Bureaucracy meets country life on a field trip to the dairy farm: Emily Green reports on a Ministry of Agriculture visit to find out exactly what happens at the cutting edge of food production

THE SIGN at the gate of Woodbridge Farm, north Dorset, reads 'Reps by appointment only'. The tenant farmer, Michael Davies, 52, is a busy man. Yet today, he waits nervously in starched white smock and cap. It is 3pm, time for the afternoon milking, but he is expecting some reps worth seeing.

He is not sure what they want, but when brass from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food want to call, shepherded by executives from the National Farmers' Union, it seems prudent to entertain them.

Moreover, maybe he will ask them about that 200,000 litres worth of quota he would like. His guests will include the ministry's new head of milk, the past head of milk, the principal in charge of quotas, the lawyer in charge of quotas and the principal in charge of the European sector; under the current, tangled quota system, leasing this much extra quota from 'non-producing producers' would cost him pounds 50,000.

He has a speech of sorts prepared. He wants them to know that he began farming 30 years ago with pounds 500. Today he works 400 acres with his son and two hired hands. He has 150 Friesians, 125 of which are milking at any one time. He grows corn for silage, and milks them twice a day, rising at 4.45am and going to bed at 10pm. Moreover, he makes and sells 10-12 tonnes of Dorset Blue Vinny cheese a year, all by hand, all with raw milk. Then he keeps pigs, which consume the whey. A van arrives at 3.05pm, disgorging a group of hot civil servants and NFU executives, all wearing wellies. Their arrival coincides with a man arriving with a silage analysis. They listen attentively as its Ph balance is described, and thank him profusely. Never has silage been so fascinating.

Then Mr Davies leads the group to his lawn to relate his story, emphasising how he managed to pull through the introduction of quotas in 1984 when his parents were gravely ill. He speaks for 10 minutes, even confessing to once having siphoned milk off to avoid a fine for overproduction. He describes the eight years of trial and error that went into reviving Dorset Blue Vinny.

Then comes the tour of the cheese-making room, followed by the cold store. The entourage becomes alert and avid: the cheese smells wonderful. How much salt does he use? How does he blue the cheese? How much do the moulds cost? One asks Mr Davies how often he eats it himself. 'We don't,' he replies. 'It's too expensive.'

As the tour moves on to the rotary milking parlour, the officials crowd a balcony overlooking a mechanical carousel. It carries eight cows at a time, emptying the udders of each of some five gallons of milk. Asked how the cows like it, Mr Davies said: 'They love it. They'd fuss if they didn't. See how happy they look?'

Back to the farmhouse kitchen. Mr Davies and his wife, Christine, hurriedly brew tea and serve fruitcake. Mr Davies approaches the person he thinks is the principal in charge of quotas, a blonde woman with blue eyes and matching outfit. She knows the quota system is in need of reform, but just now she is on a fact-finding mission. Finally, the purpose of the visit, made earlier this week, is revealed. 'We try to organise these trips every year or so,' the organiser from the NFU said. 'Partly because civil servants change jobs and we need to brief new ones. Mostly because they are used to dealing with cows on paper. Seeing them in real life is an advantage, really.'

(Photographs omitted)

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Travel
travelWhy Japan's love hotels are thriving through an economic downturn
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week