Set 750 feet above sea level, with far reaching views across Somerset, Devon and Dorset, Hill Dairy lives up to its name and is the flagship farm in the Coombe Farm group.
A long established dairy the farm was closed in 2006 and the original herd dispersed when it was decided to carryout extensive renovation work to the buildings and install a new parlour and cattle handling system.
The farm was reopened in November 2006 with just 80 fresh calved heifers, the herd size has now grown to 280 with all bar six of the herd coming from are own home reared heifers. The land at Lower Coombe Farm has now been included with Hill Dairy to form a 640 acre farm which is used for the grazing and forage production required to feed the herd all year round.
Hill Dairy also makes good use of cow tracks made from crushed limestone; Improving facilities and infrastructure to aid better cow welfare is always one of our main aims, the land here is very flinty, which is hard on a cow’s feet. We’ve found they prefer to walk on the crushed limestone, which is sourced from a local quarry. It’s softer, drains well, keeps cleaner than a stone or mud track and we’ve found it’s a lot kinder on the cow’s hooves reducing the incidence of lameness significantly.
Forage production at Hill dairy is based around Red and White Clover leys which are either grazed or cut and ensiled to make quality silage for use as winter feed. Other crops grown include Winter Wheat, Triticale and Fodder Beet. The cereals grown are either cut as a whole crop forage and ensiled or combined as moist grain and crimped to form a high starch home grown concentrate.
Coombe farm HQ and Hill Diary
Farm Size - 1025.58 acres Owned 142 acres Rented
Herd Size - 350 Holstein Friesian Cross
Youngstock Numbers - Approximately 140
Typical housing periods - Stock is generally housed between late October and April (at other times if extreme weather dictates)
Soil Type - Light clay loam over green sand Medium clay loam over chalk
Crops grown on farm - Grass, Grass mixed with White Clover for grazing, Grass mixed with Red Clover for forage production, Cereals and Legumes to provide alternative forages or home grown concentrates.
Aims of rotations - Rotations are used to control weeds, prevent plant disease and aid the build up of soil fertility.
Organic Certification Body - Soil Association
Certification / Audits
- Soil Association
- Freedom Foods/RSPCA
- Coombe Farm Assurance Scheme
- Dairy Inspectorate
- Dairy Hygiene Inspectorate
Staff Training - Staff are expected to attend regular training sessions to ensure optimum cow welfare is maintained at all times. Certificates of competence for operating machinery have to be passed by all staff.
Overview of Farm
Coombe Farm is due to reach full organic status in May 2007, as one of the last Coombe Farm dairies to convert to organic production many of the tried and tested techniques we have developed on our other units were already used extensively at Coombe Farm so the transition to full organic status has been a very smooth one. The farm will provide organic milk to our milk processing dairy for use in dairy products supplied to Waitrose. The dairy facilities has been significantly improved over the last three years to provide good cow accommodation and waste handling, culminating in 2006 with the installation of a new milking parlour and automatic handling system. The dairy herd calves all year round to ensure a level milk supply is delivered to the factory of the highest quality. During the winter housing period cows are fed a complete diet of home produced forage and cereals with bought in concentrates used to balance the ration. All cows are able to graze naturally between the months of April and November on white clover rich swards with buffer feeding available to meet the cow’s nutritional requirements. A new system of cow tracks topped with crushed limestone has been constructed to enable the safe effective movement of cows between grazing fields and the milking parlour.
The landscape is dominated by the large natural “Coombe” providing a spectacular back drop to a farm and milk processing factory working in harmony with the countryside. At the base of the “Coombe” a main tributary of the river Axe rises and flows through the lower part of the farm, we have taken the opportunity to use this resource to create four ponds above and below the factory site. With the aid of landscape designed tree planting to create both new and enhance existing woodland we have been able to create a wildlife attraction that is also available for the employees to enjoy as a picnic come recreational area. The farm also has a substantial number of veteran trees and mature hedgerows that help to support a variety of wildlife, hedgerow flowers and insects, all farming activities ensure a suitable hedgerow margin is left so that these features remain undisturbed. Coombe Farm has also entered in to the Organic Entry Level Scheme which has enabled us to further enhance the natural environment of the farm by taking out areas of land from agricultural production to provide beetle banks, improve existing hedgerows and plant out field corners with native trees to create small areas of open woodland.
Coombe Farm dairy works in harmony with the milk processing factory by taking all of the factory washings and mixing them with cow manure to break down the milk fats contained in them, the combined mix is then passed through a separation system to remove the solids. This process provides us with two vital products for use in organic farming;
Solids these are stored and turned regularly to form nutrient rich compost which is ploughed in to provide vital soil humus.
Liquid this is stored in a large lagoon and used as a liquid organic fertiliser which is spread on to growing crops.
Both of these fertilisers are regularly tested to ensure that the growing crops receive the correct amount of fertiliser they need to flourish and none of the vital nutrients are lost to the environment or local watercourses