When Northcliffe dairy farmers Mat and Sue Daubney decided to “have a go” at bottling their own milk, they never could have expected the times ahead. Today, a week after the Bannister Downs Dairy brand’s 15th birthday, Ms Daubney “couldn’t be happier” with how far they have come. Founded in 1924, the South West dairy has a history spanning almost a century and four generations, with the Daubneys bringing up their four children on the family farm. But challenging conditions in the industry, including low margins, a lack of control, and skyrocketing production costs, had the couple feeling like they were “treading water.” “We were going around in circles and working so hard with no reward for working any harder,” Ms Daubney said. “I think every dairy farmer has felt this way at some point. Seeing the deregulation of the industry in 2000 as an opportunity, they applied for a Federal Government Department of Industry and Resources grant and in 2004 secured more than $160,000 to make their dream a reality. “They believed in what we put forward and that confidence is powerful, having someone believe in you,” Ms Daubney said. They then began work building an on-farm processing facility on a “shoestring budget” using jarrah from their property and local rammed limestone, producing the first pouch of Banister Downs Dairy milk in August 2005. And it took the South West dairy all of one week to win a trophy for its product. “It just so happened that that very week we sent our milk to the Perth Royal Show and it won (champion milk),” Ms Daubney said. “We were just blown away and we thought, ‘we must be doing something right’.” For 13 years, the team — which has since grown from five to 65 workers — operated out of the original processing facility, before moving in 2018 to a state-of-the-art facility that was eight years in the making. From food safety and people safety to the “emotional side” of caring for their “very caring” team, Ms Daubney said they now had a greater level of respect for those in food processing. Their products, which include a range of milks, flavoured milks and cream, are stocked on shelves throughout the State and have won numerous accolades, most recently champion milk and cream at this year’s Dairy Industry Association of Australia WA Awards. They were also being shipped to Singapore, a venture which Ms Daubney said had come to a “grinding halt” during the coronavirus pandemic, prompting them to look at other local markets including remote WA mine sites. She said the pandemic had shone a light on how valuable it was to have food security, manufacturing and production in Australia. “Overall, people want more confidence that Australia can stand alone, and food, energy and water are critical to that,” she said. Ms Daubney said the business’ success had been made possible through its partnership with mining mogul Gina Rinehart and her investment in the dairy. She also attributed their honesty, transparency, ethical practices and environmentally friendly packaging as contributors to the dairy’s whirlwind growth. Looking back, Ms Daubney, who considers the herd of 1600 part of the family, said she was “extremely proud” of what they had achieved over the years. “When we started we just wanted to have a go, never would we have known the challenges we had ahead of us and the joys we had ahead of us,” she said. “We just had blind faith and country confidence and somehow we got to this point. “We couldn’t be more fortunate.