The Farm

The story of dairying begins on the farm. Twice daily or even more frequently, seven days a week, the farmer attaches the milking machine to the udders of his cows. The milking machine sucks in the same way as a young calf. The milk container fils in sudden spurts and the 'white gold' is then fed into the cooling tank.

< Milking remains manual work even with the help of machines.

In fact dairy products really begin their life even earlier, with the grass and the silage fed to the cattle. As well as milking twice a day, the farmer is busy all summer growing sufficient lush grass. The cattle graze the grass in the meadow, but some is cut and stored ready for winter feeding. Grass and silage provide the energy and basis of milk.

As well as the production of foodstuffs, feeding and milking, the farmer is also kept busy improving his herd. During the six thousand years that the cow has been kept by man, milk production has increased enormously. Nowadays it averages 6000 liters per cow per year, some cows even produce 10.000 liters or more per annum.

Cheese making
Imaging a sunny Saterday morning in the green heart of Holland. Alongside a canal next to a narrow country lane a sign reads 'Farmhouse cheese for sale'. Although nowadays most cheese is produced in factories, there are still farmers who make their own; especially in the province of South Holland and the area around Utrecht.

Cheese is still made on over 600 farms.

Curds are pressed into shape in moulds >

Inside the farm there is a counter. The farmers wife is selling a wide variety of cheeses to cheese lovers who come from far and wide to buy their particular favourite. The farmer is busy with the vats in which the milk is left to coagulate until it forms curds and one of their sons is busy turning the cheeses in their plastic moulds. More cheese are ripening on the wooden shelves which run along the walls.

You are always welcome to taste the cheese. From the mild flavour of young cheese, to the fulller flavour from cheese which have been left to mature for several months. If you close your eyes the taste of the various cheeses combined with the sweet smell of the farm brings the past to the present day.

Make an appointment
On many farms the farmer and his wife will be happy to show you how cheese is made. Contact the Dutch Dairy Bureau for a list of the farms open to visitors and where cheese is sold. In some cases the farms are only open to visitors during restricted periods and many only make cheese during the summer months. In any event - always make an appointment before you call.

Cheese maturing on unpainted wooden boards.

Sheep and Goats
At one time goats were called the 'poor man's cow'. Nowadays sheep and goats provide an intersting alterantive for dairy farmers who can no longer keep cows due to levies and milk qoutas. The farms also make cheese from goat's milk. Its bittersweet taste, which gives its own distinctive flavour, is derived from the method of preparation.

Sheep cheese or ewes'cheese is white like goat's cheese, but usually it has a milder flavour. In any event, not many sheep are kept for their milk in Holland as most are reared for their wool and meat.