Emma Elliott is on the run. As factory manager at The Little Big Dairy Co she has a big responsibility, luckily she has the energy to match.
During the few hours Food Miles is in her company, Emma discusses delivery with her husband (and colleague) Jim, coaxes cows and staff into being in the photo shoot, hoses down the dairy, checks in on the calves, cuddles and chats to her son, Xavier, commiserates with factory staff over a chocolate syrup spill, and cheerily berates her brother Campbell for not wearing enough sunscreen.
It’s like that here at The Little Big Dairy. Everyone is busy, everyone knows what they have to do.
It’s all in the name of producing an excellent quality product and getting it into the hands of happy customers.
The whole operation is underpinned by values including fair trade, animal welfare and care for land and river system.
No wonder this fledgling milk processing business has just been awarded the Australian Grand Dairy Award – specialty white dairy drink for its less cream milk. The double cream milk was also a finalist at the awards.
“The reason we won this award is the high quality of our single source product which really does come back to the intimacy we have with the animals and the products that they are producing,” Emma said.
“We maintain quality right through processing and handling in the factory and distribution to our customers.”
Feedback from the judges noted the freshness and quality of the product.
“This was great because it shows that everything we do on our farm and in our factory is adding up to produce a high quality product which is valued by high end cafes and families alike.”
The products include four types of whole milk: full cream, no cream, less cream, premium non-homogenised. Also popular are the double cream, pouring cream, fair trade coffee milk, fair trade chocolate milk and malt honey and vanilla milk.
“Little Big Dairy is Australia’s only fair trade flavoured milk producer,” Emma said.
“This means we buy all the ingredients for our flavoured milks through fair trade-certified chains which guarantees the protection of the farmers in the developing countries who produce it.
“That is a big part of our ethos here. Of course, we want to be sustainable on our own family farm so we want to ensure other farmers are treated sustainability with a fair price.”
The business involves Emma’s parents Steve and Erika Chesworth, brother Duncan and his wife Danielle, Emma and Jim Elliott, and younger brother, Campbell. The Chesworths have been dairy farming for eight generations.
The high-tech dairy records milk production and each cow has extensive computer records. All cows are stud-registered Holsteins boasting long family trees which are recorded and registered with the breed society.
“My dad Steve and brother Duncan can look at a cow in the paddock and rattle off its full pedigree and breeding.”
Emma says customers love knowing that they are the people working with the animals which produce the milk.
“The biggest thing they love is that it single source which means we have complete traceability back to the cows that produce the milk. We know their names, we know their history, we know their diet, we know that they are happy and healthy and we can guarantee the integrity of the product.”
The cows are milked three times a day and graze year-round on seasonal pastures. They also receive a ration of grain, silage and mill run.
“We work closely with our nutritionist to ensure all their needs are met and that they are healthy, happy and able to produce the high quality milk that we’re after,” Emma said.
“We’re a big farm but we do things like we’re a little farm. We still have that intimacy with the animals that we had when we were smaller.
“We also believe if we look after the little things, the big things will take care of themselves which is something that we are focused on.”
There is plenty of scope for The Little Big Dairy Co to grow as it currently bottles 24,000 litres per week which is fewer than one day’s production from the farm.
“As consumers we want to have confidence in the products that we’re buying and we don’t want to be fooled by a tagline or a gimmick,” Emma said.
“When people buy Little Big Dairy products they can be guaranteed that it’s produced here on our family farm and we love nothing more than our animals and for them to be healthy and happy and producing great quality milk that we can capture and sell to other families is special for us.”
Little Big Dairy products can be found in independent grocers in Central West NSW, Dubbo Farmers Market, selected cafes and the Pyrmont Growers Market, Sydney.