FRESH MILK » Beach Road Milk Co: Ryan Gargan & Megan Turner. By Virginia Wright

Beach Road Milk Company is a raw milk com pany run by Ryan Gargan and his partner Megan Turner on a farm that he first leased off his grandfather 20 years ago.

The 30 effective hectares that Ryan runs his cows on is in Omata about 10 minutes from New Plymouth’s CBD. It backs onto the beach with a roughly 50-50 split between flat and gentle rolling to steep hills, which is where Ryan runs his dry cows while keeping his lactating cows close to the sheds on the flatter land. 

The need to have a steady milk supply 365 days a year dictates twice-a-year calving for his 56 cows, with cows having six to seven months lactation followed by five dry months. 

Ryan’s clear that he’s in the business of making a superior product, and careful handling of the source of that product is a given. “Our autumn mob calve in March and lactate through the winter and then we have the spring calving in September. Then we dry off our March calvers so they spend the summer dry and calve again in March,” explains Ryan. 

“So it’s a relatively short lactation which means a lot less stress on the animals, plus we only milk once a day so there’s no pressure on the cows, their immune system stays strong and they’re going to be in better health.”

Ryan believes that soil health is the other key ingredient to success. “Raw milk’s a great product anyway and we want to increase the value of that product. We use a mixed pasture species with three different legumes, four different types of rye, plantain, and chicory so they’ve got a superior product diet,” he explains.

It’s more about the health benefits than the taste per se as far as Ryan’s concerned so while he could make the milk fattier and sweeter by having a pure Jersey herd they run a Kiwi-X herd instead; a fifty-fifty mix of Jersey and Friesian. “So we’ve got that balance of protein and fat which sits around 5.85 to 6% fat which still gives it a nice flavour, and they suit the once-a-day milking as well,” he says.

The result of 20 years of breeding, the cows are all DNA profiled and A2 producing. Ryan first set up his raw milk business under the brand Beach Road Milk Company back in 2015. “We ran it completely organically, so obviously no pesticides, no herbicides, no chemical fertilizer in any way shape or form. I think that natural side of things is important for raw milk as well,” Ryan explains.

They’ve never looked to be certified organic however, with the current regime of being audited three times a year as a raw milk supplier, plus all the required testing, already costing them around $25,000 a year. Another layer of auditing to be certified would result in a price increase to the consumer which Ryan is keen to avoid. “Our milk is only $2.50 a litre which is rela tively cheap for raw milk, but when you see the consumers that come in it’s children and families that consume large quantities of milk, not adults.

So I’d rather see families come in and buy 12 litres at a time because it’s affordable and they can get the benefits. I’m not too worried about the people who aren’t price sensitive and who can buy their one litre at a time for $5.00 a week, that’s not our target market.”

With a stall where parents can stop on the school run to get their milk as well as organic veges, honey, jams, avocados and so on, Ryan is pleased with what they have on offer. “It’s nice to have time with the animals, time with the soil, time with the customers. We’ve created a bit of a community hub here in Omata so it’s enjoyable to be seen farming and to help bridge that urban-rural divide.”