We have been a producer, processor and distributor of milk to the east of Pretoria since 1957, producing high quality, affordable milk. Our beginnings were with raw certified milk, then pasteurised and now homogenised milk. Registered as a Pty Ltd company in 1968 we started doing home deliveries, which we continued right up until around 1994, even though we had already started delivering to shops, factories and businesses in the east of Pretoria by that time.
The herd was started by George Harrop-Allin Snr. and his brother-in-law Hubert Knight at the farm Willowdene in the Willows and continued by David Yeomans (who was later joined by his son Michael Yeomans) here at the farm in Willow Valley in the Cullinan Magisterial District, east of Pretoria.
We used liquid semen insemination to begin with; Andy Rothman from Taurus did the inseminations on our behalf, before we, as farmers, were allowed to artificially inseminate our own herd. When we moved out here to Willow Valley in 1972, the farm was out of the designated area and so we were forced to revert back to using our own bulls; that is, until David Yeomans went to an artificial insemination course at Onderstepoort in 1979. We then began to use “imported” bulls like Fleisbank Helderberg (FVH), Fleisbank Ivan (FIN), FPS, EML, EX, FMJ, etc. These bulls were the top sires of the time and we used them all to improve our herd. They were recommended by Errol Dicks (Head Geneticist at Taurus in those years). All the top bulls Taurus had from 1979 onwards have formed an important part in the genetics of our present herd.
We then came across the idea of using imported semen, but to begin with, it didn’t do as well as we expected, but in 1999, we made contact with Errol Dicks again. He had begun his own agency (GAI) along with Hendrick Steyn, his regional geneticist, and was selling imported European semen. They introduced Willow Valley to some of the top European genetics. We not only became interested due to the high accuracy of their bull testing, but began using European semen, because of the longevity of their herds, high milk solids and their good semen quality. Their top bulls are also easily accessible, with no strings attached. One of the most important aspects of our herd is that, because of the variety and relatively short employment of bulls used, there is very little inbreeding in the herd.
Situated near Cullinan, we have a total area of 275,34 hectares that we use for grazing or crop production, we are 1440m above sea level and our average annual rainfall is 775mm. Our herd is TB and CA certified and has been so for the last 46 years. The herd is on a total mixed ration and all roughage is grown on the farm, with the exception of lucern, which is produced from external suppliers. We grow our own maize and mix our own concentrate. And so, maize silage forms an important part of our ration, as all non-producing animals are on pasture and a maize-residue diet.
We market and distribute all our own milk, fresh cream and maas under the Willow Valley label. Our milk is tested by and independent testing facility, to ensure that we maintain the highest possible standard during milking, as well as during the bottling and packaging process. These two processes take place in a well-equipped factory on the farm. We also supply a range of good quality fruit juices to the public; from 100% orange, mango or tropical punch with no added sugar, to a 90% orange, 20% guava, 40% mango, 20% litchi juice and lastly the newest addition to our product range: 100% pomegranate juice, all of these are mixed and packaged on the farm.
On two days of the week, namely Mondays and Wednesdays, we allow for school journey services to visit us and on Tuesday and Thursdays we allow for individual school visits. Michael gives the children a short talk and then shows them how we milk and package. Most children find this to be a very exciting and fun journey of learning about a product they so often use, but never question where it comes from.
We are members of the Milk Producers Organisation - SAMPRO, the SA Holstein Breeders Association and of Milk Recording. We believe in organised agriculture.