A cheesemakers herd

We are in the lucky position to have the cows that produce the milk for our cheeses grazing in the paddocks surrounding our little cheesery. It is no secret that happy, healthy cows produce high-quality milk that yields characterful cheese. Therefore, considerate farming of the land and taking care of our herd is really the first step in making our cheeses.

With our herd of only about 60 cows, we have a low stocking rate for the size of our farm. This leads to low stress levels, which in turn means less health issue within our herd. It is also a method of reducing the impact on our land and waterways. If a cow develops a health problem, Tim uses homeopathic remedies as first choice in their treatment. He uses biological fertilizers from Environmental Fertilizer to enhance our soils and pasture.

Keeping our herd size down also means that there is always plenty of feed to sustain our cows, whether there is a drought or a wet Northland winter. We never have to feed them supplementary food, such as grain or imported palm kernel.

Each spring when the new calves are born, the male calves are either reared on our farm for beef or sold to lifestyle blockers for rearing, and we are glad to say none are sent away as ‘Bobby calves’. The female calves are eventually introduced to our dairy herd.

In recent years our sons Tim, Jake and Jesse have been working on the breed composition of our herd. Gradually, Tim has introduced a number of other traditional cheesmaking breeds to our predominantly Friesan herd. We have now a colourful mixed-breed herd of Montbéliarde, Normande, Swiss Brown cows…and a few others. A real cheesemaker’s herd.

Just as eclectic is Tim’s family of farm dogs. He has always had a big heart for animals and has serval rescue dogs and a road-side foundling to help him on the farm.

Mahoe Farmhouse Cheese, based at Oromahoe, just outside Kerikeri is now retailing its award winning cheeses online.