WATCH: Inside the £2m new dairy unit at Dann's Farm in North Tuddenham
Archant Norfolk 2018
A new dairy unit has opened at an expanding farm near Dereham - part of a £2m show of faith in the sector's future, and the family's next generation.
The investment at Dann’s Farm in North Tuddenham has built two large cattle sheds and a new milking parlour to combine the existing herd with 200 animals bought from a neighbouring farm.
It brings the farm’s total number of cows to 400 – a major increase from its 120-strong milking herd of five years ago, when the Dann family analysed their business and decided a change was needed.
Farm owner Simon Dann said the previous dairy built by his late father Geoffrey in 1963 was becoming outdated and cramped, and the mixed farm including a few crops, a little contracting and some ice cream production was a “Jack of all trades and master of none”.
He said the commitment to expand and modernise was driven by the enthusiasm of his son Alex, the fifth generation of the family to pursue a career in dairy.
And while many farmers have struggled to make a profit or left the sector during the recent slump in milk prices, the 29-year-old said now was the right time to scale up the business to ensure its future viability.
“They always say invest in a low,” said Alex. “We definitely hit a low last year and the year before. There were so many people going out of cows but I have got a real passion and drive for it and we are in a fortunate position where we could expand.
“There’s always going to be a massive demand for dairy produce, and that demand isn’t going anywhere. And there are lots of good farms out there that, even in the tough times, make it through and in the good times do very well, and we aspire to continue to be one of those.”
The farm produces almost 4m litres of milk a year – 10pc of which is manufactured into Dann’s ice cream with the other 90pc sold via dairy co-operative Arla.
Simon Dann said although the number of dairy farms in Norfolk had declined in the last decade, the number of cows had remained stable, as the industry evolved to have fewer, but larger, units.
“Ten years ago in Norfolk there were 46 proper dairy farms, today there are just 15,” he said. “That is because most people have done what we are doing.
“The investment is getting close to £2m. We sold three outlying bits of land and we borrowed 50pc of it. We have looked at this to try and get some scale and deliver the goods at the end of the day.”
The Danns said they studied other larger scale dairies across the country, before deciding on the technology, welfare and feeding systems employed in the new dairy – and they are inviting the public to look around and ask questions at an Open Farm Sunday event on June 17.
“You need to decide for yourself on visiting the unit how happy our cows are, how clean they look, understand why we bring grass to the cows and what they are bedded on,” said Simon.