Milk is natural
Milk is natural, made by healthy cows who spend all day grazing on pastures in the sunshine – just as nature intended – and then perfected by our Co-op. Here’s how cows on New Zealand farms make the milk we all enjoy – from grass to glass.
Grazing on grass
Dairy cows spend most of their time eating, sleeping and ruminating (chewing their cud). Our cows spend more time on pasture than anywhere else in the world. 96% of our cows’ diet is fresh, green grass. They can eat about 50 kg of grass every day Most cows in New Zealand are Friesians (the black and white cows you see when driving past a farm) or Jersey cows (the soft brown cows).
It’s amazing how cows turn green grass into white milk. Cows belong to a group of animals called ruminants, an animal with four stomachs, each of which plays a different role in digesting grass into milk. It can take up to two days for a cow’s food to become milk. On average, she can produce anywhere between 25 and 40 litres of milk per day.
Cows are normally milked at least twice a day – the first usually at around 4am.
Milking time takes about five minutes per cow but depends on the type of machine and the amount of milk the cow is producing. Most farms have enough machines to milk over 20 cows at one time, reducing the amount of time the cows wait to be milked.
Milking machines mimic the action of a young calf by creating a pulsating vacuum around the teat, which causes the milk to be released from the udder. When a cow is done milking, she can then head back into the barn to relax and socialise with her mates.
Because milk is a perishable commodity, it’s collected daily and processed locally within a few hours of being collected.
Farmers store milk in vats in their milking sheds. These vats keep the milk nice and cold (below 4 degrees) to keep it fresh and free from bugs. A vat can hold up to 30,000L of raw milk for a couple of days.
The raw milk is collected by our tanker drivers who after a friendly chat with the farmer takes the first of many checks to make sure the milk meets our strict food safety standards.
Our tanker driver inspects the milk vat to make sure milk is cold, smells fresh and looks clean. They take a sample, which is sent to a certified lab where it’s tested to make sure it meets strict food safety standards.
If a farm’s vat of milk fails to meet our standards, the entire tanker load is thrown out and thoroughly cleaned.
After collecting the milk, our tanker driver brings it to one of our manufacturing sites nearby. A single tanker can hold around 25,000 litres of milk.
Milk is picked up from multiple dairy farms before delivery to the processing plant. Immediately upon arrival, each truckload of milk is tested again to make sure it is 100% free from antibiotics and growth hormones.
The milk is then pasteurised. The pasteurisation process heats milk to 72 degrees for a few seconds before rapidly cooling it back down to 4 degrees to kill any low-level bacteria that might pose a risk to human health. After the milk is pasteurised, it goes through a separator which spins milk at an ultra-high-speed to separate out the cream from the milk.
Milk finally undergoes a process called homogenisation, which breaks milk fat into small particles that remain evenly dispersed throughout the milk. Without homogenisation, cream would rise to the top of the milk jug.
After milk has been processed, the milk plant’s tanks and pipes are given a full clean.
Once milk has been adjusted for the desired fat percentage (such as full fat milk, trim or skim milk) and homogenised, it’s then sent through stainless steel pipes across the processing plan to be bottled.
Other milk batches are made into dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and ice cream.
It is then sent to supermarkets and dairies across New Zealand for families to enjoy.