Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Still milking

So much for drying the ewes up before Christmas! With all these summer storms, plenty of green feed in the paddock and the support of green sprouts the milk volume has stayed up for the meantime. We have added lupins to the barley which is the icing on the cake according to the ewes. In fact I rather like the taste of bean shoots myself. So we have fresh sheep products for the busy holiday season in the shop. The Baa Black is popular - outstanding in a comparison with the legendary ashed Paradigm Log (goat milk), with its dense creaminess and unique smokey sheep flavor. Fresh sheep yogurt is also going to be available for a limited time.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

New dairy plant

Installation of the new De-Leval system is complete, and all are happy. It is nice and quiet, easy to clean, has plenty of reserve and time efficient.

The ewes are really getting into the yellow sulfur, and also seaweed & DE in the mineral bar at the moment, coming up with comical yellow chins.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Springtime floods

2010 must be one of the wettest seasons I can remember. Maybe not the most rain but it seems to have fallen at pretty much the right time all year, so we started with an early autumn, and built a good feed bank by the time lambing came around.

Shearing the lambs

During milking time the mechanical shearing part of the shed is out of action, so when same rations needed shearing recently I whipped out the trusty old hand shears and got some practice in. Ah, the serenity of it - click go the shears. One silly bugger enjoyed it so much I thought he'd come back for another go, until I realised he just wanted to get back at me. No wonder I haven't got much hair left!

Meet the milk maid

Bronwyn is the backbone of the dairy and home farm. In addition to mother of 2, wife, Chefs tool box cookware consultant, and running the home, growing veggies and gardening, Bron takes under her wing the day to day running of the property.

Now where do I start. Every business needs someone behind the scenes making sure things happen - well that's my Bron. She's an ideas person, and once she sets her mind to something, look out! While the cat is away at Red Hill during the day making cheese, the mouse (who is not a broad spectrum cheese-eater but has specific favorites, in particular sheep yogurt) keeps the diverse farm community watered, fed and happy.

Locals are amazed at what Bron puts her hand to, one day seeing her mowing the paddocks, and the next undertaking building renovation projects, mucking out the lambs barn, feeding, drafting sheep, or organising tradesmen - all the things that have to be done on a farm. While her friends are putting on their faces, Bron is putting on milking clusters, mustering takes the place of long lunches, and as dusk falls she is putting animals to bed, but still finds time to tuck the kids in on school nights as well.

Who knows where the energy comes from but one thing for sure, Red Hill wouldn't have sheep cheese were it not for the efforts of Bronwyn. Thank you for your efforts, from all at Red Hill Cheese, the customers and you loving husband Burke XOX.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

New seasons sheep cheese now available

As usual we will feature our award winning Red Hill Pecorino this year, the first wheels of which are just about to be released. In addition I have also produced some interesting alternatives of a soft white mold 'Tyabb Mist', an ashed fresh curd 'Baa Black', and also a moist but crumbly feta 'Friesian Fettish'.

Tyabb Mist
has a mild, sweet flavor, and a soft to oozing texture, made in a 7cm round.

Baa Black
is made in both a rectangular bar and 7cm round. It has an intriguing difference to its goat cousin 'Paradigm log'. The crazy, mottled charcoal rind gives way to a cream softness and a very rounded flavour unique to ewes milk. Best enjoyed at one month maturity when the runny curd beneath the rind stabilises, it is not strong or sharp, and the rind has a hint of lanolin.

Make sure you drop in to one of our markets or the cheesery tasting room to try one of these special cheeses. Ewes milk cheeses are still competing in the fashion stakes with goat cheeses, so if you like sheep cheeses, then please support and request them or they may not survive the test of time. It is a privilege to make these unusual styles but if the volumes aren't commercially viable then they won't get made.

Infrastructure improvements

Changes are happening in the dairy to make life more comfortable and efficient for all involved, including re-construction of the milking bail into a 5 stall rapid-exit type, re-design of the yards system and installation of a fixed-line 5 cup milking system. It is keeping us busy getting changes installed between milkings but all are happy with the improvements. The ewes now have a mineral bar to browse as they wait in the shed, and walk straight out of the bail as it lifts up after milking. Only 2 short girls are still to learn to remove their heads from the bail before it raises. Perhaps they think if their necks get stretched they might get taller! So with being able to milk 5 ewes at once we are hoping to add some extra ewes to the herd to bump up the cheese stocks this year. The pasture is jumping out of the ground and the barley sprouts are growing smoothly also so all will go well fed this year.

Meet #8 - employee of the year 3 times running.

Profile of Number 8
Born in 2006 from a Coopworth / East Friesian cross
Heavy-boned, solid frame and resilient stamina
Quiet nature but stubborn and a little shy
Has the desirable trait of mottled, brindle skin
Well formed udder with fast milk flow
Has a third 'false' teat
Milk production up to 4L per day

A truly incredible ewe who never ceases to amaze us and be a benchmark for the rest of the herd, she has consistently produced more milk than any other sheep including our pure E. Friesians. Currently she feeds 3 lambs during the day then is giving us about 2.5L of milk each morning. They gave us a laugh in the first few weeks after the triplets were born, when more often than not all 3 lambs would be climbing or lying on her back as she chewed her cud. I don't know when she got a chance to eat.
Two years ago she had a remarkable story when one of her twins got stuck under a trough in terrible weather and almost perished with hypothermia. The lamb lived inside the house for a week and against everyone's prediction survived, so we put it back out with her mother and #8 actually took the lamb back and reared it to become a ewe in the herd. Sadly her other twin, a wether died a few weeks later when it got caught in a fence.
So we are very proud to have #8 as part of the team and are watching very closely her progeny to ensure this precious genetics lives on as a core strain of the herd.