19 Oct 2020

Farmer Focus: Black Cow Vodka

The Barber family tree traces 10 generations of farmers behind Jason who farms near Beaminster, Dorset. The original Holstein herd is now crossed with Norwegian Red’s and Fleckviehs and then back to Holsteins to produce a higher fat and protein composition which is valued by their milk buyer Barbers Cheese.  Jason and his team of three full-time staff milk 280 twice a day through a 24:24 herringbone parlour and have been using CIS for the last 18 months to do quarterly milk recording and health testing for Johne’s.  The herds average milk yield is 7,500 litres with butterfat at 4.2% and protein at 3.44%.  Cows are grazed outside for as long as it is feasible and calving takes place from the end of July up to Christmas, breeding all replacements.

Recent investment on the farm has been the installation of an ADF automatic dipping and flushing system which has seen great benefits saving many cows each year.  They have also constructed a new lagoon with a weeping wall which enables them to have the option of using any bedding the want which is currently sand. In addition, they now have slurry to utilise when they actually need it helping reduce fertiliser and spreading costs.

In 2002 Jason swapped to vodka as his drink of choice, as he could not handle getting up and milking with a red wine hangover.  This led him to wonder if he could make the spirit from milk, rather than the traditional methods more commonly seen.

Aware of the 200 years of cheesemaking in the family he knows that his father made cheese, his grandfather made cheese, his great grandfather made cheese and his great great grandfather, yes, you guessed it… cheese. So he was expected to make cheese but Jason bucked the trend launching Black Cow Vodka.

Not to simply chuck this tradition into the bin, Jason looked in the bin and saw how much milk was being wasted. With lactose present in the whey, a by-product of the cheese-making process, the first pure milk vodka was born.  Black Cow Vodka has gone onto win many international drinks awards, with the critiques stating that the vodka, made from 100% milk, has given vodka a new taste. However, in Jason’s mind, the biggest achievement is selling vodka to Poland, he feels they must be doing something right.  He is always delighted when pallets of Black Cow Vodka are shipped to Poland.

Jason’s advice to anyone considering any form diversification is to do something that you enjoy and are good at it.