Good staff and attention to detail is the key to producing top quality milk, Fonterra suppliers Dave and Tracey Thompson say.
The Thompsons own Te Repo Farms on Otawahao Rd at Takapau and last week were presented with a gold award for four years of producing grade-free milk.
"These are farmers who have gone above and beyond to produce a premium product for Fonterra," Sandra Cordell, the Hawke's Bay representative on the Fonterra shareholders council said.
Mrs Cordell last week she joined a group of farmers who have supplied the dairy giant with grade-free milk.
In Dannevirke, along with the Thompsons, 20 other farmers were also recognised for their grade-free status.
"Fonterra has 163 gold grade-free suppliers nationally, with more than 1800 grade free," Mrs Cordell said.
Eight suppliers have been grade free for 10 years, including one who has been grade free for 30 years.
Grade-free suppliers allows Fonterra to meet its preferred customer status with a product that can command a premium price, Peter Hammond the regional food safety manager for Fonterra, said.
"Overall we had an outstanding season last year as far as milk quality was concerned," he said. "It takes effort to achieve a grade-free season and those suppliers are focused and have pride in supplying Fonterra with high-quality milk."
For the Thompson family and their staff, striving to produce the best milk they can is at the heart of their farm and their herd of 500 cows.
Dairy assistant Dan Anderson said having great bosses and being focused was key. And herd manager, Paul Coppinger agreed. "We all work as a team and we've got good bosses who let us do our job. Everyone knows what they've got to do. It's about good organisation and being consistent."
Fonterra director Malcolm Bailey said the company doesn't receive a premium because of a clean and green image. But instead, it's due to the quality of the milk supplied to the co-operative. "The pay back for farmers is the pride in what they do."
However, Te Rehunga farmer, Jim Mackay, wants the co-operative to pay a premium for grade-free milk. "There's a lot of work which goes into producing grade free milk and I've been harping on for the past 10 years of the need for the company to pay for that. But nothing comes from it."