These cows are the cream of the crop!

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MILK produced by cows on a farm in Over Hulton are champion — and they have the rosettes to prove it.

Farmer Michael Partington, who owns and runs Dearden’s Farm, in Manchester Road, Over Hulton, has seen his homebottled milk named official champion at the Great Yorkshire Show — one of the country’s biggest agricultural shows — for five years out of the past seven.

In the process, he has beaten competition from some of the country’s biggest dairies, including Arla, Express Dairies and Longley Farm.

And one of the herd, named Lassie, even took some time out from producing milk this week to meet youngsters at Gilly’s Play and Pre-school in Rutherford Drive, Over Hulton.

Mr Partington, aged 48, says the secret to producing good milk is to “keep the cows happy and give them plenty of food”.

“I have a very simple system and I think that keeps the milk’s flavour,” he said. He keeps Ayrshire cows, which produce a richer milk than their Friesian cousins.

His 60-strong herd produce 400,000 litres of milk a year, which Mr Partington bottles himself.

He follows in the footsteps of his father, John Partington, who started farming in 1955.

“When I was a kid there were 30 or so farms bottling their own milk — now there’s only me left,” he said. “I still enjoy it, and a lot of people say they don’t know what they would do if I stopped.”

He sells the milk through his own farm shop and local newsagents, as well as supplying the larger dairies.

But do not expect to be able to pick up a bottle of semiskimmed — he produces only unhomogenised whole milk, saying he believes the extra processing ruins the flavour.

And with his wife, Ann- Marie, and five children — Thomas, Nicola, Rebecca, Fiona and Laura — all involved in the business, it seems the people of Bolton will be able to enjoy locally bottled milk for many years to come.

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