Dairy farm will offer customers raw milk for free

Farmer Simon Dann in North Tuddenham, is selling glass bottles, with which customers get free natura

Farmer Simon Dann in North Tuddenham, is selling glass bottles, with which customers get free natural cows' milk. Picture: Matthew Usher.

A Norfolk dairy farmer is losing so much money during the ongoing milk price crisis, he has decided he might as well give his product away for free.

Dann's farm at North Tuddenham, near Dereham, has been given approval by the Food Standards Agency to sell unpasteurised raw milk at the farm shop.

But rather than charge for the product, the intention is to sell a one-litre glass bottle, and offer the milk itself at no charge, starting from next weekend.

The idea is partly to draw attention to the low commodity prices which are forcing many farmers out of the dairy industry – but also to draw customers into the farm shop, to boost sales of its ice cream and lollies where the farm can add value to its raw ingredient.

Operations manager Simon Dann said: 'We are losing money hand over fist. Our cost of production is about 24p a litre but some of our milk is only attracting 13p a litre. We are not making money on it.

'We are going to ask our customers to buy a nice one-litre bottle for as couple of pounds, and then you get the milk for free. If they come back again, we will charge them £1 per litre.

'As far as I am concerned it is dragging more people into the shop, where they might want to buy a pot of Norfolk ice cream.'

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Mr Dann said the Food Standards Agency's approval required a yearly TB (bovine tuberculosis) test at the farm, and regular quality checks on the raw milk.

'It is the easiest way to do milk from the farm, without the hassle of pasteurising it,' he said.

'It is a little bit subjective. Some people say there is a health risk in not killing the bacteria, but we're also not killing the beneficial bacteria which have health advantages.

'Eventually I would love to pasteurise our milk and sell it locally, but you are talking about a significant investment.'

Despite the prolonged price crash, the farm has recently invested in expanding its herd to 420 milking cows. Mr Dann said the dairy has a daily allowance with its main customer, Arla, which pays them just over 19p per litre, but only 13p for surplus produced above that limit. But he remains confident about the farm's future.

'I think eventually the price will come back,' he said. 'The prices are so low that there are not going to be too many cows left in Norfolk. The production graph is dropping already because people are going out of cows and dropping production. So I would hope that in a year's time we will be getting more than 19p.'

How is your farm coping with low commodity prices? Contact chris.hill@archant.co.uk.