My travels in Australia last month included a visit to a dairy farm and milk processing facility. One-hundred-twenty Guernsey cows grazed the pastured hills in Maleny, in the state of Queensland, Australia, which is an hour north of Brisbane on the Eastern Coastline. Cows are milked in a swing parallel parlor.
Maleny Dairies is a family owned business that has had three generations of farming on the same property since 1948. With Australian milk industry deregulation in 2000, and the resulting drastic drop in income, the Hoppers considered leaving the industry. Their income was cut in half, so they decided to fight back by building a milk processing plant. This helped the family and other local farmers facing similar financial challenges survive.
In 2000, the Australian government deregulated the industry and took the government's influence out of milk pricing, leaving the processing plants with the ability to control the price paid to producers without any restrictions or minimum pricing. This has taken its toll on many Australian dairy farmers. Grocery stores are selling milk to consumers at very low prices as they compete with other chain stores. Maleny Dairies sells a premium product and pays more to their producers than other milk buyers.
Maleny Dairies decided to process their own milk in the hopes of being a viable and sustainable dairy. They process their own milk and are expanding their brand outside of their rural community. Since Guernseys produce a higher fat content in their milk, they chose to market a Guernsey-only milk, Farmers Choice Guernsey Milk. It is pasteurized, but not homogenized or standardized, which means that the level of fat stays at the same level as it left the cow. They also produce low fat milk, skim milk, full cream milk, chocolate, coffee and strawberry flavored milk, as well as yogurt and gluten-free custard. The remaining milks are pasteurized and homogenized. When the eldest Hopper retired from milking cows, he decides to start milking goats, so they also process and sell goat milk. Their dairy products have won awards for quality and taste at national competitions.
They have added the milk from six nearby farms to help meet demand, however not all of them have Guernseys. So, the milk from those herds cannot be used for the Farmers Choice Guernsey Milk.
Maleny Dairies also does a great job with agritourism, hosting two tours daily. They have a Guernsey cow that is used for milk demonstrations. Visitors can learn to milk a cow by hand before moving onto the modern dairy facility where they can see how cows are milked today. There is a picnic area for eating their ice cream, yogurt and shakes, and drinking milk. A theater with a video about the farm, Guernsey memorabilia and educational dairy items are displayed. The processing facility is a short walk from the picnic area and has a large viewing area so visitors can see the stainless steel equipment which pasteurizes and homogenizes the milk. They can also see into the next room where the milk flows into the plastic jugs.
They have an active Facebook page and website where they promote community-based activities. Since I returned from the trip, I became a fan of their page and have a greater appreciation for their promotion of the dairy industry.