On a cloudy Tuesday morning in London myself & whey’d Head of Design, Rob, caught what seemed like the only Ryanair flight out of London in a while to Southern Ireland to meet one of the dairy farms that produces the milk that makes our wonder whey’d protein.
An hours drive from the airport and a few wrong turns down some very narrow Irish country lanes (Ireland is fairly new to postcodes so I’m sure Google is still adding them all to Maps) and we arrived to meet the dairy farmer Glenn.
It doesn’t take long to see that this is a large farm, one of the largest of the 1,000 dairy farms that produce milk for our whey’d protein. The scene as you look out from the farmhouse shows 190 acres of brilliant Irish green grass surrounding by rolling hills and sunshine!
Ireland has the best grass growing conditions on the entire Northern Hemisphere due to a mixture of rain and sun along with longer summer days. What this means for the cows is that the grass grows quicker and richer & they can eat to their hearts content.
We’ll come on to how much they consume in a minute!
Glenn gave us the history of how he came to own the farm. His father purchased the land in 1979 and built the farm from scratch. Fast forward 25 years to 2004 and the reigns were handed to Glenn to take over the family business. That said, his father is still working on the farm to this day and no doubt still trying to boss Glenn around as well! Glenn’s brother is also the milk man collecting the dairy for all the local farms & delivering them to the local cheese & whey manufacturer.
What amazed me was that the methods of producing the milk are still very much the same for the last 38 years, albeit with updated facilities!
For 190 acres you’d think they would have 1,000’s of cows but they have purposefully kept the herd at 248 (to be exact!). What this means is that the cows get year round access to fresh green grass & they make the most of it by consuming 17-18kg of grass a day each! This translates to milk that is of the highest quality and is the most nutrient dense in the world. There are no hormones used here and due to the roaming of the land (the cows can go wherever they want but as habit like to stick together) their milk is 5x richer in CLA than grain fed cows & the subsequent whey protein is very high in BCAA’s (31% higher than the UK’s best selling whey protein!).
There is little stress on these Irish hills & that ensures the quality of the milk is supreme.
We spoke to Glenn about the rise in people sharing videos of cows in pain whilst milking and in cramped conditions and it clearly struck a nerve with him. He agreed, as with any industry, there are a very select few businesses following very bad practices & they should be stopped. Due to the rise in sharing online these are the only ones that people sometimes see & can then assume it’s common practice; it’s not. Glenn & his family care for the cows like a family. They have ¾ of an acre of land each and have monitors (like a human pedometer) to track their steps to see that they are grazing sufficiently. They also have one of the most stunning views of hundreds of untouched acres of grassland to look at each day! All you have to do is take one look at the healthy condition of each cow to see they are well cared for.
We asked if the cows disliked the milking process and Glenn told us a story of an older 12 year old cow. There are 24 ‘stations’ at the milking site and are in 2 lines of 12. This old girl insists of having the same middle space on the right hand side, EVERY day. Regardless of whether she’s first in and the other cows have to walk around her – she’s getting her space in line!
The cows on Glenn’s farm graze outside for an average of 300 days a year and for the other 2 months are in the warmer indoor conditions staying clear of the winter months. Due to the sheer size of the farm, they have a large stockpile of dry grass to get through however, so that keeps them busy. Also Glenn will sometimes add GMO- free natural vitamins & minerals to the dry grass to keep the cows healthy when indoors.
See below a professional picture taken on a summers day!
After going to see the cows up close & attempting to get a selfie (cows don’t do selfies – even the happy ones) that brought our farm visit to a close. For us at whey’d it’s so important to know where our whey is from and to know that it’s a sustainable & ethical operation and we were blown away by how amazing the welfare of these cows are. In the same way us Londoners have a daily daydream of a deserted island with free cocktails, I’m sure there are cows out there wishing they were on Glenn’s farm!
We’re so passionate about knowing where our whey is from that we can actually track every batch that we produce and track it back to its original farm source – so as I’m sipping on my chocolate sachet later I’ll be toasting to the brilliant work Glenn and all our other farmers do. Cheers!
All the best,