Meet the Member - South Gippsland Dairy
For the family owned South Gippsland Dairy, the last three years has been all about finding different ways of doing business in the industry.
Neil and Shelley Walker took over the farm from Neil’s parents 25 years ago, and after close to 10,000 early mornings spent milking, they decided to diversify whilst still continuing to provide milk to a multi-national processor.
When they were thinking about what this would and could look like, they were introduced to Campbell and Krista Evans via a mutual friend, who thought they might like to tap into Campbell’s extensive career experience across various aspects of the dairy industry.
The collective decision was made to head in the direction of creating a premium product that focused on low volume and high value.
“We’ve had 25 years of working long days every day of the year, so we knew if we were going to go down a path of trying something new, it needed to incorporate some lifestyle benefits” said Shelley.
Having weathered many changes and challenges in the dairy industry, the newly formed team focused on the development of a product that had the potential to move them away from the traditional dairy farmer model and into a niche that evolved them into price makers not price takers.
After considering a number of different options, they decided on Bovine Bio Colostrum to be made from grass fed dairy cows that graze freely in the lush green paddocks of South Gippsland, widely recognised as one of Australia’s premium dairy production regions.
As the first milk that the mother gives to her calf, colostrum is filled with antibodies and the process that has been designed by Campbell means that every batch of this freeze-dried product can be traced back to the individual farm and the individual cow.
As the only licensed Australian manufacturer of this highly sought-after product, South Gippsland Dairy are excited about the future growth prospects they have in a global industry that is worth over $1.5 billion (AUD).
“We are the only ones doing it – so we have a corner of the market all to ourselves with no competition from any of the multi-nationals” said Campbell.
The appeal of producing colostrum in a packaged form is also the ability to have a range of products, reducing the reliance on just one line.
From initial concept to the first product being packaged, there were various stages of the journey, as Campbell explains.
“We built a pilot plant before investing in our commercial plant – and with a grant from FIAL ( Food Innovation Australia Limited, an industry led organisation focused on growing the share of Australian food in the global marketplace ), we were able to work closely with the CSIRO in Werribee to ascertain that we were able to produce premium quality colostrum “he said.
In that estimated global market value of $1.5 billion, Campbell indicates that there is currently only a very small proportion of concentrated colostrum product made available for human consumption for nutritional purposes.
He says that the bulk of what is collected by the large multi-national processors is being blended into infant formulas, many of which are highly sought after in the Chinese market.
The process of collecting the colostrum is labour intensive, with the product carefully milked on each of the three farms that the SGD team has handpicked to join them as suppliers. All four have been independently certified to be free from TSE, BSE and scrapie disease.
To maximise the purity of the product, colostrum used in the SGD range is taken only from the first milking within hours of the cow calving, and the quality control starts from there.
Neil, in his role as Farm Services Director, personally picks up the collected colostrum directly from the farmers, which is then processed at SGD’s purpose-built small facility in nearby Leongatha.
The quickest product to get to market was a powder, which is now available in pouches, and SGD offers consumers a low lactose option.
To diversify the product range and broaden the appeal for an entire family who is considering incorporating colostrum into their nutrition regime, the team is now working on a chewable natural vanilla tablet option which they plan to have available by early 2020.
The Walker and Evans families have lived and breathed colostrum since this journey began in 2016 and are well versed in various ways to enjoy consuming it, like sprinkling it over the top of cereal, including in a dairy milk or plant milk-based smoothie, or mixing it with yoghurt.
Along the way, they’ve also developed a product line for external use and are collaborating with a local soap maker in Korumburra, South Gippsland to create colostrum infused soap. This soap has been seen to greatly improve conditions such as eczema, dermatitis and acne.
Whilst under the Therapeutic Goods Association regulations, South Gippsland Dairy is not able to make any health claims about the product, they have had anecdotal positive feedback from a number of people in a group who trialed the soap.
A number of them have indicated that the use of the soap in cleansing their face and washing the rest of their body has resulted in improvements in their skin.
Their website also features testimonials from customers who have tried the bio colostrum powder and the trio plan to cotninue to expand SGD's product offering, with capsules to be launched in 2020 and even skin creams on the agenda.
Convinced of its immune-boosting, gut-healing properties, they hope its results will build a loyal customer base and they’re now working hard on their distribution plan, with their ultimate goal to grow their Australian customer base and maximise their opportunities to export.
For more information, head to sgdairy.com.au