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)

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Flat out: Michael Flatley will return to the stage in his show Lord Of The Dance
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux / Redhat / Solaris / Puppet / SAN

£65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape