milk man



IT’S A BRIGHT, warm sum­mer day as Nick Had­dow, founder of Bruny Is­land Cheese Co, drives down onto the river flats of his new farm where the mighty Huon flows through this ver­dant val­ley in south­ern Tas­ma­nia. Stopping at one of the hot-wired en­clo­sures, he pushes the wire down to the ground with his boot and ush­ers the way in to where his pride and joy — a small herd of dairy cows — are munch­ing on the rich grasses, while oth­ers, ly­ing down, lan­guidly chew cud in the sun. You won’t find the ubiq­ui­tous black and white cows at Glen Huon Farm though — this herd is made up of old dairy breeds: pretty-faced Brown Swiss, Aus­tralian Dairy Shorthorn, and the panda-eyed French breed Nor­mande. “We’ve se­lected three tra­di­tional cheese-mak­ing breeds, older breeds that are also dual pur­pose,” Nick says. “The Brown Swiss and Nor­mande pro­duce ex­cel­lent cows — the Aus­tralian Dairy Shorthorn was the foun­da­tion breed for the dairy in­dus­try here, and that loss of bio­di­ver­sity in the dairy in­dus­try is con­cern­ing me. Hav­ing a dairy herd is a huge learn­ing curve.” Mak­ing cheese in the old farm­house way that he learnt years ago in the moun­tains of France and Spain has been Nick’s un­wa­ver­ing goal. Orig­i­nally from South Aus­tralia, Nick started Bruny Is­land Cheese Co at Great Bay on Bruny Is­land in 2003, pro­duc­ing a range that in­cludes the clas­sic curd, un­pas­teurised Raw Milk C2. Now own­ing the cows that pro­duce the milk and the pas­ture they graze on is a dream come true and takes him back to the source, clos­ing the loop in the en­tire cheese­mak­ing process. Un­til 2014, he and his part­ner, Leonie Struthers, a fash­ion de­signer, lived in an old tim­ber home next to the cheesery with their chil­dren, Tilla, now 12, and Wilkie, 10. Then in 2015, the fam­ily moved up to Ho­bart, an hour’s drive north, for the chil­dren’s school­ing and for Leonie to pur­sue her busi­ness (her LJ Struthers la­bel is avail­able on­line and in The Maker store on Sala­manca Place in Ho­bart), while Nick com­muted to Bruny and back most days. In 2016, he started Bruny Is­land Beer Co with head brewer Evan Hunter. “The way we make beer re­flects our phi­los­o­phy on how we make cheese — low lev­els of au­to­ma­tion, hand­made, small unique batches,” he says. In be­tween all this, Nick’s also made reg­u­lar ap­pear­ances on the SBS TV se­ries Gourmet Farmer with Matthew Evans. It was while re­search­ing his book Milk. Made. (pub­lished in 2016), which Nick de­scribes as “ev­ery­thing I know about cheese”, that he started think­ing about hav­ing his own dairy herd. Pre­vi­ously he’d sourced milk from a sin­gle herd in New Nor­folk. “I vis­ited small dairy farms in the US and Europe, and re­alised a lot of peo­ple don’t think about cheese as be­ing a prod­uct of farm­ing, but it is. Great cheese is made from milk that is the sum of what that cow has eaten in the past 24 hours, which makes milk — and cheese — one of the most re­gional prod­ucts in the world. One cow, one pad­dock, one day is a unique com­bi­na­tion that changes ev­ery day.” So in 2016, Nick and three busi­ness part­ners bought 40 hectares of Glen Huon farm­land that had barely been touched for years. “We didn’t have to undo any­thing, but on the other hand, we had to do ev­ery­thing.” Across the >

river he leased another 48 hectares from Huon Aquaculture hatch­ery to grow feed. “We’ve achieved or­ganic cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for both prop­er­ties,” says Nick. They launched a crowd­fund­ing cam­paign to es­tab­lish the herd. Nick found Brown Swiss, one of the old­est dairy breeds in the world, at Pom­borneit in western Vic­to­ria. The Aus­tralian Dairy Shorthorn were from a herd in Bendigo, Vic­to­ria. The Nor­mande cows, a breed linked with Camem­bert cheese, and one bull, Nico, were from the Mount Gam­bier re­gion in South Aus­tralia. On the hill above the graz­ing flats, a new tim­ber-slat­ted dairy, built in the ver­nac­u­lar style of the Huon’s old ap­ple sheds, has been in oper­a­tion since last Septem­ber. Richard But­ler, a dairy farmer who came out from Devon in the UK to be­come farm man­ager early last year, milks the 55 head twice a day — cur­rently enough for their en­tire cheese pro­duc­tion. “We’re get­ting 22 litres from each cow each time — you’ll get 35 to 40 litres from a Hol­stein,” Nick says. And that’s the whole point — qual­ity over quan­tity, he ex­plains. The dairy is de­signed to be low stress for the cows, with min­i­mal tech­nol­ogy and au­to­ma­tion, and a lot of man­ual han­dling. “Most dairies are built for hu­mans, but we’re not part of the real dairy in­dus­try, so we get to choose how we farm. They’re not jammed in, and this oper­a­tion is high labour, and for the cows there’s a sense of peace and calm­ness. We took ef­fi­ciency and pro­duc­tiv­ity out of the equa­tion and re­placed it with an­i­mal wel­fare, en­vi­ron­men­tal re­spect and tra­di­tion.” Chick­ens work over the pad­docks as the cows are ro­tated around the farm, and ex­cess milk goes to their Berk­shire and Wes­sex Sad­dle­back pigs. The next stage is the build­ing of a new cheesery on the farm. Mean­while, a smaller cheese­mak­ing oper­a­tion will stay on Bruny, where the brew­ery will be ex­panded. Nick says they will be sell­ing their beef, veal and pork, beer and cheese at the new build­ing. “I’d love peo­ple to swing by our cel­lar door, and wan­der through the cows to eat cheese and drink beer by the river,” he adds. “On the farm we’ll be us­ing indige­nous moulds and yeasts as part of the mat­u­ra­tion, and the cheese we are pro­duc­ing on this farm will speak so highly of lo­ca­tion. Our num­ber one goal is to make un­pas­teurised cheese, and one of the rea­sons we started this was to make more raw milk cheese and to have com­plete con­trol over our milk. “A 10-year dream has come to fruition and now we’ve got a 10-year project ahead of us. I want to push bound­aries and I want to make cheese that rep­re­sents where it’s made. As a cheese­mak­ing goal, that’s kind of it for me.” For in­for­ma­tion on Bruny Is­land Cheese Co, Glen Huon Dairy and Bruny Is­land Beer Co, tele­phone (03) 6260 6353 or visit brun­y­is­land­

“I’d love peo­ple to swing by our cel­lar door, and wan­der through the cows to eat cheese and drink beer by the river.”

There will soon be a new cheesery at Glen Huon for Bruny Is­land Cheese.

The mixed herd is made up of tra­di­tional her­itage milk­ing breeds: Nor­mande, Brown Swiss and Aus­tralian Dairy Shorthorn cows.

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