Clever move into cheese
PACKING up their kids and cows and moving to Tasmania was a bold move for Matt and Andy Jackman, but one that has certainly paid off. The couple moved to Tasmania from Victoria in 2009 and took their herd of Aussie Red dairy cows with them.
Mrs Jackman said before the move they had been battling through drought and it was time for a change.
The family settled on a property at Oldina in the state’s northwest.
Their next goal was to introduce value-adding to their business, which they did by adding an on-farm cheese processing facility.
That was six years ago and since then production has increased to the point where they employ award-winning cheesemaker Darren Pease, who manages the factory.
After starting out producing about five tonnes of cheese a year, Red Cow now makes around 20 tonnes annually.
Two years ago the Jackmans achieved another one of their goals – to be certified organic producers.
Mrs Jackman said their ultimate aim was to farm biologically, which they were now well on the way to doing.
“If you’re going to choose organic, it has to be a philosophical design, not just about economics,” she said.
“This is the way we want to farm, but it also gives us a point of difference with the products we produce here.”
Making the change to biodynamic farming has also produced benefits on the farm. Mrs Jackman said by focusing on improving soil biology, this had also created more species diversity in pastures.
“A big part of it for us has been learning what our farm needs and once you get everything working well, what it is capable of,” she said.
The Jackmans have also seen an improvement in cow health across the herd.
“That’s one of the first questions people ask – how do we treat our cows,” Mrs Jackman said.
“Animal welfare comes first for us, so if we need to get the vet we do, but most of the time now we just don’t see many problems. If we do, there are also a lot of homeopathic remedies that we can use and a lot of the ingredients are in the pantry.”
Mrs Jackman said over time they had also selected their cows for robust genetics.
Being certified organic, Mrs Jackman said they now had a closed-loop system and produced everything on farm.
This has meant having to reduce their cow numbers.
However, this has been offset by an increase in milk production per cow.
At present the cheese factory is using about 250,000 litres of the milk produced on farm and the rest is supplied to Fonterra.
Mrs Jackman said it was encouraging to see more companies now looking to source organic milk.
The Jackmans also rear all their calves and have branched out into organic beef production.
As part of changes to the operation, the couple have also introduced a business partner.
Mrs Jackman said when it comes to marketing their products, brand integrity was crucial.
“Our customers are really interested in the ethics behind the systems we use,” she said. “We invite our new customers out on to the farm now, so they can see for themselves what goes on and how it all works.”
While their goal is to remain a premium producer, the Jackmans’ next focus will be expanding sales of Red Cow products on Australia’s eastern seaboard.
Mrs Jackman said they were also about to launch the first online cheese club for the business.
❝ If you’re going to choose organic, it has to be a philosophical design, not just about economics. — Andy Jackman
GOING ORGANIC: Red Cow Organics’ Andy Jackman with an Aussie Red cow and hereford cross Aussie Red calf at Oldina. The Jackmans diversified their business with an on-farm cheese processing facility and now create 20 tonnes of cheese a year.