James Davidson is charting his own course with a milk bottling venture, while contractmilking 1200 cows nearby.

Calf-at-foot, organic, regenerative agriculture, A2, grass-fed, free range, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, glyphosate-free, spray-free, minimum-till, sustainable, local, ethical, environmentally friendly.
We have thrown around hundreds of terms to describe our milk bottling venture, but I get the feeling “going against the grain” is going to stick out in 2019.
Someone asked us why we wanted to bottle milk and not follow the mainstream route through sharemilking to achieve farm ownership, my response was, “it’s pretty simple, we want to do both”.
Owning our own farm to support our family is still the ultimate goal, but getting there milking 100 cows will be a heck of a lot more enjoyable than milking 1000 cows. There’s something a little more romantic about a small herd, and the ability to connect with our customers that we don’t get with 1000 cows and the local milk factory.
We’ve basically thrown up a curve ball idea to see if we can get to that goal a little differently. We still contract-milk 1200 cows in Darfield and we appreciate that without it, we would never have had a chance to diversify into a boutique style of dairy farming.
We are just waiting on our processing equipment to arrive and hope to be bottling by March. It’s been a funny journey trying to juggle doing things right and doing things cheap.
We wanted to buy our processing equipment locally but ended up getting it from India of all places for about a fifth of the price we could buy it here in New Zealand. It was ironic to see in the news this month that the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior II had been beached for scrapping on a Bangladeshi beach, something they spent years campaigning against. Basically, it’s damned hard to be 100% ethically and morally correct in business! We are well aware we will face this battle when promoting our unconventional style of farming while still running an intensive conventional system.
I’ve spent so much time in the last six months reading about organics, regenerative agriculture, sustainability and micro dairying that I actually managed to hold an intelligent conversation with a vegan at a wedding the other weekend.
I’m not sure if the internet is brainwashing me, but the more I read, the more my vision of farming slides closer towards hippy and away from conventional.
At some point the way we farm must change, you only have to watch a couple of these regenerative agriculture videos to see the way we are doing things isn’t sustainable. Conventional farming was all I ever knew until 12 months ago.
If this milk bottling venture fails, I will still be incredibly grateful for everything I’ve learnt along the journey. Ultimately, we are caretakers of the land for future generations, the sooner we can right the wrongs of industrial agriculture the better.
I look forward to sharing our journey with you all as it unfolds and welcome any feedback.
Down on the conventional farm things have been ticking away nicely, we’ve made plenty of supplement off the platform and snuck in some extra regrassing. An early scan pre-Christmas has shown in-calf rates are up 4% on the previous season which is always promising. As most contract milkers will attest, much of my day is spent chasing staff around and fixing sh*t at this time of year!
In family news, Margot is a wee sweetheart and has fitted into our family like a glove. Angus is absolutely besotted with her, as are we, and we are loving watching them interact with each other. At just three months she is already sleeping six-seven hours most nights which is a far cry from Angus who was still waking every three hours at this stage! Angus as always is happiest when out on the farm with Daddy!