Behind the scenes at Clotton Hall Dairy in Cheshire
PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 November 2019
We take a glimpse into the day-to-day life of Clotton Hall Dairy founder Henry Cooke and discover what it takes to run a rural start-up
I live on the farm so once I'm up, I'll go straight to milking in the parlour. It's a two-man job so I'll be on the cows, while my brother, Rob, runs everything outside to make sure I have a steady flow of cows coming through. Out of our 250 herd, I'll milk 200 cows which takes me two hours. I grew up on the farm, so the early mornings don't bother me. I love farming but I realised that the family farm wasn't big enough for both my brother and me. I always knew I wanted to set up my own business and didn't want to move away, so when dad mentioned I should research other dairy products, I saw there was a gap in the market for a northern clotted cream.
I'll have an hour in the office sorting out deliveries, emails, audits and paperwork. While things are still improving and there's a lot going on to expand the business, the list is endless that I've got to work through. I'll work on things like looking at outsourcing deliveries - I'm getting everything in place for the next step, and strategically planning for the growth of the business which is very exciting!
Out and about
Delivery usually takes the rest of the morning. I'll deliver yesterday's cream production so it's as fresh as it can be. Some of the cream goes off to the wholesalers, but at the minute we are supplying six Morrisons stores so I'm delivering to those and putting the cream on the shelves myself! It's not usual, but I talk to the staff and building that relationship up with the locals is nice. It has taught me elements of marketing like placing the tubs of cream next to the strawberries. Sometimes my grandad, John Cooke, likes to come for a ride as he's been on the farm for a lot of his life, and still likes to be involved. He's so proud of what we've done, and he knows the future of the farm is in safe hands!
Now it's time to start making the cream. I'll be in the dairy for the next five hours (minus a very quick lunch break!). I get the raw milk and separate the cream from the skin. I put the cream into tubs and slow-bake it in the ovens - this is a key part of the process. The oven gives the clotted cream the nice golden crust on the top. It's then put into the cold-store overnight where it thickens up and turns into the clotted cream you find on the shelves! It's just me in there at the moment, but the plan is to get someone else in by the end of the year.
For parts of processing, I can multitask so I'll use this time to update our social media, which is important to a new business. I want to put our story out there with an inside look and show people the why behind Cheshire clotted cream. I like to show what's happening on the farm, and combine that with product shots too. I do have to concentrate though, because it can soon go wrong. I've learned that the hard way - teaching myself everything from scratch! It took six months to really learn how the cream is made and maintaining the fat content of the milk is so important. It has to be very precise and if it's not bang on, it won't make the cream.
We'll all sit and have tea together around the table as a family. Grandad will come round and we'll all go over the day and what has gone wrong and right. It's nice to get my family's opinion on everything and bounce ideas off them. Everyone can see the potential so we are all busting a gut at the moment. My brother has even changed his herd to suit the milk that I need. We brought in Danish milk cows and Jerseys to get a good, high-quality milk. My mum does the books and my dad is there whenever I need him.
You can't really switch off when you run your own business. We're currently trialling a new product, and hoping to launch it in March. I'll often use this time before bed to get back in the office, put some chilled music on and go through plans for the future. Apart from curry nights every other week with the lads, I don't really stop at the moment - but I wouldn't have it any other way! I try and be in bed by 10pm, otherwise I'll know about it at 5am! u