A restructured management approach that has put more onus on staff is paying dividends for farm managers Isaac and Michelle Johnstone.
The farming property has been purchased by the founder of the Bruny Island Cheese Company, Nick Haddow, who is recognised as the first producer of unpasteurised milk cheese in Australia. He regularly appears on SBS Television series Gourmet Farmer.
Haddow wants to prove that small-scale, quality dairy farming can be viable in Australia. The dairy farm aims to set a new standard in dairy farming, and will focus entirely on maximising milk quality, and wants to gain organic certification recognition. “As a small business, this is a huge step for us, but a vital one.”
Haddow believes he can produce around 5,500 litres of high quality milk a week in peak performance, which will supply his Bruny Island cheesery. He currently sources milk from a dairy in New Norfolk, Tasmania.
The farm will run a small herd of 55 rare-breed cows such as Brown Swiss and Australian Dairy Shorthorn, both prized for producing quality milk for cheese making.
Haddow has two decades of experience in the dairy industry in Australia and overseas. His new property has been used as a dairy, apple orchards and for beef production and tobacco growing. The purchase will also open up a new primary producer market for him, with intentions to sell rose veal and beef to his cheese customers.
Tasmania’s Huon Valley was once a vibrant dairy region, home to dozens of small dairies that have all since closed down.
He believes his farm will be successful despite the region losing dozens of dairies in the past couple of decades because he’s value-adding to the milk.
“We won’t be selling the milk, we’ll be using it to produce the best cheese we can,” he says.
He also intends to build a new cheesery dedicated to only making raw milk (unpasteurised) cheeses at the Glen Huon farm, which would make it the only place of its kind in Australia.
“This will allow us to expand our raw milk cheese production and to have a platform where we can develop our cheese even more,” Haddow says.
Haddow hopes that public interest in his alternative approach to dairy farming will help him raise the funds needed to get the farm up and running, prompting him to launch a crowdfunding campaign to purchase the cows, which will cost about $2000 a head.
He hopes the crowdfunding bid will raise enough money to purchase the cows ($110,000 and then build the dairy, a further $380,000). The campaign had raised just over $90,000 at the time of writing.
The primary producer has been raising the bar for artisan cheese in Australia since launching on remote Bruny Island in 2003.
He initially followed the traditional primary producer model, making cheeses and selling them to the middle man to be on-sold. But after dabbling in exports he turned the business on its head, which has resulted in him pocketing full margin, albeit at much higher costs.
“It’s pretty easy to package up a pallet of cheese and sell it to one customer. But we’re selling direct to our biggest brand advocates and we’ve built a relationship with them, which takes a whole lot more time and resources within the business,” Haddow says.
He built a cheese club that has grown to more than 21,000 members, and ships cheese across Australia in under 48 hours at a flat rate of $15. Bruny Island Cheese will turn over just shy of $3 million in financial year 2016, and also just added Bruny Island Beer Company to its portfolio.