Naturally Enriched Milk innovations (Nemi) was incorporated in 2011 but can trace its roots and ethos back to 1999 when Andrew Henderson's dream of building his own specialist dairy feed company became a reality as Independent Feeds Ltd opened for business. His goal from day one was to optimise the nutritional health of the dairy cow — in short to develop a 'Dairy Cow Delicatessen'.
With two qualified dairy nutritionists, they signed an initial supply contract with Lloyds Animal Feeds, the largest privately owned feed manufacturer in the UK. They designed fixed formulated bespoke diets for their consumers — the cow.
Within two years Independent Feeds were supplying products to 5% of the dairy herds in Cheshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire. Inroads were made with well-respected farmers, and their cow performance figures were comfortably in the top 25% of the recorded herds in the country.
The Independent Feeds motto "Your Success Is Our Future" was gaining momentum when 2001 saw the disastrous outbreak of Foot & Mouth disease in the UK Dairy Herd. This event highlighted the essential need for excellent cow nutrition combined with disease prevention and bio-security.
To align with this new requirement the team, alongside their nutritional expertise, decided to focus on products and services that would help maintain the dairy cows' health, with the aim of supporting the cows' immune system, productivity and efficiency. Working with local vets and Edinburgh University, they optimised vitamin and mineral requirements in the products sold to farmers.
Independent Feeds knew that to achieve continued success they had to be at the forefront of nutrition innovations to give their cows better health; this continues to be our primary ethos.
Colin Hamilton joined Independent Feeds as Dairy Product Manager from one of their largest competitors in 2002. A qualified dairy nutritionist with an Honours Degree in Agriculture, Colin brought a passion for improving cow health to underpin performance.
Colin knew that since 1945, with more intensive farming techniques, the UK soil had become deficient in Selenium and Alltech (the largest private animal health company in the World) were developing a natural form of Selenium that cows could easily digest and replace any deficiency they may have in their diet.
The concept was simple; cows that produce large amounts of milk put pressure on their udder tissue, and it is protein-bound Selenium that protects the cell walls in the udder tissue from disease. Therefore, if you feed optimum levels of Selenium Yeast (Sel-Plex), you will protect the cows udder and reduce cell counts and improve productivity.
Colin undertook some of the initial trial work with Selenium Yeast (Sel-Plex) and witnessed marked improvements in all aspects of cow health. In 2003, Alltech released the trial results confirming the benefits of Sel-Plex in Dairy cows.
Independent Feeds was the first local company to introduce Selenium yeast (Sel-Plex) as total replacement Selenium in all their Dairy cow diets.
Ray Brown's 'Bidlea' herd was the first to receive a delivery of feed with Sel-Plex and very quickly the results were clear: somatic cell counts fell & milk production increased.
In 2005, Alltech began raising awareness of this natural enrichment with Selenium — on average 30% higher than standard milk, with further evidence showing that enriched milk could also have significant health benefits for humans.
Andrew contacted local vet Steve Leonard, the TV wildlife personality who at the time was working on the BBC series "The Journey Of Life", to ask if he would help promote milk which could benefit cow and human health. Steve shared the team's passion for the concept, and they began to develop an idea to sell the milk locally as Selk.
Local farm shop Cheerbrook's market tested the enriched milk and commissioned a small production run. The sales were impressive and Selk out-sold standard and semi-skimmed milk by a ratio of 8:1. While this milk was 48% Selenium-enriched, there was no programme in place to guarantee consistent enrichment levels. This was going to be essential for product development and Trading Standards accreditation — which is why the 'Healthy Herd Programme' was designed and implemented.
To comply with European Food Standards Agency requirements, Alltech had to submit evidence of accurate levels of Selenium in organic yeast along with independently verifiable research to support the health claims of Selenium yeast in humans and animals. This process would take over two and a half years to resolve successfully. This achievement was quite remarkable as most mineral or elemental supplements fail to achieve EFSA accreditation because the evidence for their claims is either poor or non-existent.
To strengthen the team from the human health perspective Dr Russell Muirhead, a partner in the Audlem GP practice and Chairman of Shropdoc, the GP Urgent Care Cooperative, was approached. Russell was asked to analyse and evaluate the human health benefits of naturally enriched Selenium milk. In May 2010, he travelled to The Sanders-Brown Center on Ageing at Kentucky University in Lexington, USA, where the latest research on the benefits of antioxidants including Selenium was being coordinated. To our delight, Russell confirmed that the research was very robust. Indeed, he was so enthusiastic he offered to become an active stakeholder in the programme as it developed.
It became clear at this time that if all the potential benefits of Selenium-enriched milk were to be realised, the project had to be driven by a company dedicated to it. Naturally Enriched Milk Innovations Ltd (Nemi) was set up to harness all the technology and talents required to make Selenium-enriched milk a reality.
Over the next two years, the Nemi team drew on their experience and various scientific resources to design and implement the 'Healthy Herd Programme'. The 'HHP' doesn't just deliver a balanced diet to the cow, but also includes other important elements of high-quality animal husbandry and health because healthy cows are happy cows, a status that is reflected in their performance. You cannot produce Selenium-enriched milk from unhealthy cows. For more information on the healthy herd programme click here.
In the autumn of 2011 Nemi teamed up with Donald McCrone, Director of Fayrefield Liquids, who commissioned our Healthy Herd Program to prove the concept at scale. From there we consulted with Trading Standards to agree on the process and verify both the natural enrichment of our milk and, more importantly, our claims for the human and animal health benefits of our dairy products. One of the reasons Nemi milk is so good and nutritious is our attention to detail and well controlled production standards.
Nemi wants to bring benefits to everyone in the Selenium-enriched chain, from the cow to the consumer, and what better place to start than through your daily pint of milk.
Nemi Milk is available to buy from a variety of local shops with increasing outlets on a daily basis as our reputation grows.