Three adjectives starting with the letter ‘e’ nicely describe the Robinson family’s approach to dairy farming – enterprising, entrepreneurial and energetic.

Robert and Emma run a herd of 100 pedigree Holstein Friesians in Monmouthshire with their children, Harvey and Phoebe.

Together they have developed their business beyond bulk milk sales; they sell raw milk direct to consumers and generate further income from a novel equine business.

The Robinsons relocated to Grosmont Wood Farm from Bedfordshire seven years ago after a reorganisation of the family farming business.

“It was a fresh start for us and the children,’’ Emma explains.

“We brought the cows and the sheep with us and started to crack on as a family and with Alex, Heather and Ffion as our valuable part-timers.’’

The family were heavily invested in their new enterprise when the milk price crashed.

“We were initially paid 32 pence a litre but the price started to fall and at its lowest we received 11 pence for some of our milk,’’ Emma recalls.

With a background in sales, Emma investigated the possibility of selling raw milk direct from the farm.

That business has since flourished, with good demand from the local Kurdish community which uses raw milk to make a traditional cheese – individual sales can at times be as high as 200 litres.

“Selling milk for cheese is good business and I am really proud of that because it means we can get paid what we should be paid for our milk, every drop that we can sell for that we will,’’ says Emma.

It is time-consuming though as there is a lot of associated regulation and paperwork, particularly so since October 2020 when the rules around raw milk sales changed with greater requirements for testing for pathogens and coliform.

“I don’t resent that, I think it is a good thing because we are selling a raw product and it has to be safe for human consumption and properly labelled,’’ says Emma.

Direct sales of bottled milk to the local population increased enormously during the pandemic and the Robinsons worked hard to meet this demand, ensuring that every order was fulfilled.

The milk is produced from an all-year-round calving herd, with cows at grass from April to November.

They produce all the feed that goes into the total mixed ration (TMR) – maize, wholecrop, wheat, peas and barley, oats and grass silage.

The Robinsons also lamb 300 North Country mules.

Potential diversification opportunities were on Robert and Emma’s list of must-haves when they viewed farms before moving to Grosmont Wood Farm.

“We always asked ourselves: 'What else could we do here apart from produce milk?'” says Emma.

The farm had good equine facilities in place, so the couple saw potential for another income stream – a retirement home for horses.

They have four or five horses to care for at any one time.

“The owners want their horses to have a nice end of life, we look after them and give them a good lifestyle,’’ says Emma.

Phoebe shares Emma’s love of horses and Harvey is very interested in cow genetics.

Emma and Robert are delighted that their children have joined them in the business.

Harvey studied agriculture at Aberystwyth and during his sandwich year he spent 10 months in Canada working at Quality Holsteins under Ari Eckstein where he learned a great deal about genetics.

Phoebe’s farming skills were honed during a two-year residential placement at Ruskin Mill.

“We love having the children working with us, we have created it so that we can pay them a decent salary. It is very important to do that and to give them somewhere decent to live,’’ says Emma.

Keeping the family farm going is “very very important’’ she adds. “We wouldn’t be farming here now if it wasn’t for Robert’s grandfather taking on a farm tenancy in Bedfordshire. We owe so much to previous generations.’’