Dairy awards shine through doom and gloom

Dianne and Julian Benson and their cheesemakers

Julian and Dianne Benson aren’t letting the current state of the dairy industry stop them from celebrating multiple awards at a major dairy competition.

“Negativity is so powerful and can take all your energy, so it’s important to be positive when you can,” Mr Benson said.

Apostle Whey Cheese was awarded one gold, and three silver medals at last Friday’s Dairy Industry Association of Australia (DIAA) Victorian Dairy Product Competition.

The medals add to an ever-growing trophy cabinet at Apostle Whey Cheese. Mr Benson said the awards were a welcome distraction from the doom and gloom of recent weeks.

“It’s important that farmers keep coming together and talking to each other. It’s a serious situation the industry is in at the moment and we need to look after each other,” he said.

“I worry – we all worry, but don’t be an island on your own. Get out, go fishing, go bowling or whatever you do with your friends and family and talk about things.

“I don’t have the answers, but I’m a good listener and I’ve been at this for a while. Come and say hello to me and I’ll shout you a coffee – and I mean that.”

Mr Benson said he had been farming for a matter of weeks when he first experienced the hardship that the dairy industry could deliver.

“I bought my first herd of 65 cows in 1975 for $7500, which was a lot of money then. Within weeks England joined the EEC and we lost our markets overnight,” he said.

“The milk prices were slashed by a third and it was a tough time. I’m a positive person and the silver lining was that we could buy heifers for $20 that paid for themselves in a month.

“I know this is different, but the chopper prices are good at the moment and interest rates are low…you just have to try and think positively and keep talking to other people who are in the same boat.”

Mr Benson said diversifying his farm’s income with Apostle Whey Cheese had been a huge risk, but one that continued to bring much enjoyment.

Apostle Whey Cheese Dianne Benson“Entering awards is a really good way for us to benchmark ourselves against others and also to acknowledge the work of our cheese makers and staff,” he said.

“The main secret to the success of our cheeses is the quality of our milk. Luke, our son, manages the farm now and his role in producing high-grade milk means we can make the quality of cheese that we do.

“Luke is consistently in the top 10 of all Warrnambool Cheese and Butter suppliers with his Bulk Milk Cell Counts. He averages counts of between 50,000 and 60,000 and the average count is up around 170,000 – so that is really important for our cheese making.”

Apostle Whey Cheese won gold for its Havarti style semi hard Heytesbury Harvest – Plain cheese and silver medals for its Loch Ard Gorgeous camembert, Southern Briez brie and The Grotto washed rind, which was the highest scoring cheese in its category.

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