been built we’ve had interest from Co-op, Costco and many other prospective buyers who can see what we are doing.
“Everything about our business relates to Made in Sheffield which is a protected trademark we are permitted to use because whether it is poly bottles, labels, the milk or the ice cream that’s exactly right. That means 100 per cent of the value of our milk and ice cream stays in Sheffield.
“The University of Sheffield had already come to us before we had built the dairy on the strength of our reputation and told us they would like to source the whole of their milk supply from us.
“I see no reason why all universities and local dairy farmers in cities shouldn’t do just the same.”