Things have been ticking along just lovely at the farm. The cows took no time at all to get used to the automatic milking system, they are producing more milk than before and it’s safe to say they are a healthy and happy herd. However, we don’t like to sit stagnant for too long. Once we knew everything was ticking along just nicely with the milking system we started to research how else we can be a better business. How can we be more environmentally friendly? More economical? How can we move forward as a modern farm taking our responsibilities to the countryside seriously? The answer was quite obvious; Anaerobic Digestion.
Anaerobic digestion has progressed and matured in recent years. With larger AD plants springing up all over the place, some recycling waste food and some specifically growing crops to create green electric. We are only using the waste from the farm (that’s poo to you!!). Interestingly the technology to create fuel from waste products is as old as the hills, tenth century BC to be precise. But with the sophisticated technology available to us now we would be stupid not to make the most out of the lovely slurry we produce every year. So, after a long period of plotting and planning the builders have moved in (again) and life around the farm got noisy (again). The digester will do its work by heating the slurry and allowing the bacteria to go to work and break down the slurry to release methane gas. The gas will then be burnt producing both electricity and heat, which in turn we will use to power both the farm and dairy and heat the water needed to keep the dairy clean and hygienic.
As an interesting note the digester will produce enough electricity to power 70 homes. So there you have it. Keen’s Cheddar at Moorhayes farm doing their bit to use far fewer fossil fuels and save the world.
So, it’s been just a little crazy at the farm this week because on Tuesday the robots finally went live. It’s strange when there has been such a huge build up to a massive change like this, it’s like you mentally prepare yourself for the absolute worse case scenario, question your every decision, dream bad dreams, lose sleep, turn grey over the idea that things could go catastrophically wrong and then when D-day arrives it’s surreal. The day passes without a hitch (well nothing to write home about anyway) and by luck or extremely great management it looks like we made the right decision to go with these robot things.
It’s been all hands on deck with everybody helping to teach the cows what to do and where to go 24 hours round the clock. We’ve even had the London branch of the Keen family over helping with the night shift (thanks John), one of the ladies even thanked him for his assistance by treading on his foot (sorry John). But it seems the girls are smarter than we give them credit for and are getting the hang of things quite quickly, well most of them anyway, 141 doesn’t seem so keen but she’ll come round I’m sure.
I have to say though that my favourite has to be little Juno, who busies himself all day pushing the feed to the cows so they don’t have to work too hard for it. He’s a cute little thing, I wanted to call him Gaston and anybody who has children under 7 and is familiar with Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom will see why immediately but I was out voted….. Maybe I could get a little support from our readers?
Exciting times here at Moorhayes Farm. Yesterday morning we took delivery of our brand new sparkling Milking Robots. Don’t you just love new things?
We’ve been preparing for their arrival for a while now, demolishing buildings and clearing out old in preparation for new. I have to say it’s been great fun, such a buzz of activity, and we really are blessed to have such great workmen in and around our local area, always the professionals.
The upheaval is going to be so worth it though. Cows that are looked after properly show their appreciation by rewarding the farmer with great milk, that in turn makes great cheese. And making great cheese is our business. Robotic parlours help us in looking after our herd, if our ladies think they are lucky now they’ll be in seventh heaven by the time the robots are installed and here’s why;
- Our ladies will be able to choose when to milk themselves. At the moment we milk twice a day, in the near future if a cow is feeling full and uncomfortable she will be able to stroll on up and be relieved as and when she chooses rather than have to wait.
- Less time standing in queues. Anybody remember what Argos was like in the 90’s? Let me remind you, it was dreadful, queue after queue, now they have all sorts of technology to make the shopping experience a more comfortable one, not to mention speedy. And that is what we are doing for our ladies. At the moment the cows are brought in for milking, they queue to be milked and then queue again ready to be sent back out to grass. By eliminating the queues we are also drastically reducing any issues with foot health.
- On the subject of queuing, while a cow is queuing she has no access to food, and cows are hungry animals who expend a lot of energy so are happier when they can eat. When the robots are in situ the cow will have access to food while milking and she’ll not be queuing for hours a day increasing her access to food in the field.
- The robots are extremely smart at monitoring cows health. It can take 2/4 days for any symptoms of ill health such as mastitis to become apparent when milking manually. The robots will be able to detect any symptoms and the feedback will be immediate allowing us to be proactive in keeping our heard healthy.
If I was a cow I would want to live at Moorhayes Farm, wouldn’t you?
I know, I know, we’ve been very quiet on the blog front over here at Moorhayes Farm. Sorry about that folks, we promise to talk to you a lot more in the coming months.
Truth it’s been a long long dreary winter hasn’t it? Luckily we in South Somerset have managed to escape the worst of the weather but our hearts go out to our colleagues over on the levels who will be suffering the hangover for months to come yet. We’d like to thank all our lovely customers and suppliers who have sent us concerned emails over the last few months asking if we are ok and if we need any help with anything, you people are genuinely lovely, thank you so much for thinking of us.
On the upside though it seems that people have been comfort eating their way through tonnes and tonnes of Cheddar Cheese!!! So much so that we have been struggling to keep up with demand, and our girls can only supply us with what they have available so we have all sorts of plans coming up later this year that will help us to increase our milk supply so we can increase production so you all can eat more cheese……
We will fill you in on all the exciting changes soon, in the meantime let’s raise our glasses to the imminent arrival of British Summertime on 30th March (Mothers Day in case any of our male readers need a gentle reminder) and look forward to many more longer and brighter days ahead.
Oh boy oh boy. Summer in the cheese making business really is a whirlwind. There are cheese shows and cheese competitions, cheese exhibitions, cheese weeks, it’s never ending. We at Keens have been exhibiting and tasting, selling and showing, competing and winning (big!) every weekend since July. To be honest a couple of us are still exhibiting over in Bra, Italy with the lovely folks over at Slow Food so for James and George the show still goes on, however I thought it about time I blogged a little blog to let all of you know that we are still here, still talking to you and haven’t lost heart in this whole social media business.
Although, as much as I personally love Facebook and Twitter you just cannot beat getting out and meeting people, I love exhibiting, both to trade
and public, I love it when somebody tries our cheese for the first time and absolutely love it, and I love it when somebody tries our cheese for the first time and it really isn’t for them, the faces people pull are hilarious (honestly, we don’t mind if it’s not your cup of tea, the cheese business would be very bland if we all liked the same cheeses).
My favourite quote of the year has to be from a little girl who was probably about 10, we were at the Mid Somerset Show and she looked me in the eye and said ‘Why are you here, you sell cheese and this is a farming show.’ Actually, I’m not sure if it was what she said or if it was her mums horrified reaction that made it most memorable.
It’s the competition side I really want to shout from the rooftops about though. This year we won trillions billions millions loads of awards, a full list of them can be found here, but in a nutshell we got 12 Golds, 13 Silvers and 2 Bronze medals, several cups including (and we are so so so happy about this one) UK Supreme Champion Cheese at the Global Cheese Awards.
Remember, we are a small family business, we make only one variety of cheese and so to win as much as we won this year really is quite an accomplishment. At this moment in time I tip my hat to my husband’s ancestors who stuck their heels into the ground and refused to quit the cheese, their stubbornness and determination really has paid off. Thank you.
Did you hear the news last month that apparently a third of primary school children think that cheese comes from plants? My husband wishes
that were true because it sure would make his life a lot easier.
Let us just put the record straight, cheese does not come from plants it is made from milk, and that milk comes from cows, we will talk about how a cow produces milk one day in a separate post but today we want to talk to you a little about that milk stuff.
Milk. Such a simple product. It sits in supermarket shelves in neat little rows, there is no need to surround it in pomp and circumstance to sell it, we all know it’s delicious, we all know its health benefits and we already know that it is so versatile in the kitchen. But what we don’t all know is how much effort goes into making milk fit for cheese (or a king, but in our world cheese comes first!).
Because we produce an artisan cheese that is produced by an artisan cheese maker using traditional ingredients and traditional methods we need to try as hard as we can to make sure our milk is as consistent as possible. There are options, we could add all kinds of stuff to our recipe, but that would go against the grain of our entire existence. So we need to focus on our milk, and boy can we face some challenges.
Firstly, the weather, yes we know farmers are known for complaining about the weather but did you know that when it rains a lot our ladies huddle together under shelter, food being the furthest thing from their mind, and did you know that when it’s really really hot the girlies huddle together in the shade, food being the furthest thing from their mind. Extreme weather does not good milk make.
Secondly, the variations of grasses from field to field. As we all know what goes in has a direct impact on what comes out. I bet if a baby could talk it would tell you if it’s mother had a curry or fruit salad for dinner. The same seed can be put in all the fields however there will still be variations depending on the soil type of a particular field or how long it has been since it was reseeded, for example one field could be full of clover but the next have none. It would be impractical to reseed every acre every year so there needs to be a rotation and this, unfortunately (or fortunately depends on how you view the joy of artisan cheese) leads to inconsistencies in the milk.
Another challenge is of course calving patterns. If we just let the cows do their own thing the milk would be all over the show, managing the herd to ensure a balanced amount of breeding and an even milk profile with a good fat/protein ratio is attained all year round is a full time job. Embarrassing confession coming up here, but before I moved to the country I didn’t even realise that cows needed babies to make milk, I thought they just magically produced it all year round and that was why we all drank cow’s milk, so maybe I shouldn’t be so scathing of the school kids mentioned at the beginning of this article after all.
So, you’d like some advice about entering your cheese into show? No problem at all. We may be old hat at this show business but we also know that not everybody reading this blog are fifth generation cheese makers. Some of you may be newcomers to the business, if that’s you welcome on board the dairy train and read on to find out a little more about entering your produce into show.
While Richard Green of Brue-Valley-Cheddar was with us grading cheese the other day I was lucky enough to ask him if he could impart some of his knowledge about judging so that we could share it with you. He has been judging cheese shows for 36 years so there really isn’t very much he can’t tell you about showing off your cheese.
Firstly, I asked him exactly what it was he and the other independent judges were looking for when judging at an event.
‘Firstly, and most importantly it’s the smell of the cheese, it has to smell right for its class. Then we look at its body and texture, is it smooth enough? Crumbly enough? Should this type of cheese feel grainy? At the same time we are looking at its appearance, considering things like whether or not it should be dipping in the middle or should it have a flat surface, attention to detail is everything here. Last but by far least we are looking for a pleasant taste, it has got to taste nice and not rancid or acidy’.
‘It is essential that you enter the best cheese you’ve got to show.’ was Richard’s response when asked what advice he would offer somebody
entering cheese shows for the first time. ‘it does happen where bad cheeses are entered, sometimes the responsibility for selecting a cheese is passed over to a member of staff who is inexperienced or just not bothered, if you are going to enter only have a trusted person select for you or select yourself. We will always be honest and I have had discreet words with cheese producers in the past who have been thoroughly embarrassed and angry but learnt for future.’
‘Finally, don’t feel intimidated, just take the plunge and enter the show. Many people are discouraged from entering because of the size and the heritage of other entrants, there really is no need. Every single one of your competitors entered for the first time once, they have all lost and won, and the cheese business is probably one of the most friendly businesses you’ll ever come across’.
So there you have it newbies, choose your best product and jump in with both feet. Hope to see you at the World Cheese Awards very soon.
Summer’s here. And that can only mean one thing; Cheese Shows. They come in all shapes and sizes, they range from local to national, and they can be tagged onto other events such as agricultural shows or they can stand alone as events all on their own. The evidence is all over the place that cheese really is big business.
You’ll always find a buzz around the farm when competition time rolls around; in fact, you’ll find the same buzz around most cheese producers during show season when it’s time to put your best produce out there for the world to see (and judge, gulp). We at Keen’s enter a number of shows, and if you sneak a peek at our awards page you’ll see we don’t do too badly. Fingers crossed 2013 brings us a bounty of trophies, awards, recognitions and ribbons to follow suit.
Of course, we can’t molly coddle our cheese enough throughout the year but now is the time a couple of our lucky samples are taken off the shelf and dressed to impress….. Literally! Traditionally truckles entered into show have been ‘dressed’ and a lot of the main shows still request that competition entries are still dressed for show; But how do you dress a cheese I hear you cry.
Firstly, the cloth that the truckle has been maturing inside is carefully peeled away exposing its rind. This is then painstakingly cleaned using a sharp blade to bring out its best side. Once it is all sparkly clean a plastic coat is applied evenly all over to prevent the cheese from drying out and finally a white cotton band is carefully placed around the truckle to complete its pampering preparation.
The white cotton bands were actually once used to keep the cheese in shape, but cheese making has now advanced so
it isn’t essential anymore, however it’s still nice to keep with traditions and as a side it also helps to disguise any blemishes on the cheese surface…. Even Miss World wears foundation you know!Anyway, that’s how we prepare the chosen truckles. In part 2 we’ll impart some of the knowledge we have gained over the years about showing cheese, and speak to a guy who’s been judging at cheese shows for over 30 years who will give you some sound advice about entering your first show.
Slow down, take a second out of your busy day, enjoy some artisan chocolate, or drink some delicious coffee and let us tell you a little about our Slow Food Presidium.
Not everyone has the time to savour every last mouthful of every meal consumed during the course of a week. Some people say that that’s life, it’s fast and it’s furious, you snooze you lose, lunch is for wimps. But we at Keen’s strongly disagree. Everybody has the right to just slow things right down sometimes and enjoy the small stuff in life. And in our world, that small thing is food, and that is why we work in partnership with Slow Food.
Slow Food is the international movement for the defence of and the right to pleasure. Even if you don’t absorb that entire sentence just focus on one word…. pleasure. Food really should be a pleasure. Slow Food are a global, grass roots, non-profit organisation who fight hard to counter the rise of fast (and can we add bland) food, it is their mission to reignite the passion consumers once had for their food and to protect local food traditions and educate about how food choices affect the environment.
That is why we, and two of our fellow cheese makers (Montgomery’s and Westombe), formed one of the first International Presidia projects; Artisan Somerset Cheddar. Between us it is our aim to raise consciousness about the craftsmanship behind our artisan food and to teach our consumers how to recognise quality. We do this through tastings, promotions and education.
If you have an event you’d like us to attend that’s in keeping with the Slow Food philosophy do let us know about it and we’ll see what we can do to help your cause.
I know that Keen’s tastes totally amazing on it’s own, enjoyed after a satisfying meal with friends, however, I think we should give our cheese a companion, many would agree that it has a personality of it’s own so I’ve done a little homework about what the experts out there would say was a match made in heaven for our cloth bound somerset cheddar and the results are pretty mouthwatering I have to say.
There were of course a lot of people saying that the best and most simple match would be a sweet, crispy apple. If you haven’t tried this I urge
you to go out to your local Deli or Farm Shop, buy the sweetest apple they have on offer along with a wedge of Keen’s cheese, find a nice quiet spot and savour the moment. It will be one you will remember.
I also read somewhere (and apologies I can not find the link) that Sake is a great pairing with our cheddar. Now that I have to try.
But here are a few of my other favourites along with links to the experts who kindly donated their taste buds to the cause.
Port – Yes, you read that correctly, Port. Apparently Port becomes increasingly fruity when eaten with a good strong cheddar. I’d like to thank Diana Pittet over at http://cheddarbound.blogspot.co.uk for giving me an excuse to dust off the old Port bottle when it’s not even Christmas.
Rioja – The guys over at www.thekitchn.com described a good cloth bound cheddar with a strong red as ‘Tried and True, like two friends getting married and each elevating the other’ aahhh.
Cabernet, Chianti, IPA’s & Stouts – I hope not all at the same time www.tasteofcheese.ca!!!
Bengali Tiger – I know that this falls into the IPA category mentioned above but I had to love this exact match because within the article we were described as ‘funky’, quotes like that just can not be ignored, here’s the link if you want to know more about pairing beers and cheese http://cheddarbound.blogspot.co.uk/2010_03_01_archive.html.
So there you have it, Keen’s plus some very exciting + 1’s.
Do you have a preference? Anything you’ve tried that I’ve not mentioned here? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.