University deal for Sheffield dairy farm

A South Yorkshire farming family is preparing to dramatically increase milk production on its farm by opening a new £500,000 dairy to supply milk to the University of Sheffield.

Eddie Andrews hopes more farmers and universities will follow in his and the University of Sheffield's lead.
Eddie Andrews hopes more farmers and universities will follow in his and the University of Sheffield's lead.

Despite the marketplace volatility seeing a depressed farmgate milk price for many, Our Cow Molly at Cliffe House Farm - the only dairy farm left in Sheffield that bottles its own milk - is making a major investment with the help of a grant from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ Dairy Fund.

The new processing facility on the farm, run by the Andrews family, is due to be completed by the end of the year and will increase production from 8,000 litres a week to 42,000 litres per week, with the area’s two neighbouring dairy farms having a share in the dairy which they will supply with milk from their own herds for processing.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Owner, Eddie Andrews, works in partnership with his brother Dan and parents Graham and Thelma, and the family has also diversified into ice cream. Eddie’s grandad Hector started a dairy herd of 10 cows in 1947, and it now numbers 80.

Having negotiated with the University of Sheffield, Eddie Andrews believes there is a bright future in working directly with customers.

He said: “I hope this model, which will see us directly supply milk to the University, will be replicated all around the country rather than this being a one-off.”

He said the deal was a chance to set up future generations of his family and those of his neighbouring dairy farmers.

“I have two children and my brother has three. We’re working to one day hand the business onto them and the idea is that the dairy allows us to create a co-operative with our neighbours who have children of their own.”

At present, the University’s milk is sourced in Yorkshire but is transported to London for processing. Using Our Cow Molly, milk will be delivered ready to drink from just four miles, freshly milked from the herd the same morning.

Gavin Brown, the University’s commercial operations manager, said: “One of our core values is about supporting local suppliers. We have three themes within that - local, ethical and quality - and Our Cow Molly ticks all the boxes.”

The new dairy facility is vital if the business is to process the volume of milk that will be needed by the University for students and staff, and its new machinery will mean one carton of milk is filled every two seconds.

The business’ success shows there are opportunities for struggling farmers, said Laurie Norris, regional dairy adviser for the National Farmers’ Union.

“We’ve seen milk prices falling like a stone over recent months, leaving many producers fearing for the future of their farm businesses, but looking to the longer term, the prospects for UK dairy farmers remain favourable, with global demand predicted to grow two per cent a year for the next decade.

“The success of Our Cow Molly and other Yorkshire dairy farms that have been able to capitalise on local marketing opportunities illustrates the interest there is in quality local produce.”

No direct intervention on prices

Environment Minister Elizabeth Truss ruled out intervening in the current milk price crash in response to a letter sent by Anne McIntosh, MP for Thirsk, Malton and Filey.

“I do not believe that it is the role of Government to become involved in discussions about the price of milk, nor in setting out the precise detail of contracts, which must be freely negotiated between the parties involved,” she wrote, adding that it was inappropriate to extend the role of the Groceries Code Adjudicator to cover investigations initiated by information provided by indirect suppliers.