Farming dairy goats and making award-winning cheeses isn’t something Neil Watson planned.
It’s a career, business and lifestyle he and wife Janette just sort of fell into.
“We started in 1995 and it sort of happened by mistake really,” he laughs.
“We had 40 acres and we thought ‘surely there’s some sort of farming we can do on a small acreage and make a living’.
“So we decided to try dairy goats.”
The couple bought a small mob of dairy goats and started farming them as a hobby west of Lithgow in NSW.
“The cheese making happened when we realised that selling fresh milk was quite competitive.”
“We then decided to experiment with cheese making and we found out we could do it,” Mr Watson laughs.
“Although I was trained in agriculture, I wasn’t specifically trained in cheese making.
“So over the years it’s just gradually developed and grown and it’s turned into quite a successful small business.”
The couple has won dozens of awards for their cheeses.
“It’s pretty hard to win awards, it’s quite competitive,” Mr Watson says.
“But we always manage to win here and there.
“We won our first award in 1998 at the Australian Specialist Cheesemakers’ Association Cheese Show in Melbourne.
“We make a number of different varieties of cheeses.
“Some are hard, but our most popular ones are the fresh cheeses, which are soft.
“Then we do some white mold cheeses as well.
“We also sell fresh milk and yoghurt.”
The couple’s cheeses are in high demand.
“Most of our cheese goes to Sydney to supply restaurants,” he says.
There are about 120 milking does at the Jannei Goat Dairy at Lidsdale.
“We milk up to 80 every year,” Neil Watson says.
“We sell a lot of the young females on the export market.
“But we keep quite a few too for replacements and to grow the herd a bit more.”
It’s currently kidding time at the farm.
The piercing bleat of baby goats can be heard ringing out across the paddocks.
“We’ve got kids everywhere,” he says.
“It’s normal for goats to have twins and triplets are fairly common as well.
“We shut the baby goats up in pens so they don’t wander off and get lost.
“Then when we let them out there’s big rush as they all try to find their mothers.”
After the goats have given birth and fed their offspring, the amount of milk they produce starts to rise.
“Our goats average about two litres of milk a day,” Neil Watson says.
“But it can get up to four or five litres.
“[That enables us] to get that cash-flow going and we can afford to buy in the grain and hay to feed the goats.
“We feed them lucerne hay, oats and grain.
“We’ve started buying the big bales of hay because it’s a lot more economic.
“Our feed bill is our main expense.”
Mr Watson says there are only about four or five goat dairies in NSW.
“We’re probably the only registered goat dairy in the state’s Central West.”
Interview by Brad Markham from Lidsdale 2790, Wednesday, 02/09/2009