When Suzanne Daubney and husband Mat took over the family farming business in 1998, little did they know what challenges would lie ahead.
Now the managing director of Northcliffe-based dairy farm Bannister Downs, which was founded in 1924 and is one of the top dairy producers in WA’s South-West, Daubney’s takeover came at a difficult time with the deregulation of the dairy industry in 2000.
“It was certainly a low point in our business, and the WA industry across the board,” the mother-of-four said.
“I can only say that sometimes it takes very desperate times to force the leap of faith and that was the beginning of our journey.”
Following years of research and planning, in 2005 Daubney decided it was time to take on the retail market.
It was a move that paid off, with Daubney finding a way to manufacture and bottle a range of fresh milk (initially starting out with just Farm Fresh and All Lite milk) at their Bannister Downs farm.
Since then, their milk and cream has also become the go-to for many local artisan producers.
“Pemberton Butter Company is a new business that has recently been successful at the Perth Royal Food Awards and we are seeing their products appearing in more and more shops which is great for them and us,” Daubney said.
“Chicho Gelato is another customer of ours and makes premium ice cream. The Homemade Kitchen use our cream and milk in their produce as do The French Pantry in Nannup.”
Bannister Downs milk is also popular with baristas.
“Our milk, when steamed, for coffees is simply luxurious — at times it is like marshmallow and will hold its froth for ages,” Daubney said.
“Other times it is like silk and just has the most amazing texture. The variation comes about with the seasonality, and according to how many cows are freshly calved and what the grass versus hay ration is like.”
Bannister Downs, which joined forces with billionaire Gina Rinehart in 2014, also takes pride in its ethical production process. Not only are cows free to roam sprawling grassy pastures in-between milking sessions, but their milk and cream — which is loaded onto trucks just hours after it is extracted — is free of additives, colours, thickeners and stabilisers to maintain its farm- fresh quality.
“We begin with a high quality raw milk and we have learned that this does make a big difference in the quality of our finished product,” Daubney said.
“We now better understand the impact that feed rations have on the properties of milk and how fragile it can be, and so we have made small changes along the way in our care for our dairy herd.”
Bannister Downs will soon open its state-of-the-art creamery which includes plans for a cafe and area where consumers can watch the production process.
Daubney said there has been growing interest from consumers who want to know where their food comes from.
“We have regular enquiries about how we make our product and these include how we care for our calves, our cows and our environment,” she said.
Being a member of Buy West Eat Best has helped provide a united voice for the dairy industry. “In agricultural unity it’s a huge challenge due to the diversity within the industry as well as the far-reaching locations involved, so BWEB offers a conduit for collaboration across a range of activities.”
Link to original article by Vanessa Williams in The West Australian.