Grass to Glass - Glenroyan Holstein milk at the forefront of Melbourne’s finest restaurants and cafes
West Gippsland Holstein dairy farmers and longstanding HA members Glenn and Rose Atherton of Glenroyan Holsteins couldn’t believe their luck when they struck a deal with an inner city micro-dairy, after months of cold-calling milk factories and brokers in 2016.
At the time, they were supplying the king pin co-operative Murray Goulburn and were struggling with the highly volatile climate of milk prices and co-operative politics.
“I’d been calling around but none of them were taking anyone on” says Mrs Atherton.
Just when she thought they had exhausted all options, she noticed a friend had liked St David Dairy on Facebook. It was a company in Melbourne she hadn’t heard of and she immediately emailed the small scale milk company and received a fast response.
“They were searching for local Holstein milk containing the right mix of components and wanted to connect with local producers” says Rose.
It took Glenroyan Holsteins a few months to foster the deal which finalised in September 2016 and Rose and Glenn transferred their 5,000 litre supply to St David Dairy.
The founder of St David, Ben Evans had identified a niche in the market and recognised the Atherton farm as a perfect fit.
Producing Holstein milk gave the Atherton’s the range of components St David was after.
“We got picked up by St David on the Thursday and we supplied our first load on the Sunday” says Mrs Atherton.
By 2021, the Atherton’s had doubled their milking herd and land size. They now have two farms and have increased their milking herd from 300 to 600 on 1000 acres.
Today, Glenroyan Holsteins are sole supplier to St David Dairy and have increased their daily supply to 10,000 litres.
St David Dairy General Manager Jamie Kitchen says “the Atherton’s offer good milk quality with the components and heritage that our market demands”.
“The milk quality is extremely high and their passion for farming and St David Dairy is phenomenal. It really is the perfect relationship for both us and the consumer” says Mr Kitchen.
Mrs Atherton says “we’ve been very fortunate to milk Holsteins and St David has given us the opportunity to grow our business. They’ve grown and we’ve been able to grow with them.
The boutique dairy is a roaring success, supplying milk, yoghurt, cream, crème fraiche and cultured butter to 170 of Melbourne top cafes and restaurants, small supermarkets and milk bars daily, bringing the dairy back into the lives of inner-city locals.
The award-winning milk is transported in bulk from the Glenroyan property to Fitzroy, where it is pasteurised, homogenised, packed and bottled on-site and delivered to stockists across Melbourne the very same day.
St David Dairy General Manager says the standard of the breed contributes largely to the quality of their product, including the Atherton’s efforts to rear and look after their animals, maintaining love and care for their herd.
Glenroyan Holsteins are fully grazed on natural good-quality grass and are bred to be good-milking, long-lasting cows backed by strong cow family lines such as the Jeni and Clover family.
The Atherton’s use sexed semen and probiotics and practise good herd recording. They undertake registration and classification services when possible.
“For us, the hidden reward has been showing St David Dairy customers around the farm and giving them the entire farming experience. They want to jump in and milk a cow and it’s changing the way people experience and appreciate dairy products” says Rose.
Every so often, St David Dairy arrange for customers to tour the Glenroyan property to see where the milk comes from and experience the whole process.
It started with one customer who purchased a 2 litre milk from the store’s side window that asked St David Dairy if he could visit the farm for a milking experience.
“He rocked up with 8 friends and they all got in there to milk and they stayed right until the very end of milking” says Rose.
Mr Kitchen says Glenroyan Holsteins offers ‘depths of experience’ and the consumer is rewarded because of it.
Mrs Atherton declares it’s a great way to educate people about dairy and says ‘people want to know where their milk is coming from’.
“It’s given us a new lease on life and a weight has been lifted off our shoulders. It has been a new chapter for us and it’s exciting to see where it goes. The opportunity certainly restored our passion for the industry” says Mrs Atherton.