At Henden we are focused on producing milk of the highest possible quality whilst achieving particularly high standards of staff and animal welfare as well as looking after our local environment. Happy cows and happy staff together with thoughtful work will allow us to have a dairy farm that is sustainable for the long term through the economic cycles.
To support these aims all of the operating staff together with their families are housed in good quality houses on the Estate and are paid well compared to their peers in the industry. Over the period 2010 to 2016 more than £3 million was spent improving the facilities for the cows, the treatment of waste, the storage of food and to make operations that much safer. More investment is required in the future to improve some of our other facilities.
In 2012, the decision was taken to make the Henden herd a closed herd. This means that we do not buy livestock in, we grow our own. We also only graze and feed our livestock on our land. We do not take them at times of the year to feed elsewhere. This greatly reduces the chance of disease being imported such as BVD, Johnes’s disease, IBR, infectious Mastitis, infectious causes of lameness and TB. Our breeding is focused on the health and welfare traits, which should see a cumulative permanent improvement in the quality and robustness of our herd, whilst not compromising milk yield.
Between 2011 and 2013 we considered how big our herd should be. The common view is that the larger the scale of the business the better the economics. In simplistic terms this is true, but however good one is the all important matter of attention to detail will likely suffer. It follows that the risks to staff and livestock welfare will increase. So, too, are the risks associated with the potential for environmental damage. In our case we decided that our farm and estate can comfortably handle a herd of up to 290 cows and that we should aim to milk around 240 per day.. We believe that handling more cows would take the farm outside its comfort zone. The housing capacity for cows would be pushed, milking times would get longer and the land we own would be challenged to provide the food required and to absorb the waste produced.
In April 2018 we made the decision to start milking our herd three times a day. This should increase our sales from around 2.7 million litres to 3.1 million litres. We will increase our staff from five to six. This was a logical decision given that we are now seeing the successful results of having a closed herd and thus the improving quality of livestock. The cows are more comfortable and the yields have improved.
We will make this expansion with care. Too many businesses try and push themselves to the limit to maximise profitability; typically, a short-term phenomenon. We at Henden are focused on creating a sound long-term business to the benefit of all stakeholders, paramount being our staff and livestock as well as you.