Today I thought I’d take you on a tour of our new Dairy Complex,
as a few people have asked me to post some photos of it. So here we go….
***Please note this post is currently short of photos – we’re having difficulty uploading them to the site. Bear with us!****
To give an idea of the timescale it’s taken to get to this stage, we originally inquired about ordering the building whilst visiting a very damp Royal Welsh Show in July 2007. The full order was placed a month or so later; although because there was a waiting list we were advised that the building couldn’t be erected until November at the earliest. No matter; we’d still be well within the timescale to launch the business on 1st March 2008.
Owing to the appalling summer drifting into an equally miserable autumn, all timescales were slipped – including ours; as the inclement conditions meant that a lot of work had to be put on hold & our own site was far too boggy for work to commence.
But on my birthday – 16th December – the groundworks equipment finally arrived. Hooray! Then of course, it was Christmas & New Year, so the machinery just sat there….
….However after an initial lull at the beginning of January things picked up; & the groundworks began in earnest. For me it was a sorrowful day when the old stone wall which bordered the lower part of the driveway, along with the horseshoe-shaped tank which used to hold the water for the mill race, were demolished; as an archaeologist I felt these things should have been preserved if at all possible. However I now see that it would not have been feasible to erect the building if they’d remained in situ; & there simply was nowhere else that a building of this size & scale could have been erected.
Once the groundworks were completed there was another lull in the proceedings whilst we awaited the delivey of the building. Further bad weather had resulted in further delays; & as luck would have it the building was delivered to site whilst we were away in Italy, studying to become Gelatières Artigianales in Bologna. And there were all sorts of problems; it was, frankly, a nightmare as it transpired the levels of the groundworks were out by around 4ft at the North end of the site. So far away in Italy, we felt powerless to do anything – it wasn’t a happy day (February 13th, as I recall). And rather than taking only one week to erect the building we had been supplied with only two people to complete the entire shed….so it was pretty obvious we wouldn’t be up & running in there, by St David’s Day 1st March as we’d intended. In fact it seemed unlikely we’d even have the goats in there by then; another worry, as we were running out of space for mums & kids – so it was going to be a pretty challenging juggling act.
But once the building was up, everything ground to a halt – we’d run out of funds to go any further. Desperate to start processing we rehashed our Business Plan & consulted Bank Managers; meanwhile visiting Food Centre Wales to discuss the feasibility of making gelato there for the time being. That wasn’t a problem; however we still needed a full milking parlour built to the required Food Hygiene standards in the new building before we could actually produce the milk for sale.
Thankfully Dreda – friend & goat guru – came up with the ideal solution – she spotted an advert for a complete parlour, housed in the back of a lorry body. So in mid-May the parlour was purchased, & moved onto the farm….but that didn’t happen for another month; as it had to be decommissioned which took a lot longer than we’d anticipated as it was a question of the original owner ‘getting around to it’.
Things went wrong from the day it arrived. For a start we could only get it part-way into the Dairy Complex as the rear of the parlour proved to be extremely fragile; however ‘local hero’ Lloyd, rushed over with the requisite equipment & manouevred it exactly into place.
To be honest I’d rather naïvely assumed that it would then just be a case of connecting the pipes & wires, & we’d be all set to milk – but that wasn’t the case, there was more – so much more – to it, than that. First it had to be concreted into place; then the plant, bulk milk tank & washrooms had to be constructed & cladded; then the pipewrk & drainage connected; then electrics installed in the building….& a crucial point which had been completely overlooked – the gate system for the goat pens ordered, construtcted, delivered & installed. We’ve ended up having to do this in three phases, which admittedly isn’t a problem as we won’t need Phase Three for another year or so. At the moment we use the North end of the Dairy Complex to store hay & straw – so guess what, that will be next year’s challenge, I dare say…
Work was apace on the day we launched our business at the Royal Welsh Show on 22nd July & we had high hopes of working in the new parlour, within a couple of weeks if not days. However things rarely go as planned: one of the workmen disappeared for several weeks on holiday without giving us prior warning (I suspect he knows he wouldn’t have been given the contract had he told us); inclement weather caused other setbacks; the hard drive which operated the new computerised parlour system had been broken in transit & needed replacing & reprogramming. All in all it was a pretty miserable summer.
However it was a wonderful day when we finally moved the goats into their new home, & we were very happy to milk in the new parlour, even if though we did still suffer the inconvenience of having to use our original twin-arm bucket system. And that’s where we are, today…..desperately awaiting the call from the dairy engineer to tell us the last few bits & pieces have arrived; & for the new computer to be programmed so we can get cracking with twelve goats at a time rather than just the four we’re currently having to work with.
And whilst the containers which will house our process rooms are at least on site, it’s going to be a long haul to get them up to spec; although at least we can, thankfully, work from the wonderful premises at Food Centre Wales for the time being.
So there you go – it’s taken well over a year to get to this point; & we’re still not quite ‘there’ yet. But at least we’re in…!!