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Jannei goes to Melbourne!!!

After much preparation and arrangements getting cheese shipped out for delivery to the Australian Specialty Cheese Awards judging at Werribee for Friday the 24th of August and to the Cheese Show public tasting at Ormond Hall near Prahran Melbourne for the 25th August Neil and I (Janette) headed off to Melbourne for a three day stint !

We left frost and ice bitten Lidsdale ,Tim to care for the kidding goats and the Factory dormant awaiting our return . I had spent time preparing flyers and business cards and had used the” Wow” word as a prominent theme for the flyer . It was ironic because after the three days it was a WOW time we had…(and I will up date the flyer with more Wows ha!)

We had wow fun as we learnt to navigate the Tram, Bus and Train System with our Myki Cards sooo… exiting , and on a cheese level with another achievement for the Buche Noir which made for such a moral boost and excitement at the wards dinner in Fitzroy!

We stayed in a lovely apartment , had some date dinners together , did some valuable marketing talking to retail outlets, attended the Awards Dinner and had some well timed help from close family at a massively packed cheese show in which we where able to clear out most of the stock we took.

Gracing our stall apart from our super new pull up sign designed by Nick, our web site manager ,was our most recent trophy of the night before! We entered 7 cheese styles of which two achieved Gold awards in the soft curd section, the fresh curd and the Noir. The judges take the top 6 or so cheese in each category and give them a point score . This means the majority of cheese entered don’t know how they went at all unless they get a high score and even then it’s only if you get gold or win the section that you find out how you went.
As very small cheese makers we always find this difficult because we need to know how we are grading to be able to improve .

Luck has had it though that we do very well with our soft cheese. We had others in the hard cooked section, the marinated section, the textured section and the white mould section. People tasting on the Saturday loved our cheddar , agreed the fetta was a solid lower salt healthy cheese, devoured all the white moulds and approved of the exquisite curd and so on!
We pulled out cheese from sale stock to go down as we had no surplus at this time, to take, as it’s the end of winter and goats are only just kidding,, but it was well worth it!

We learnt a lot on the public cheese tasting day and while travelling around Melbourne . Its a great place because the small deli is still in demand and there we found lots of cheese and checked out what everyone else in our small industry of -farm made cheeses was doing . Our new slogan at the show on our sign was; “Quality from our farm to your home”! Which we hope you will agree it is. We spoke to business owners who where very keen to take on our cheese so I have lots of follow up to get on with! We found that Jannei still had what it takes and its given us that power boost we need, as being so small it often feels like you are up against too much competition.

Hope you enjoy the pictures , our news update and our cheese..
Cheers from Janette at Jannei Goat Dairy.

To read the full report click here and download the pdf!

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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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Jannei – Blue Mountains Life Magazine

A Dairy Good Life

“Blessed are the cheese-makers,” is a hilarious Monty Python line from the biblical send-up ‘Life of Brian’. Blue Mountains Life reckons there are quite a few chefs around the mountains who would gladly give thanks for Jannei Dairy.

Goats are really useful creatures. More intelligent than sheep, smaller than cows – they have a lot to offer the hobby farmer. Angora goats produce fine wool prized for spinning. Goat meat is fast becoming a regular at the local butcher and makes a tasty stew or curry. And goats milk products have long been used for the lactose intolerant among us, babies especially. As animals, they are hardy, headstrong and have really weird eyes. But it is the sought after flavours and textures of goats cheese that excites true foodies everywhere.

Jannei Goat Dairy is an award winning dairy with an artisan cheese processing plant on site. Owned and run by husband and wife team, Neil and Janette Watson, Jannei dairy has won an incredible amount of awards at national cheese shows and much praise from media and chefs alike. Their Buche Noir, a vegetable-ashed, fresh pressed cheese; is soft, sliceable and deliciously creamy and was named the Australian Champion Cheese in the 2008 Grand Dairy Awards. Other consistent winners include their fresh curd and Bent Back Chevre, a fresh white mould cheese which can be aged for a superb robust flavour.

But what makes Jannei cheeses so special? Neil and Janette are passionate about sustainable farming techniques and the care of their stock – about 100 mostly Saanen dairy goats. They employ as much organic farming practise as possible in order to keep their pastures pesticide free and the goats roam freely from paddock to paddock via laneways on their 35 hectare property at Lidsdale, just 15 kilometres outside Lithgow.

Jannei products are made without additives apart from the natural preserving quality of salt in the cheeses and this is kept to a minimum so as not to distract from the flavour. Natural cultures are used in the production of yoghurt and only vegetable based rennet is used in the cheeses. Hygiene is a priority in the milking shed and Janette says they are always working to improve standards. A wide variety of artisan cheeses are produced including ricotta, fetta, yoghurt, a firm to crumbly aged cheese called Hill Billy and Prairie Cream – a camembert style with its own distinctive mellow flavour.

The little shop that fronts the cheese factory is open for sales and tastings Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Inside the shop, adorned with various awards and a Sydney Morning Herald studio portrait of Neil, Janette and some of their gorgeous goats, Janette gives me a taste test before we head outside.

“Put these on,” says Janette surveying my town shoes as she chucks me a pair of Target gum boots. They are two sizes too big but that doesn’t matter – they keep my feet dry and poo-free as we stomp off through the paddocks to get up close and personal with some of her shaggy charges.

First we visit a group of inquisitive kids who have been cross-bred with ….. Then it’s off after the milking herd who skirt the edge of the paddock and double back to the dam trying to avoid us. They’re a good looking bunch – fit and feisty and a little bit wary of the chick with the camera and the crazy cattle dog, Tiddles, who charges headlong at them on her way to chase some wild ducks that have settled on the dam.

Janette lures them closer with the promise of some feed; good quality lucerne hay that compliments the grazing crops and grasses. The goats’ diet is varied and carefully regulated. Neil plants oats to supplement their diet in the winter months which helps boost vitality and milk production.

Neil Watson is a former teacher with a degree in Rural Science and a Diploma in Sustainable Farming practise. He grew up on a cow dairy in the hinterland of the mid-north coast and after years in front of a classroom decided to try his own hand at farming. Janette has a background in advertising and design and uses her skills to market their product. They’ve been farming at Lidsdale since 1991.

“Initially we started selling fresh goat’s milk but there wasn’t such a big market for it so we decided to try cheese-making,” Janette says. “When we were ready to go public with our cheese we did a marketing course and one of the facets of the course was to pitch your product to a buyer,” she explains. “We approached Simon Johnson of Simon Johnson Fine Foods in Woollahra and he said: ‘Can you do a curd?’”

Immediately, Neil went back to the factory, consulted some books and began making fresh curd, which is now one of Jannei’s best sellers. The soft spreading cheese lends itself to designer chefs’ recipes. Barry O’Sullivan of the Gallery restaurant at Katoomba Fine Art is a fan of Jannei’s curd.

Jannei distributes about 80% of its product through Simon Johnson in Sydney. The rest goes to local outlets in the mountains, including the Food Co-op in Katoomba, and a fraction is sold at their farm-gate store. Janette and Neil’s son, Nick, mans the Jannei stall at the newly established Eveleigh Markets in the re-furbished Eveleigh railway yards in the city.

There seems to be a new farmer’s outlet popping up every weekend in and around Sydney and just getting the cheese to market can be a logistic nightmare admits Janette. “First we need to load the cheese and keep it at the appropriate temperature. Then we have to get it to Sydney and spend the day at the market and are often too tired to drive home afterwards. Nick lives in Sydney so he’s able to do the market once a month, just to keep our hand in,” she says.

In winter the goats only produce about 30 litres of milk a day, so Jannei struggles to keep up with demand but in peak production times Neil and Janette process about 1,500 litres of milk a week and it’s all done by hand. In the factory, the emphasis is on fine tuning according to Janette. “We are learning all the time and there are many things we have to take into consideration to achieve consistency like maturation times, when to turn the cheeses and the cutting of the curd,” she says. “While Neil sees the big picture, I’m a bit of a perfectionist and am always fussing over things like achieving the perfect thin rind,” she admits.

Right now the couple are excited about a new bobcat they have recently purchased. It’s the little things in farming that go a long way to making life on the land a dream. Janette and Neil have plans to buy some more land and construct an educational facility. They already play host to boys from Barker College as part of their outdoor studies programme. “We’d like to improve the shopfront and possibly get some cows in,” says Janette. “And maybe next year we’ll go to France and see how they do it over there,” she smiles.

For more information visit Jannei Dairy at 8 View Street Lidsdale (off the Mudgee Hwy), call them on 6355 1107 or email

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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