Carting milk to the end of the farm lane in churns was once a daily job on dairy farms across Wales before production shifted to bulk tank systems.

For Roger James there is a certain irony in that job being resurrected on the farm where four generations of his family have milked cows.

The churns have been replaced by a mobile chiller vessel that Roger and his partner, Angharad Edwards, fill with pasteurised milk from their crossbred herd and haul to the end of the lane after morning milking to supply their milk vending machine.

A converted garden shed to house the machine is sited where the lane-end milk stand once stood in the era when Roger’s grandfather produced milk at Moat Grange, New Moat.

While there are some connotations with the past it is anything but a retrograde step as milk is sold for £1.20 a litre, many times more than the price paid for the farm’s bulk milk sales, and a huge uplift from the decade of rock bottom milk prices that marked Roger’s first ten years as a dairy farmer.

Roger farms in partnership with his father, Robert, and brother, Simon, with support from Angharad, who works as a director on 'Ffermio', the S4C farming programme produced by Telesgop.

The family farms 320 acres of owned land and rents a further 80 where they produce milk from a herd of 280 cows bred from a three-way cross of British Friesians, Montbéliardes and Norwegian Reds.

They went down this route after initially breeding a Holstein herd.

“I remember being told by the salesman 'I’ll breed you just the cow you want' and then we bred a pile of Holsteins and I hated them!’’ Roger recalls.

“They just weren’t my cup of tea, they just didn’t last.’’

With the current genetics he reports good foot health and high milk quality, producing an annual average per cow of 7,500 litres at 4.36 per cent butterfat and 3.51 per cent protein with milk sold to First Milk.

The herd has a late-autumn calving pattern, from mid-October to December, with 260 calving over 11 weeks.

The herd is milked in a 16/32 swingover parlour, supported by a workforce of three – Steve Bacon, Andrew Williams, and Angharad’s mother, Wendy.

As well as milk production, the business rears up to 50 head of beef cattle a year to sell as stores through Whitland market.

British Blue genetics are used on the herd and two Limousin stock bulls run with the herd after AI.

Roger is keen to keep the business moving forward, possibly finishing cattle to take the risk out of a bovine TB herd breakdown, so at the top of his wishlist are sheds and land.

“More sheds and more land, that’s what we need,’’ he admits. “I don’t think I would want to push for more cow numbers but increasing the scale of the beef side of the business is something I am keen on.’’

Although Angharad’s job on Ffermio takes up a big chunk of her time, she is on hand to help out when needed before she starts that job in the mornings and on weekends too, feeding calves in the autumn and pasteurising milk for the direct sales.

Angharad has been a driving force in getting Moat Grange’s Llaeth Preseli milk vending business established, attending a business development training course and research at Food Centre Wales, Horeb.

She was keen to add value to the farm milk after viewing the trend towards locally produced food through the lens of her media role.

“People really do want to know where their milk comes from, it’s all about the story, and from our point of view it is about future-proofing the farm,’’ she says.

The couple have noticed a definite trend with sales, with over-40s buying the milk and the under-40s spending their money on the milkshakes; sales average 60 litres a day.

They deliberated at length before setting the price point at £1.20 for a litre of milk while some of the other vending businesses in Wales charge £1.

“It is our responsibility as dairy farmers to put a true value on milk, it is a premium product and for too long it has been undervalued,’’ Angharad insists.

“It is good to see so many vending machines across Wales, we all have that same motive.’’