A stay at Oakhurst without a tour of the dairy is a bit like having your porridge without cream. Let’s face it, there’s something missing. Being surrounded by herds of dairy cattle during your stay on the farm, you’re bound to find a journey through the core of the Oakhurst operation, a fascinating insight into how we get the right dairy products into our homes.
Meet the herd
The Oakhurst herd is made up of close on 1300 Jersey cows, with 850 – 950 of those being milked daily. This hardy breed of cattle are known for their longevity and ability to tolerate the hot summer conditions we experience. Despite being fairly small and light weight, they produce a hefty amount of milk, twice daily. The year round average per cow sits at about 16 litres per day, with freshly calved cows peaking at between 30 and 35 litres.
Taking the tour
Tours are typically taken during the afternoon milking session, where Oakhurst’s Farmer Jake walks you through the various steps of the milking process. From the cows heading into their positions, to them being milked and fed, the process is amazingly calm and organised. It’s all a sign of happy cows and a dairy which runs like a well-oiled machine. The Oakhurst cows are fairly used to people being around during milking, and they can be touched and observed closely from the centre of the dairy.
Of course a big point of amusement for the kids is the amount of poop and urine which leaves each cow when arriving and leaving the dairy. But what better way to get stuck in and sort that out, than to arm the kids with the wash down hoses and get them to clean up. They love it!
Down the pipes
It’s all very well watching the cows being milked, but everyone wants to know where the milk’s going. Our milk heads straight for the dairy’s 28 000 litre holding tanks. Half way along this journey, it must be cooled down very rapidly from body temperature (38 deg C) to 4 deg C at the dairy’s plate heat exchange chiller and cooling compressors. This process is simply explained and demonstrated by getting everyone to feel the difference between the warm stainless steel pipes shortly after the milk has left the cow, down to the cold pipes en route to the holding tanks.
Fill the tank
Guests can climb up and take a look inside the holding tanks. Between 10 000 and 16 000 litres of milk are collected daily from our dairy by milk trucks going to either Bonnievale, Ladismith or Port Elizabeth for pasteurising and homogenising. Here milk is also stringently tested for bad bacteria or antibiotics, before being stripped of the cream for cheese and ice cream. Much of the remainder is used in Steri Stumpies, some of which we hand out after the tour. They taste even better when you know where the milk comes from.
The closing message – our sustainability drive
A constant focus on Oakhurst Dairy Farm is to create a dairy operation which is conscious of the environment, sustainable and ensures that we have a healthy and comfortable herd of dairy cows.
From the quality of our soil and pastures, brought about by recycling and composting our manure and liquids, to the well being of our herd, the end goal is the same: To produce top quality milk which has an advantageous knock on effect to the health of us humans as the consumers.
As people become more conscious of the source of the food they eat, Oakhurst’s sustainable dairy practices continue to lead the way into the future of conscious farming operations.