THE Tarrawingee trip may be having a pregnant pause but for the Jackas, life on the goat farm is still busy.
With their girls on “goaternity” leave over winter, Tolpuddle Cheese operators Donovan and Melissa Jacka have a chance to consider future markets for their products and work on a farmgate tasting and sales area.
Within 12 months of becoming licensed for goat milk and cheese production at Tarrawingee, Tolpuddle Cheese products have been embraced by North East consumers and restaurateurs alike.
Ms Jacka said they milked their Saanen dairy goats 300 days a year with 65 days off from late June until spring.
“We have found for the goats to maintain weight and good condition to rear kids – because the cold weather is taxing on their bodies – we need to take a break from production over winter,” she said.
“Chefs understand the nature of seasonal produce and don’t see it as a fault in the process at all.”
The Jackas and their children Mackenzie, 11, and Harvey, 8, moved to the North East from Melbourne for a tree change in late 2013.
They now run a herd of 50 of the Swiss-breed dairy goats and a cheese factory that can process up to 300 litres of fresh goat milk a day into small batches of hand-made, specialist cheese. The farm has an eight-stand dairy.
Ms Jacka said last season they milked 21 does, each producing about 2½ litres daily.
She said they planned to milk 33 does this spring, which would almost double their production.
“It’s a sustainable size for farming and cheese production; it’s a real challenge for the artisan cheese maker to stay small,” she said.
“It’s been a tree change for us because we were city slickers who are having a go at something we feel passionate about.”
Ms Jacka said they bought a pair of Heritage breed pigs, which took care of excess whey in the cheese production process.
“It makes the process sustainable and we will have our own supply of whey-raised pork,” she said.
The family has converted an original 1840s stone building on their property into a cheese manufacturing and packing space that includes a 35sq m cheese cave in the cellar below.
Tolpuddle Cheese has featured on menus throughout the Border and North East including Brown Brothers’ Patricia’s Table, The Plough Inn (Tarrawingee), Provenance (Beechworth), The River Deck (Albury) and The Mountain View Hotel (Whitfield).
From spring Tolpuddle Cheese will be available from Victorian Farmers’ Markets Association accredited farmers’ markets such as Wangaratta, Rutherglen, Myrtleford and Junction Square in Wodonga.
“It’s important to us to have a direct relationship with our customers,” Ms Jacka said.
“Farmers’ markets have a wonderful sense of community and the North East has some of the best produce in the country.”