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A visit to Jannei Goat dairy

WE’RE LATE. It’s a grey rainy day in November as we head west along the Great Western Highway past Lithgow heading for Jannei Goat Dairy at Lidsdale. However all is well when we do eventually arrive at Jannei, as Neil and Janette Watson are too busy packing up their cheeses for the following day’s Pyrmont Growers Market in Sydney to be concerned about our late arrival.
The Watsons started their cheese making here in 1995 when Neil decided he wanted a change from teaching agricultural science at a school in Portland. When looking for an alternative income, it’s not surprising that Neil would be thinking milk. He grew up on a dairy farm in that wonderful, rain-blessed dairying country around Wauchope on the NSW central coast.
Initially they intended to sell their fresh goat milk into the Sydney market but found this was not profitable in the volumes they could produce. So Janette supported Neil’s experiments with cheese making.
He started with hard cheeses in 1996, but soon found that what his customers in Sydney really wanted was fresh curd. Just about the only goat curd available in Sydney at the time was coming from Gabriel Kervella in Western Australia. So local chefs and retailers were delighted to have a truly local product. From this base product, Neil has added many award winning cheeses such as their Bent Back Chev, Buche noir and Chevrotin.
Cheese making takes place six days a week and while Neil is busy with the curd, Janette uses her background in advertising and design to market their cheeses to an ever-increasing number of customers.
Jannei milks around eighty goats (mostly Saanen) from a herd of one hundred producing about 130kg of cheese a week. Ninety percent of this is delivered weekly into the Sydney market where Simon Johnson is the main distributor.
Diet for the goats is very important to Neil who goes to great lengths to ensure that every goat in the herd is in peak condition, thus ensuring the highest quality milk for cheese making.
In June 2007 Neil had major heart surgery. During his hospitalisation and subsequent recovery Janette took responsibility for all aspects of the business, including the cheese making. So now they often work together in the cheese making room. The weekly trips Janette makes to the Growers Markets she says are hard work. With the long travel time, some days are barely profitable. Jannette says she looks past the sales and considers it important to be there, as it is their only regular marketing exercise.
If you would like to visit the dairy for a tasting or purchases of their cheese, phone first to check that either Neil or Janette are available. Blessed are the cheese makers.

article by – RF. Russell Smith,

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Making goat cheese

Quote from website:
“SkillsOne catches up with a couple who have turned their passion for life on the land into an award-winning gourmet goat cheese business.

Neil and Janette Watson decided to follow their dream of owning a farm in the country and opened a goat farm in 1995.

Neil then used the knowledge he learned through a rural science degree to teach himself how to make cheese and dairy products from the goats’ milk. They now have a lucrative gourmet business.”

Check out the video here

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An interview on ABC

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

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A fresh start

Fresh start

Natural: Jannei Bent Back Chevre. Photo: Jennifer Soo

A couple’s rural sea change involving goats, cheese and hard work is paying off, writes Lisa Pryor.

Many of us dream of throwing in our urban existence in favour of a gentler pace of life. We may think of moving to green pastures, cultivating an olive grove, tending a vineyard or creating a boutique produce business.

If you’re searching for a relaxing rural life, whatever you do, don’t choose goat farming. You could find yourself slaving away in your dairy until midnight, as Neil Watson does, perfecting the latest batch of chevre cheese.

Or you could lose sleep devising new ways to extend the milking season of your flock, or improve the production process of your range of boutique cheeses, just like his wife Janette.

It’s not an easy life but it’s the life the Watsons chose for themselves 13 years ago when they moved from the North Coast to a 14-hectare farm at Lidsdale, near Lithgow.

The couple’s Jannei Goat Dairy started out selling fresh curd, fresh milk and fresh-pressed chevre. The dairy has since moved on to matured cheeses as well, such as cheddar, chevrotin and goats’ milk camembert.


The Watsons’ hard work and sleepless nights are paying off. Slowly. This year they won three gold awards at the Royal Easter Show. Their stand-out product, the ash-caked Bent Back Chevre, was blessed by the judges with a mark of 99.3/100.

And they have high hopes for this year’s Australian Specialist Cheesemakers’ Association awards in Melbourne, where they have won gold before.

“If you win something down there people pick up on it and your image improves. People come looking for us,” Janette says.

The Jannei business is a truly boutique operation, processing milk from a herd of 100 goats at the painstaking rate of 20 litres per 3kg of cheese. The small-scale approach allows attention to detail. “The milk comes from the goat and is turned straight into cheese,” Janette says. “There are no stabilisers and preservatives. It is natural, clean and sold quickly.”

Jannei cheeses have a loyal following, especially among French expats longing for a taste of home, like one man who lives in Bathurst. “I saw him the other day. He drove 40 minutes from Bathurst just to get the cheese and then go home again. He was desperate,” says Janette.

Tasting and buying Jannei cheeses from the dairy door is a worthwhile diversion if you’re holidaying in the Blue Mountains, or heading to Mudgee. The farm is open from 10am-5pm each day except Sundays and Wednesdays.

However, Sydneysiders can enjoy the fruits of the Watsons’ labour without trekking to the mountains. Once a month, Janette makes the winding journey from Lidsdale to Sydney, arriving at Pyrmont where she sells her wares at the Good Living Growers’ Market.

At other times, head to the Simon Johnson stores in Woollahra or Pyrmont.

“They came to us many years ago when they were starting out,” says Simon Johnson. “At the time there were players [in the goats’ cheese market] in Victoria but there was nothing in NSW. We were very keen to have someone locally produce a goats’ cheese for us.”

The close proximity of the dairy means Sydneysiders can enjoy fresh goats’ cheese at its peak. “Because it’s a local product, it gets to the market so much quicker, so it’s very fresh,” says Johnson.

And the best Jannei cheese according to Johnson? “I love their fresh curds but I also like some of their more mature cheeses. It comes down to personal preference.”