Microdairies: making them as successful as micro-breweries

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Posted Nov 27 2015 by Simon Fairlie of The Land Magazine
Is eating meat ethical? And what about dairy?

A conference on the benefits of small-scale commercial dairy farms of up to 40 cows or the equivalent of sheep or goats. How to establish them and how to promote the concept. For practising and prospective dairy farmers and others with a professional interest in the future of the British dairy industry.

23 & 24 February 2016, Monkton Wyld Court, Charmouth, Dorset

Britain’s dairy industry has long been in a state of chronic crisis. Within the last 20 years more than two thirds of our dairy farms have stopped producing. Owing to the stranglehold of milk processors and supermarkets, margins are so tiny that only large farms enjoying economies of scale and investing  millions of pounds in hyperefficient systems are expected to survive. There is however an alternative for the farmer or new entrant who wants to keep a dairy herd and run a business of more modest proportions.

The milk provided by an average dairy cow annually is worth between £6,000 and £14,000 when sold retail — as opposed to barely £2000 if sold to a  processor. The farmer who finds a way of processing and marketing milk directly will recapture the profit that would otherwise be creamed off by the  corporations. A herd of 20 cows can be bringing in a turnover of over £150,000.

Of course there are investment and labour costs involved in establishing and running a successful direct marketing business. The main purpose of this conference is to examine what opportunities are currently available for establishing microdairies supplying milk, cheese, yoghurt and other products and what are the costs and constraints involved. It will be led by experts in the field including existing practitioners.

The second day of the conference will also look at ways of promoting the concept more widely and capturing the public’s imagination. Over the past twenty years thousands of microbreweries have sprung up around Britain. Over the next 20 years we hope to see thousands of new microdairies.


Cows at Monkton Wyld Court.


Tuesday 23 February
10 am Welcome and Introduction
Keynote speech from Colin Tudge
Followed by a series of panel-led discussions:
• Production and Processing
• Marketing
• Health and Safety
• Economics
• Resource Directory

Wednesday 24 February
• Training and Mentoring
• Access to Land
• Promoting the Concept
Panel participants include:
• Josh Healey and Matt Dale of North Aston Dairy
• Nick Snelgar of Maple Field Milk • Jaap de Jonge
of Jongia UK • Tommy Szebeni of Milk Station
vending machines • John Meadley of Pasture Fed
Livestock Association • Simon Crichton of Triodos
Bank • Robert Fraser, farmer and financial adviser
to Funding Enlightened Agriculture• Harry Travis,
environmental health consultants (tbc) • and others.

Monkton Wyld Court

Monkton Wyld Court is a former rectory built in 1843, now run as a rural guest house and conference and education centre. It is situated two miles from the Dorset coast, and four miles from Axminster railway station. There has been a dairy operation of three to six cows at Monkton Wyld Court at least since 1941, making it perhaps the oldest established dairy of its size in the UK. You can find out more about Monkton Wyld Court here.



Attendance at the Microdairy Gathering 23-24 Feb 2016 (including two lunches and one evening meal) £70
Bed and Breakfast (single-sex shared room) £25 per person per night
Bed and Breakfast (double room) £50 per room per night
Bed and Breakfast (single room) £35 per night
Camping (in February?) and camper vans £15 per night
Meals are vegetarian with an abundance of home produced dairy products. We can accommodate most dietary requirements. There is a bar on the premises and homereared pork sausages can be barbecued.

If you wish to book a place, or require further information please email [email protected] or phone Simon on 01297 561359.


Monkton Wyld Court is less than half a mile from the A35 between Lyme Regis and Axminster. We have limited parking space in winter, so if you can come by public transport that is much appreciated. The nearest train station is Axminster, on the Exeter to London Waterloo line. We will be picking people up from there at prearranged times. We can also pick people up alighting from the X53 Dorchester to Exeter and X31 Dorchester to Axminster bus services.

Nanodairy gathering

This conference is being organized in conjunction with another, on the 25 and 26 February, for people keeping from one to four dairy cows. We’ll be blogging about this one soon, and you can contact Simon for more info – contact details above.