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Encouraging cattle to put their hooves up.

Byline: DAIRY FARMING COREENA FORD coreena.ford@ncjmedia.co.uk

ACOUNTY Durham dairy is building a luxurious cowshed with automatic hairbrushes, foot spa and memory foam mattresses.

It may sound unlikely, but Acorn Dairy in Darlington is expanding to meet demand for its organic milk - and cows that can take the weight off their feet produce more milk.

Extra staff, including herdsmen, milkmen and processing operatives, will also be needed at the dairy, which is one of the region's most successful organic businesses, having been established almost 20 years ago.

Up to 200 extra dairy shorthorn crosses will be housed in the new facility, providing an additional 1.3 million litres of milk a year for doorstep and commercial customers across the region, from Tyne and Wear to Yorkshire.

More than 3,200 doorstep customers are supplied, as well as Cooperative Stores across Yorkshire, the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, the region's schools and a host of farm shops and caterers, by the multi-award-winning dairy.

Eighteen years after it became organic, the latest expansion will see a herd almost 500-strong be reared at the main farm in Archdeacon Newton, near Darlington. An additional 400 acres has been secured next door for grazing and silage, which is being converted to organic over the next two years, free from chemical feeds and pesticides.

Director Caroline Bell said: "Our main aim is to farm in a way that is responsible and benefits animal welfare and the environment.

"Happy animals are healthy and more productive and our customers love the fact that they can come and see the cows who provide their milk."

The luxury cowshed is being constructed on the site of a medieval rig and furrow paddock after being surveyed and protected by archaeologists and Historic England. It will feature footbaths, automatic hairbrushes which groom the cows on contact and memory foam mattresses in stalls that will be 30% larger than traditionally used.

Ms Bell said: "Because they are happy they live longer, healthier lives and produce milk for longer. We have one cow that is 14, twice the average age of dairy cows that are farmed intensively."

Her brother and fellow director Graham Tweddle added: "Cows are heavy animals, about 700kg, with relatively small feet. Research has shown that if they can take the weight off their feet,by lying on the memory foam mattresses, the bloodflow increases to their udders and they produce more milk.

"The new shed is also closer to the milking parlour so they don't have to walk as far and the footbath will help keep their hooves in top condition. The cowshed is all about boosting welfare and avoiding problems."

Expansion also includes plans for a third silage clamp and a young stock shed for 100 animals.

The plant, powered by an environmentally friendly wind turbine, has the capacity to process and bottle the extra milk, with Acorn Dairy continuing to take supplies from Newcastle University's organic farm.

Ms Bell added: "It is also great to be able to offer more employment opportunities at a time when the region has seen a large number of job losses."

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<BCaroline Bell in the luxury cowshed under construction

Acorn Dairy director Caroline Bell

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 14, 2016
Words:535
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