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Do you remember how milk used to taste? - Coston Hall farm embraces the raw milk revolution

PUBLISHED: 11:30 15 July 2017

John Gill, centre, and his brother, Mark, (right) and their family, with their Coston Hall Dairy raw milk which is dispensed at their farm by a vending machine. From left, Florence Gill, with Archie Gill, four, and Rose Gill, six-months-old; Pippa Francis, four; Theo Gill, six; and Zara Francis, six. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

John Gill, centre, and his brother, Mark, (right) and their family, with their Coston Hall Dairy raw milk which is dispensed at their farm by a vending machine. From left, Florence Gill, with Archie Gill, four, and Rose Gill, six-months-old; Pippa Francis, four; Theo Gill, six; and Zara Francis, six. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Mark and John Gill grew up drinking milk straight from their family dairy in its natural, unpasteurised state.

John and Lizzie Gill with their Coston Hall Dairy raw milk which is dispensed at their farm by a vending machine. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY John and Lizzie Gill with their Coston Hall Dairy raw milk which is dispensed at their farm by a vending machine. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Now the brothers are hoping to tap into a growing number of raw milk drinkers by installing a vending machine on their farm at Coston Hall, between Dereham and Wymondham.

For £1 for a one-litre bottle buyers can just turn up to the farmyard and help themselves to fresh, cold, raw milk.

John’s wife Lizzie, who has come on board to help with the marketing and promotion of the product, says it gives people the real taste of milk, as it should be.

“It’s quite creamy and sweet,” she said. “With pasteurised milk they take all the cream out during the heating process and then add it back in so it is not actually a whole milk. I started drinking it when I came to the farm and I love it, and everyone who comes here and has it in a cup of coffee remarks how great it tastes.”

The Coston Hall Dairy raw milk vending machine. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY The Coston Hall Dairy raw milk vending machine. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Pasteurisation was invented by Louis Pasteur in the 19th century and aims to reduce viable pathogens so they are unlikely to cause illness or disease.

But Mrs Gill said if the herd is healthy then the milk will be too and it is their job to ensure every cow is in tip-top condition.

“We have to pass certain hygiene standards and had to be approved by the Food Standards Agency,” she said. “The herd is continually tested and we welcome that.”

The fact the 300 dairy cows are fed on their own grass and home grown forages is key in that respect. They graze the marshes along the River Yare from early March and then calve over 12 weeks from the beginning of August. Each cow yields on average 7,000 litres a year.

A bottle is filled with the Coston Hall Dairy raw milk from the vending machine. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY A bottle is filled with the Coston Hall Dairy raw milk from the vending machine. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Nothing is wasted either. Even the muck is put in the farm’s biodigester to produce electricity for the National Grid.

Mr Gill, who runs the dairy while brother Mark is in charge of arable operations, said although only a very small percentage of their milk yield was being sold through the vending machine scheme, with the rest going commercially, it did feel like they were getting a bit more control back.

“Milk prices have been a bit dire for the past few years and I think this will always be a sideline, but we like seeing people come to the farm and educating their children about where milk really comes from. We have had some great feedback already.”

Zara Francis, six, and Theo Gill, six, carry the Coston Hall Dairy raw milk, which is dispensed at their farm by a vending machine. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Zara Francis, six, and Theo Gill, six, carry the Coston Hall Dairy raw milk, which is dispensed at their farm by a vending machine. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Why drink raw milk?

The Gill family say there is plenty of information available about the benefits of raw milk but want people to make their own minds up about whether it is right for them.

There certainly appears to be a revolution in favour of leaving it in its natural state. Proponents of raw milk say:

* The pasteurisation process reduces the nutritional quality of milk products. Research has shown a decrease in manganese, copper, and iron after heat treatment.

* Cows fed fresh green forage, especially those grazing grass, have been shown to have higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (beneficial in lowering body fat) and essential fatty acids in their milk.

* Nutrients like probiotics, vitamin D and immunoglobulins (antibodies) found in raw milk naturally boost the immune system and reduce the risk of allergies.

Visit the farm’s website for more information.

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