Had Carolyn Davidson written a business plan before launching Towri Sheep Cheese in 2004 she doubts the venture would have gone ahead.
But armed with enthusiasm, a life-time knowledge of sheep and 120-hectares of grazing land near Beaudesert, Davidson’s hard work has made the venture a success and she’s raised the profile of this healthy cheese.
“This paddock was over the road from our turf farm and it had this big shed which I just had to fill,” she says.
“My hobby fast became a business. Now it’s definitely a business, I have to make it pay.”
Davidson, the daughter of Longreach sheep farmers, cannot understand why more Australians do not eat sheep’s cheese.
She says it’s the world’s healthiest cheese and contains twice the amount of protein as cow’s milk cheese.
“It’s a lot higher in calcium and vitamins and sheep milk is naturally homogenised so it’s much easier to digest for people who are lactose intolerant,” says Davidson.
“The asthmatics association recommends it for breaking down phlegm. Sheep cheese was being made long before cow’s cheese and around the world a lot more sheep’s cheese is sold than cow’s cheese.”
Davidson runs a herd of about 300 Awassi sheep. It’s a hardy breed of sheep, originally from Israel. As well as being well suited to the Queensland conditions, the Awassi is the world’s oldest milking sheep. Where a merino sheep will milk for 120 days a year, the Awassi will milk for 220 days.
“The Awassi is a very unique sheep because not only is it very, very good for milk, it also has very, very lean meat. It has a large platypus-shaped tail and like the camel they can utilise their fat in times of drought.
“They’re such a lovely big sheep, very docile with long floppy ears.”
Davidson regularly welcomes visitors and bus tours to the farm and another arm to the business -she admits the most profitable – is the breeding side.
Davidson recently finished an 18-month contract with the Qatar government to supply embryo transfers to enable the country to build its Awassi supply.
She supplied 80 ewes every six weeks.
“We prepared the ewes with hormones and then a team of vets came out who were very experienced in embryo flushing,” says Davidson.
“They would flush the eggs out under anesthetic. Our best result was 34 eggs from one sheet, the average was eight. The eggs are graded and chilled and put into the recipient ewes, usually Merinos.
“Obviously the cheese came first but our long-term goal is to breed the perfect milking and meat-producing sheep that’s suitable for the harsher areas of Australia.”