Yard 86 cream of the crop

Kate PollardCountryman

The small dairy is on its way back, and leading the charge is Redmond jersey farmer Alby Van Dongen.

From this Saturday onwards, Alby will turn his dream of running a small dairy into reality when he opens a shop front at the Albany Farmers Market.

With a herd of 10 grass-fed cows, he'll be selling pasteurised milk in a glass bottle under the label Yard 86.

"In this area, the lower South West near Albany, there used to be plenty of small dairies operating back in the day," Alby said.

"And the idea of a small local dairy is what I'd like to see become a viable option."

Along with his wife Cindy, who has been getting up at 4.30am to help and is now two weeks away from giving birth to their third child, Alby has spent a year doing plenty of research.

The pair has looked into a quality glass product, developing a label, and at market demand.

They also spent plenty of time searching online for a small-scale batch pasteuriser.

"The majority of gear is for large-scale processing at over 20,000 litres an hour … I had to do a lot of research to find a little company in New Zealand that would make up a 250-litre batch pasteuriser," Alby said.

The farmer has opted for batch pasteurisation rather than high-temperature short-term pasteurisation to maintain the integrity and milk quality.

"I want it to be as gentle as it can from the cow to bottle process," he said.

The Van Dongens also use a single bucket milker, a gentler process running on 240 volts with no pumps involved.

Once they start selling pasteurised milk, the plan is to branch out into double cream using a cream separator.

"I don't think it will be everyone's cup of tea straight away because they are Jerseys … the fat content is a lot more and is different but tastes delicious," Alby said. "We haven't taken any of the fat out so the cream will be sitting on the top in the glass bottle."

Figures from Dairy Australia show the number of dairy farms has fallen by two-thirds over the past 30 years across the country. In WA, numbers have fallen from 622 registered farms in 1979-80 to 162 in 2011-12.

The 2012 National Dairy Farmer Survey showed 11 per cent of dairy farms had more than 500 cows to produce 33 per cent of total milk, while 26 per cent of farms had fewer than 150 cows, producing 8 per cent of milk.

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