In the West Cape province of South Africa, a group of unique farmers are working cooperatively on an organic homestead, which includes a small herd of jersey cows and onsite dairy. Each has their own job and refined skillset. Thanks to their efforts, residents of greater Cape Town have access to high-quality dairy and other farm-fresh foods year-round. An update to the dairy milking equipment, with the support of GEA in late 2020, means milking is now a more hygienic, efficient and enjoyable experience which can be scaled up in the future.
Camphill Village was established in 1964 as a residential facility, where today, nearly 100 adults with diverse disabilities and special needs are given an opportunity to lead a healthy and productive life. With challenges ranging from brain injuries, intellectual disabilities and down syndrome, Camphill provides its vulnerable residents a safe haven where the focus is on getting “stuck in” by creating useful, value-added products.
For CEO, James Sleigh, son of the organization’s founder, the purpose and value of the Camphill Village is clear: “Many of our residents have lived under the banner, or label, of their disability for many years. In many cases when they have come to Camphill Village, it has been the first time that they have been seen and appreciated for who they truly are and for their abilities, as opposed to being judged by their disabilities.”
Quality organic farm products for the West Cape region
Set on a 220-hectare farm near Philadelphia just north of Cape Town, the organization sought to become more self-sufficient in the late 1980s by adding a jersey dairy herd and milk processing facility to its operations. Alongside it’s flourishing produce, herb and bakery activities, the Camphill Village dairy has continued to thrive over the years, providing organic dairy products for the residents and surrounding communities. The income from the dairy provides critical funds for the residents who live onsite full time and for paying the support staff.
The dairy cows at Camphill are raised without antibiotics and hormones and on land managed without the use of pesticides. Outside of milking, the herd spends the rest of the day roaming and grazing in a nearby field. From their milk, Camphill’s expert dairy team produces pasteurized milk, crème, crème fraiche, gouda, feta, labneh, cheddar cheese, quark, butter and yoghurt at its onsite solar-powered dairy processing facility.
Camphill Village products enjoy a good reputation and solid customer base in the greater Cape Town commercial market; many supermarkets carry their products and customers also seek them out at open air food markets – particularly Camphill yoghurt, which is considered one of the best in the area. That said, increasing raw material handling and dairy production had remained a long-standing challenge for Camphill. The original milking equipment, purchased in the 1980s, was long overdue for an upgrade, along with the dairy processing facility which suffered from an outdated design hindering flow and processing efficiency.
Camphill Villages gets a modern milking parlor that suits its special needs
The relationship between Camphill and GEA kicked off in 2018 when Camphill Farm Manager, Antonius Verhoeven, got a glimpse of GEA milking equipment in action at a trade fair. Soon after, a GEA Farm Technologies team began working closely with Camphill’s management team to find the right milking solution for their needs. The equipment and installation would need to deliver on: process optimization, ease of maintenance and repairs, improved hygiene and safety.
Two years later, with financial support from German NGO Rays of Hope and some goodwill investment from GEA, Camphill was able to replace its bucket milking system with an in-line “flat” milking system featuring a 1x8 point high line layout. This meant the new parlor could be installed without altering the existing building or major construction work. In this case, it was necessary that the milking equipment meet modern standards but without a high degree of automation since residents benefit from maintaining close contact with the cows during milking. In fact, this physical interaction is considered to have therapeutic benefits. Key features of the new GEA milking parlor include:
- GEA Classic 300 milking clusters with GEA ClassicPro GQ liners
- GEA DemaTron 75 control units with GEA Metatron MB flow meters and automatic cluster removers
- A fixed 50mm milk and wash line and 70-liter end-unit with 0.55-kilowatt milk pump
- A SineTherm automatic wash unit
The integration of a system for recording milk enables the farm to automatically collect and store data about individual animals. This tool, coupled with the integration of DairyPlan Herd Management Software, allows the team to take informed decisions related to production, health and fertility and means they can effectively grow the milking herd over time.
We chose GEA because their team patiently listened to and responded to our myriad of questions – kindly assisting us even before we had committed to purchasing anything. The installation was accompanied by friendly, easy to understand explanations of all the equipment as well as hands-on training for our people.” - Antonius Verhoeven, Estate Manager & Farm Manager, Camphill Village
Thanks to the excellent advice, service and equipment from GEA, our dairy operation has a more secure and bright future. As one of the economic engines of our organization, the dairy supports the important work of our residents and their ability to live purposefully, while providing the local communities with quality organic dairy products.” - James Sleigh, CEO, Camphill Village
A vision becomes reality
Thanks to these important upgrades, which have improved availability and reliability parameters, the dairy operation at Camphill Village has a much higher throughput of milk products and provides a more stable income stream. Today, with just under 30 cows currently being milked out of a herd of 50, Camphill will finally be able to increase its milk production and dairy processing output.
Camphill Village’s dairy strategy appeals to its customer base, who increasingly value brands that focus on sustainable value creation. Building on this solid foundation, Camphill would like to see their operation become a showcase that attracts more locals and those further afield, including tourists and other aspirational organic dairy farmers. They are well on their way.