Have you met Jess Vaughan
Do you remember when milk tasted like milk – rich and creamy with a little cream line left in the bottle when you poured it? That’s what people say about the multi award-winning milk from Jess’s Ladies, a herd of 75 cows all lovingly cared for by Jess Vaughan at her family’s organic farm in Hardwicke. Here she tells us what makes their milk so special…
Why do you think organic milk is so beneficial?
“There has been a lot of research into the health aspects of organic milk and when we were first tested, the omega 3s in our milk were five times higher than non-organic milks. Our cows feed on high forage diets which certainly affect the composition of the milk leading to a richer, better taste. A respectful approach to land, livestock and wildlife is central to all we do and working alongside Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, we have fenced off conservation areas of the farm and also the ponds to aid the habitat development. The hedges of Hardwicke Farm are legendary and provide huge wildlife corridors that are invaluable.”
Your milk is not homogenised. What does this mean?
“It basically means it is less processed. Research suggests that homogenising destroys a lot of the flavour of milk and that non-homogenised milk is easier to digest. Homogenisation was developed to extend the shelf life of milk so it could be transported from big processing plants to supermarkets, which all like a long shelf life. So homogenised milk may have a shelf life of three weeks compared to our milk which is only eight or nine days. But people always tell me that our milk ‘tastes like milk used to taste’!”
How does the way you treat your animals affect the milk they produce?
“We like to think our cows are happy, relaxed cows. This means that while their yield is lower, the constituents in the milk is higher. Also, older cows produce creamier milk and lots of our cows live for a very long time. Many of our herd is over 13-years-old and we have one of the oldest cows in Gloucestershire in ‘Katie’ who has just turned 21. It also helps that our milk is all processed on site, which means it is fresher than a lot of other processed milk. In fact, our milk can be on the shelf within three hours of leaving our cows.”
You seem to have a special affection for cows. Why is this?
“Cows are such genuine animals. They would never harm anybody unless provoked and some actually approach you for a cuddle! We’ve got 75 cows here, 70% British Fresian and the rest are Brown Swiss/Fresian. We’ve also got about 40 youngsters, all roaming around, growing up and being teenagers.”
Do you have any favourites?
“It’s funny, cows really do have personalities – some are naturally quite aloof and other are just born friendly. Beanie is the most friendly – you can actually sit on her, and Bunty is very special – she’s the one pictured next to me on the semi-skimmed milk bottles.”
What’s a typical day for you and the Ladies?
“There is no typical day, but as a rule I will begin bottling milk at 5.30am through till 4pm. After that I may milk some of the cows or do paperwork. We milk our cows seven at a time and it takes about 10-12 minutes per cow. My dad, Mike, and sister, Sophie, both help and we have a part-time helper too.”
Finally, what awards have the Ladies won?
“We were Cotswold Life Organic Producers of the Year 2008 and the first ever pasteurised milk anywhere to achieve Great Taste Award Gold medals. We now have 16. We were the Taste Of The West Champion Dairy Product 2010, 2011 and 2012, with over 20 medals awarded, and Cotswold Food Hero Finalists 2010. We were voted Best Farmers’ Markets Stallholder 2011 and were Taste Of Gloucestershire Best Food Producers 2013.”