Sheep cheese to taste of Show judges

Claire TyrrellCountryman

Nannup couple Bruce and Jane Wilde's commitment to producing quality sheep cheese has reaped rewards in recent years.

The owners of Cambray Sheep Cheese, since 2005 their products have won nine awards at the Perth Royal Show and more than 20 Dairy Industry Association awards.

Bruce, Jane and their son, Tom, run 300 Friesland and Poll Dorset-cross sheep on about 170 hectares 12km east of Nannup.

"We milk about 180 sheep twice a day everyday for nine months of the year," Jane said.

"We don't milk in the winter months. During that time we make cow cheeses that we buy in milk for, which keeps the cheese ticking over."

The family bought the farm in 2005 after Jane worked as a nurse for 30 years and Bruce as a policeman for 25 years.

"Bruce has always dealt with sheep," Jane said. "He has been a shearer and farmed in Pingelly while he was in the police force. We needed to do something different and sheep cheese is a niche market. This place had plenty of water and is relatively chemical free."

Cambray Sheep Cheese produces 12 cheese varieties, from French-style soft cheeses to Camembert and blue cheese.

Jane said a major challenge was in dispelling myths associated with the taste of sheep cheese.

"Sheep cheese has a delicate flavour - it is not strong like some people think," she said. "People often have preconceptions that it might taste funny, so it is about getting people to try it."

Cambray's products are stocked in its on-farm shop and another in Balingup, where people can come in for tastings. Their cheeses are also sold at farmers' markets in the South West and near Perth, and can be posted nationally.

Jane said milk production and market competition were among the problems the business faced.

"One of the challenges is getting enough milk because sheep only produce about a litre a day, compared to cows which produce about 30 litres," she said. "It can be hard to compete against imported cheeses on price because there are no tariffs."

Quality is something the Wilde family can well and truly compete on. "Our cheese is fresh, locally produced and handmade," Jane said. "It also has health benefits such as lowering cholesterol."

A highlight for Cambray Sheep Cheese was winning grand champion dairy product at the 2006 Perth Royal Show. Cambray's gold mature cheese won against 360 entries across the entire dairy industry.

While the focus is on cheese, Jane said the family also produced yoghurts and ice-cream.

Cambray employs five workers on the farm to help manufacture its product.

The family entered four of its cheeses in this year's IGA Perth Royal Show, which runs from September 29 to October 6, 2012.

Cambray Sheep Cheese won best products made from other than cow's milk with its Farmhouse Gold Dutch Style Cheese Under 12 Months - Sheep Milk

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