The Journey

The Journey for Milk, from Farm to Consumer, offers huge logistical challenges. Requiring collection from the farm, processing at the dairy and delivery to your door, milk in the UK still arrives promptly, with World Class Quality and often within 24 hours of being milked. Regional Processors with more modest volume demands are able to draw from a smaller, more localised pool of farmers. This keeps food miles low and milk fresh meaning shelf life is maximised.

STAGE

1

The Farmer

Any type of farming has to be considered a vocation. Dairy Farming is no different.

As of September 2016 there are 9,517 Dairy Farmers in England & Wales, sadly a reduction of 177 from the same month in 2015. These producers are farming a staggering 1.9m Dairy Cows every day. With each cow producing nearly 8,000 litres of milk each year it means the UK is self-sufficient as a Dairy Producer with some 15bn litres of milk produced annually. Of this, around half goes on to be used for liquid milk with the remainder used to produce other dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt.

A dairy farmer's most important role is to look after the health and welfare of their cows.

The Freedoms below ensure that farmers keep their cows healthy on the dairy farms.

The Farm Animal Welfare Council's 'Five Freedoms’ are:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst;
  • Freedom from discomfort;
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease;
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour;
  • Freedom from fear and distress.

New technology plays an important role, from monitoring cow movement and milk yield, to robotic milking and satellite guided tractors.

Farmers have an important role improving, maintaining and enhancing the environment. This includes maintaining fields for wildlife, establishing new habitats and ponds, conserving and recycling water and managing manure.

THEN THE PROCESSOR......

STAGE

2

The Processor

Milk processing is a very essential and interesting step after it has been obtained from the animal’s body. Being highly vulnerable to souring, it has to be looked after with the utmost care. Depending on the size of the milk processing plant, each day 1000 to 5lac litre milk is processed. The most important step when the milk comes in is to store it in a temperature as low as 4ºC. After cooling the milk is transferred for pasteurization.

After the milk has been delivered from the farm, it is pasteurised. Pasteurisation is a process used to kill harmful microorganisms, such as certain pathogenic bacteria, yeasts and moulds, which may be present in the milk after initial collection.

This process extends the shelf life of milk. The basic process for whole milk involves heating the milk to a temperature of no less than 71.7ºC for 25 seconds. This process is known as High Temperature Short Time (HTST).

To create Skimmed, Semi-Skimmed and Whole Milk, the cream is actually then re-introduced to the correct proportion to meet the required Fat Content (for example 3.5% for Whole Milk).

Some of the key challenges facing a processor involve ‘balancing’. This term generally relates to the balancing of milk vs. cream, however, it can be applied to the whole supply and demand for the processor:

  • The Processor will contract with local farmers. With margins being modest, they must compete with other processors to attract the best farmers as locally as possible. Minimizing logistics costs (the cost of collecting the milk from each farm) is key to managing overall processing costs.
  • An interesting element of a Processor / Farmer contract is that the Processor is generally contracted to purchase 100% of the milk produced by the farmer, regardless of how much he produces. This means the first ‘balancing’ challenge for the Processor is ensuring they have enough Milk to meet demand from their customer without having too much excess milk.
  • The second important element of ‘balancing’ for the Processor comes with the managing of Cream Production vs. Demand. The Cream is the highest value constituent element of the Milk. Once it has been skimmed from the Raw Milk, it’s important the Processor is not having to trade with other Dairies to balance their Cream requirements. Purchasing Cream from another Processor at a high cost can be unprofitable. Selling Cream to another Processor at a low price can also be loss-making.
  • Creating too much Skimmed Milk can also be an issue. If the Processor skims larger than expected Cream quantities from the Raw Milk (to meet demand), they can easily be left with an excess of a very low-value product, Skimmed Milk.
  • The largest Processors manage this ‘balancing challenge’ by developing as many capabilities for production as possible. This will include as many ‘Dairy Category Products’ as is practical (Cheese, Yoghurt, Butter etc.) but also could include a Milk Dryer for processing Milk Power (used in food production for example Baby Formula).

HERE’S WHERE WE COME IN......

STAGE

3

Where we fit in...

Whilst West Country Milk does not contract with farmers, we have developed close bonds with our suppliers who obviously do. Many of our suppliers have worked with us from the very beginning in December 2000 meaning we enjoy strong, stable relationships with them.

Having 60-70 suppliers spread across the UK and Ireland means that we are able to offer a truly nationwide solution to our customers.

In this way we are truly “Linking the Dairy Chain” in the UK and Ireland.

WE DELIVER TO THE CUSTOMER......

STAGE

4

The Customer

Whilst West Country Milk still enjoys hundreds of relationships with small independent businesses with a single delivery point, the majority of our business today is based around supporting companies with multiple outlets across more than one region. This ranges from small family run Hotel groups with perhaps 10 sites to large corporations with 600+ sites across the UK and Ireland.

For these larger businesses there is a list of requirements that is common to most of them. This includes a single price file, the ability to consolidate invoices, the know-how to integrate with their electronic ordering and invoicing systems and a single contact point for both buyer and site.

These businesses also tend to place a high value upon local sourcing of products with excellent provenance, outstanding quality and with low food miles.

Many of the sites we deliver to provide critical, ‘back of house’ functions such as hospital catering, fine dining and workplace catering. However, we also supply to many front of house and retail environments such as convenience stores and coffee shops.

By contracting with West Country Milk, our customers are assured of a safe, high-quality product, delivered reliably across every possible location.

ENJOYED BY THE CONSUMER......

STAGE

5

The Consumer

The Final “Link in the Dairy Chain” is the all-important Consumer.

For West Country Milk, ultimately this can mean children at school, patients in hospital, people in the workplace, somebody visiting their local coffee shop or simply a retail purchase from a local convenience store.

At times, the food industry can be guilty of providing mixed messages which ultimately can be confusing to the consumer.

Dairy can be included in this with milk often blamed for various health issues with perhaps lactose intolerance being the most commonly cited cause.

Studies are generally quite inconclusive and whilst some people may have an intolerance to dairy, in Western Europe at least, this seems most likely to be restricted to a very small minority with a strong genetic tolerance to dairy evident across the population.

What we do know for sure is that dairy products can be found in every household in the UK. This gives the dairy industry one of the highest degrees of market penetration of any consumer product and makes dairy foods extremely important to the health and wellbeing of the nation.

  • 98% of people regularly eat or drink dairy products (2011 - 99%).
  • 93% of people regularly consume fresh milk (2011 – 95%).
  • 90% of people regularly consume cheese (2011 – 94%).

(Source: 2012 telephone survey for The Dairy Council and DairyCo)

Milk offers many health benefits associated with the high levels of vitamins and minerals present. Please download our information packs for more details on the benefits of drinking milk.