Visit to Prom Country Cheese – sheep dairy

Recently I had the privillage of visiting Prom Country Cheese, a sheep dairy and farm gate cheese shop in Moyarra, South Gippsland, Victoria.

Welcome to the sheep dairy, South Gippsland.

Welcome to the sheep dairy, South Gippsland.

You know that I love sheep for their duel purpose capabilities – beautiful wool and delicious lamb. Burke and Bronwyn Brandon of Prom Country Cheese have opened my eyes to sheep dairying. Isn’t the sheep species magnificent!!

Prom Country Cheese East Friesian ewes grazing.

Prom Country Cheese East Friesian ewes grazing.

A little about the sheep dairy operation and then onto the cheese. The Brandon’s are currently milking 105 East Friesian ewes twice daily, to produce approximately 240 litres of milk per day. The East Friesian sheep breed is known for its dairying capabilities, producing 1-5 litres of milk per day and will lactate for 7-8 months (most other sheep breeds will lactate for 4-5months).

12 stand sheep stalls for milking. Ewes are fed grain in the green trough.

12 stand sheep stalls for milking. Ewes are fed grain in the green trough.

The (small) milking cups and operation bay. Ewes have 2 teats.

The (small) milking cups and operational bay. Ewes have 2 teats.

The milk vat

The milk vat.

Sheep are seasonal breeders, so lambing occurs over several months, but not all year round. The lambs are penned in aged groups and are given the absolute best. These are the next generation of milkers! Lambs are given their daily milk requirements from the dairy as well as having constant access to lucerne hay and hydroponically grown barley which is full of fresh nutrients.

The lambs in their pens for the first few weeks of life.

The lambs in their pens for the first few weeks of life.

Lambs are fed milk in the orange buckets, lucerne hay and you can see they love the hydroponically grown barley.

Lambs are fed milk in the orange buckets with teats, lucerne hay and you can see they love the hydroponically grown barley.

Now onto the cheese! Sheep milk (especially from East Friesians) is known for its high yield, even higher than that of cows and goats milk. Turning milk into cheese at optimum efficiency. Prom Country Cheese is all about quality, value-adding and innovation.

Prom Country Cheese made a wide range of cheeses on-site. The cheese factory is set up with multiple temperature-control rooms, that allows the different types of cheeses to be made, rested and developed over time (weeks to months) in ideal conditions.

'Prom Picnic' cheese

‘Prom Picnic’ sheep cheese ready to be shared.

'Prom Picnic' ready to be enjoyed. A hard cheese that is stronger in flavour that similar cow's cheese. Certainly one of my favourites!

‘Prom Picnic’ ready to be enjoyed. A hard cheese that is stronger in flavour than similar style cow’s cheese. Certainly one of my favourites!

L-R 'Foster Fetish' - classic, brine-matured; 'Waratah' - soft washed rind; 'Woolamai Mist' - soft white mould sheep cheese.

‘Foster Fetish’ – classic, brine-matured feta; ‘Waratah’ – soft washed rind sheep cheese; ‘Woolamai Mist’ – soft white mould sheep cheese.

Prom Country Cheese is opening their Farmgate Cheese Shop on 13th September 2014. Open 10am-5pm on weekends and school holidays.

275 Andersons Inlet Road, Moyarra VIC.

http://promcountrycheese.com.au/

https://www.facebook.com/PromCountryCheese

Prom Country Cheese Shop

Prom Country Cheese Shop – nearly ready for opening.

Prom Country Cheese is certainly well worth the visit (and the travel) and I look forward to visiting again soon for my next hit of divine sheep cheese! Many thanks to Bronwyn and Burke for the personal tour and cheese sampling.

Melissa.

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Annual Sheep Husbandry Calendar – a guide for new sheep owners

Some first-time sheep owners have recently purchased some of my Quebon Coloured Sheep lambs. One of my life goals is to support other small-scale producers and hand-crafters that want to grow their livestock enterprise and make the best use of their wool and lamb products. So I am very excited about supporting first-time sheep owners through sharing my own experiences and helping others to establish a small flock like I did 10 years ago.

I was asked to put together a list of annual sheep husbandry activities that need to occur through-out the year. I really had to think about it as in many ways it is highly flexible due to  seasonal conditions and flock structure. No two years are the same. Here is bit of a guide based on my own flock management. What do you do differently? What would you add to the list? (please leave your comments below).

April:

  • Crutch sheep
  • Drench.
  • Joining (late April) – gestation 5 months

September:

  • Shearing early Sept.
  • Vaccinate  ewes with Glanvac6.
  • Drench.
  • Lambing late September (increase ewe’s feed)

November (early):

  • Glanvac6 and Gudair vaccinate lambs.
  • Lamb marking (tails docked and castration)

December:

  • Glanvac6 booster vaccination lambs 4-6 weeks after initial vaccination
  • Ear tag lambs.
  • Summer drench (barbers pole, liver fluke and tape worms) all sheep.
  • Wean lambs

Once off activities:

  • OJD Gudair vaccination – whole flock initially and then new sheep (if not already vaccinated).
  • Lice treatment – for the introduction of new sheep and when lice infestation occurs. Best if treatment and shearing co-inside.
  • Hoof trimming as required (important in wetter climates)
  • Ear Tag: All sheep must have an NLIS PIC tag in their ear before being transported off the property (being sold, being grazed on a different property, going to a sheep show). Replace tags if lost.

Key issues to watch for:

Internal parasites (worms):

Initial physical indicators:

  • Scours and/or worms seen in manure eg tape worm
  • Barbers Pole worms causes bottle-jaw (swelling of the jaw) and anaemia – if on the white of the eye you can’t see the blood vessels this is an indicator of anaemia.
  • Any deaths in the flock not otherwise explained.

Resources: http://www.wormboss.com.au (information about worms, testing and drenches). If you suspect your sheep to have worms, worm test and/or drench them immediately.

Fly-strike:

  • What is fly-strike? Flys lay their eggs in moist and protected areas of the sheep (usually on the hind-quarters/ breech where urine and faeces have stained the wool). When the Maggots hatch they feed off the sheep’s flesh resulting in death of the sheep if not treated quickly (a few days up to a week).
  • Sheep at high risk: sheep in long wool particularly over a humid summer, untreated scours, lambs not tail-docked correctly.
  • Prevention: Fly strike is easily avoided by following good animal husbandry practices in a timely manner, such as lamb marking, crutching and/or shearing for summer.
  • Resources: http://www.flyboss.com.au (information on susceptibility, how to reduce the risk through management and how to treat fly strike outbreaks)
  • Products: Extinosad wound spray (comes in an aerosol can) – useful to treat the one off sheep with fly strike. Click is another good product used by larger scale farmers as a preventative and treatment of fly strike.

Dog attacks: be it the neighbour’s dogs or wild dogs, dog attacks have a devastating effect on your sheep. Call your local vet, Local Land Services biosecurity officer or Council ranger for assistance in dealing with injured sheep and the dogs responsible.

Going away for a couple of weeks?: ensure all your animal husbandry is up to date and you have arranged for someone to check on them weekly.

Sheep books:

A good text on sheep ownership is “Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep” by Paula Simmons and Carol Ekarius. CSIRO and many bookshops stock it.

Any questions let me know. Melissa.

 

Given the opportunity…

In a highly urbanised country we are seeing more and more people ( of all ages) from the city buying land in country areas. Why? Many are looking for a country retreat, others are looking at starting a small farm, and some want to buy land to restore it back to its native state. I’m fortunate to meet people like this every week and I am inspired by their stories.

My concern is that small-scale landowners and absentee landowners are not being supported by their neighbors or by industry. It is these new landowners and hobby farmers that are often blamed for many rural land issues such as the spread of weeds, harboring pest animals and not taking the correct measures when it comes to livestock health.

Too many times I have heard industry professionals say that it is too much effect for too little gain to work with small-scale landowners. “The land area is not worth worrying about. Better focus our effects on the bigger properties. Bigger bang for our buck”.

So too often there is the situation where few want to assist small-scale landowners to adopt best practices and yet they are the first to blame them for rural land issues. I would argue that small-scale landowner do in fact as a collective own an increasingly large portion of land and in most cases are highly intelligent and well meaning people. No matter what the size of the property the same practices need to happen eg. weed and pest control and animal husbandry practices.

So what do we need to do for a win / win?
*Treat all landowners with the same level of respect no matter the size of their properties.
*Extension Officers and Advisors to encourage ALL landowners to follow best practice and provide support as needed.
*Talk with your neighbors about what is happening on your own farm.
*Farm suppliers to sell products in 1L, 5L and 20L packs.
*Get a copy of a Rural Landowner Handbook for your area.

In a time when so many consumers are disconnected from where their food comes from, couldn’t those fortunate to already live and work in country areas embrace new comers, share their land ownership practices and support their neighbors?