Sheep Milk Made
A boy who left school in 2003 at the end of Year 11 thought he’d be commencing an apprenticeship. Luckily for us, his plans changed when parents Jane (nurse) and Bruce (policeman) bought a small property in Nannup, imported 3 East Fresian sheep and set about creating a flock that now produces beautiful milk for the family’s award winning farmhouse cheeses.
Little did Tom Wilde know that chemistry, his poorest subject at school would play a huge part in the success of his career. Tom told me “The best thing about chemistry was the teachers VW Combi Van he drove to school each day. After class we used to chat about VW’s as we shared the interest. I wish I could have been taught real-life application of chemistry at school. I love it now!”
Tom records data when making every cheese. He’s learned that ‘stuff-up’s sometimes create amazingness and if everything is not recorded, it’s impossible to re-create something that tastes so good.
Q: What do you remember about making your first cheese?
A: At the beginning, mum made all cheese and dad and I worked outside building the dairy and factory. I made the occasional cheese and remember the feeling of anticipation while the cheese was maturing. Waiting for a year to finally cut the wheel to see what it’s like was so exciting.
Q: What’s the part of ‘Cambray Cheese life’ that makes you happy?
A: Knowing we’ve created a living from such a small place as a family. It was a big struggle in the first few years and then restaurants discovered that we create a product they wanted and their customers enjoyed.
We have a ‘Farmhouse’ classified product. It starts and ends with us, which means the grass is grown for the sheep we care for and milk, to make cheese all on property.
We are our own bosses and made the decision not to work with major supermarkets who dictate everything! We sell to people we want to work with.
Q: Tell me a bit about the cheesemaking seasons on your farm.
A: We milk the sheep for about 8 months of the year. At the moment (winter) we are not milking as the sheep are on maternity leave! When the sheep lamb in July and August we share the milk with sheep, there’s enough milk to make some cheese as well as let the babies drink. Any mum who has twins doesn’t get milked so she has enough for her lambs.
This first milk is thick and rich so we make matured style cheese such as pecorino. And then after a few weeks we make all cheeses including the softer styles.
As the warm weather dries the grass there is less water in the milk, (strangely enough cows fed on dry matter have a higher water content in their milk). The best Farmhouse Gold cheddar is made in summer in February and March.
Milking stops from March as the ewes naturally dry themselves off. This gives us a 4 to 5 month break from daily milking which is good. As a farmer our sanity returns and we have time to work on other areas on the farm like planting a variety of nutritious grasses for the sheep to eat in spring.
Q: If someone asked you why they should eat your cheese, what would be your answer?!
A: You can totally trust us, the farmers to deliver a pure and well-made product. We take no shortcuts. Whether you are eating cheese made with our sheep milk or the cows milk we use from the herd of 80 to 100 on the Letchford’s family farm (consistently in the top 5% in Dairy Australia’s Milk Quality Awards) near Busselton.
Much commercially produced cheese is made with standardised milk. This means the cheese tastes the same every time and it has to withstand long shelf life resulting in a lack of flavour. We don’t use milk that is standardised, so our cheese varies with the season which is natural and wonderful.
Q: What are the future plans for you and Cambray Cheese?
A: We’d like to expand our cheese making equipment to create different styles. For the first time ever, we’ve employed a farm worker to free me up to work with the cheese. There’s plenty of interest from the eastern states and it would be great to have enough cheese to meet customer demand over there. We’d prefer to keep our cheese in Australia so have no overseas export plans.
Order Cambray Cheese along with other select items in a WA Seasonal Produce Box. Read more…