Romford dairy farmer reveals the dedication that creates a pint of milk

Farmer John Torrance at Albyns Dairy Farm in Stapleford Tawney

Farmer John Torrance at Albyns Dairy Farm in Stapleford Tawney - Credit: Archant

John Torrance runs Romford’s largest dairy farm and has extensive knowledge of his 800 bovine friends.

Farmer John Torrance at Albyns Dairy Farm in Stapleford Tawney

Farmer John Torrance at Albyns Dairy Farm in Stapleford Tawney - Credit: Archant

But his future is uncertain as the recent fall in national milk prices is devaluing his livelihood, and driving other farmers out of business.

“It’s absolutely true - cows do have four stomachs. One is a real stomach and the others are for processing.”

John Torrance employs a cow nutrition consultant to cater for the dietary needs of his cows, feeding them silage made up of grass, maize, and perhaps surprisingly - cereals.

“We feed our cows a special blend of all the nutrients they need, that they can’t just get from bog standard grass. It’s crucial to our milk production that the cows are given the right food.”

Farmer John Torrance at Albyns Dairy Farm in Stapleford Tawney

Farmer John Torrance at Albyns Dairy Farm in Stapleford Tawney - Credit: Archant


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At Albyns Farm diet is not the only aspect of a cow’s life that is carefully managed. John Torrance, whose family has run the farm for three generations, recently built an £800,000 “high welfare” shed for the cows, in the pursuit of his philosophy that “happy, healthy cows equals good, nutritious milk”.

The new enclosure is designed to hold 305 cows - providing a warm, pleasant environment away from the pastures during the colder months.

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Until May, when they are put out to graze, cows are housed in the new shed with 24 hour access to all the water, feed and space they need.

John knows each and every one of his Holstein breed cows by name, as well as their extensive family trees.

Farmer John Torrance at Albyns Dairy Farm in Stapleford Tawney

Farmer John Torrance at Albyns Dairy Farm in Stapleford Tawney - Credit: Archant

This is perhaps owing to the inordinate amount of time he spends with them.

The cows are milked three times a day, 365 days a year.

“You either love the job or you hate it. I love it, and I love the cows.

“It really is a 24 hour job, and regardless of Christmas day or New Year’s day, it’s business as usual for us.”

Albyns Farm produces five million litres of milk per year, with the help of automated milking machines, and three workers, including Jack Norfolk and James Hack.

The pair are responsible for ensuring that each of the 424 milking cows are lined up, 20 each side of the vast milk parlour at one time, meaning one session could last as long as four hours. But for John Torrance, passion and knowledge only go so far. Ultimately, it comes down to how much we are paying for a pint, and at the moment, we’re not paying enough.

When processor Dairy Crest reported a 9p fall in the price of milk per litre in March this year, dairy farmers across the country felt the effect on their profit margins, including John Torrance.

“We supply to the local area, mainly Chadwell Heath, through a liquid contract with Dairy Crest. The 9p milk drop is a catastrophe for the industry. It costs me about 30 pence per litre to produce the milk, so every penny drop in the milk price cuts about £45,000 per year off our bottom line.”

Nationally, farmers are blaming the supermarkets for offering in store discounts, which are devaluing the milk and all the hard work that farmers put into it.

As a country we are importing £1.3billion worth of dairy products from abroad, which is only serving to increase the pressure on British dairy farmers.

For John, the most frustrating thing is that bottled water is now more expensive than milk, and that Britain’s consumers still don’t know the true value of a pint.

“When you ask someone how much they pay for their milk - they have no idea. It’s because it’s such a staple thing for people. Consumers don’t think about it.”

This is why John is part of a national campaign by dairy farmers to encourage people to buy British.

“We want consumers to understand what goes into producing the milk that is a big part of our daily lives. I want to encourage people to buy British so they can get the best possible quality milk and keep the trade of dairy farmers going in this country.”

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