• Where are we situated
Grandvewe Cheeses is situated on 80 acres of pristine farm land overlooking the D’Entrecasteaux Channel & Bruny Island, 40 minutes south of Hobart.
• The characteristics of our farm
Our farm is perched 60m above sea level on land that was formerly part of the heart of apple and small fruits farms. Our climate is typically cool and dry and not typically suited to dairy. Although we received an enviable average rainfall of 1300mm, our soils are too heavy in compacted clay to hold sufficient moisture. In addition to this we receive the vast majority of our rain in the cooler months and very little at all in the warmer months which inhibits us from growing a great deal of grass. Our soils are poor, they are 165 million years old in parts and thus have no or little top soil. In essence, there is no way anyone could contemplate farming a heavy ruminant such as a cow on this land with these soils, a major reason why dairy sheep are actually a perfect fit for our geology and our geography.
• How we manage our land
As stated above, we have a limited ability to grow grass and we have many issues with regards to soil fertility. We do however grow great weeds!! And our sheep love to eat weeds. In essence, this IS how we manage our land as it would be a monumental undertaking and require enormous amounts of capital to reverse the effects of 165 million plus years on the soil. We also grow eucalypts and other natives to add to the foraging diet of our ‘girls’. This has a multitude of benefits for our ‘girls’, our land and our business.
1. Native plants and weeds provide small ruminants with energy as well as containing proven levels of immune support properties and anti parasitic effect.
2. As our ‘girls’ eat the weeds they are acting as natural weed managers
3. We are limiting the volume of inputs required to farm commercially. In fact, we are collecting their manure, composting it on farm and using it later as the only fertiliser input.
• The sheep breed/s we raise and why
Our entire farming operation, especially when considering our agricultural limitations, are reliant on genetics. We originally formed our business around a breed (East Friesland) that originated in one of the highest fecundity regions of the World – not much chop on the driest continent in the World!! They required immense amounts of high protein fodder, had inherent respiratory illness issues relating to centuries of European ‘housed farming’ or ‘intensive farming’ techniques, are pale faced and bare breeched. So……. they cost a heap to feed, would die as soon as look at cold and wet weather outdoors and developed squamous cell carcinomas on their ears and vaginas. Why bother with them at all I hear you ask?? Simple. They were our only choice at the time. We have many sheep on our wide, brown continent but milking ‘tasty sheep’ or ‘woolly sheep’ will only send you broke. If you’re gonna milk a lactating ruminant better make sure they’re very ‘milky’.
In 2006 we finally managed to procure a mob of abandoned pure Awassi ewes. These genetics are very rare and tightly held by a Middle Eastern consortium here in Australia. There are two strains of Awassi – a meat strain (highly prized for their fat tail amongst Persians/Middle Easterners) and a milk strain. We have both on farm and they are absolutely key to everything we do here. They are browsers. They forage for food and select intuitively what they need seasonally. They are the fattest of fat tailed breeds. This means, like a camel, they store fat in their tails (up to 10kg) for ‘lean’ fodder times. They have not come from areas where their genetics have been ‘engineered’ to suit modern farming and thus they’ve retained desert like hardiness. A perfect animal for our environment and our farm and farming system/philosophy!