Farm Online: Webinars drive manufacturing insights for small-scale dairy manufacturers

Dairy Australia's Dairy Manufacturing Workforce Webinar series is proving to be a valuable resource for dairy farmers and small-scale dairy manufacturers.

In May, subscribers to the webinar series heard from The Little Big Dairy Co's Emma Elliott, who entered small-scale manufacturing in 2013.

Ms Elliott's family, the Chesworths, has been dairy farming for eight generations, with a registered herd of Holstein cattle based in Dubbo, NSW.

The Chesworth family's prefix is Tomargo Recluse Holsteins, currently milking 1000 cows across three herds, three times per day.

For the Chesworth family, the decision to start their own manufacturing operation on the family farm was driven by their deep-seated passion for dairy farming.

"My dad and brother get out of bed every day at 2.30am for the morning milking - and you don't do that unless you have a passion for dairy farming," Ms Elliott said. "We started manufacturing so we could remain viable as dairy farmers, and continue doing what we love."

Before beginning her operation, Ms Elliott visited other small-scale manufacturers in Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia, who shared their knowledge and provided guidance on how to break into boutique processing.

Ms Elliott spent a significant amount of time locating and studying the requirements for entering the manufacturing space, including the regulations that applied - much of which is now freely available on the Dairy Manufacturing Resource Centre.

Today, The Little Big Dairy Co is a rapidly growing operation which operates the manufacturing, distribution and marketing side of the business.

"We invested in five delivery trucks and a semi-trailer, which we operate out of our farm factory warehouse," Ms Elliott said.

"This enables us to service all of our customers directly without using third-party distributors, offering a service that matches the quality of our offering."

In her webinar presentation, Ms Elliott shared her tips for other dairy farmers who are considering taking the step into manufacturing.

"One issue we faced initially was that the bank said no to us with our business plan to build the factory, with the dairy industry being in such dire straits, so we sold some cows to invest in our processing facilities," Ms Elliott said.

"It was brave and a big risk, but we had to back ourselves and be sure we were making the right decision."

For Ms Elliott, one of the most important pieces of advice she offers prospective small-scale manufacturers is to focus on quality control.

"In this boutique area, it's very important we don't comprise on quality," she said.

"It is important to have set roles and ensure everything is done to the highest standard, you can't be out there milking the cows and running a factory and expect it all to be perfect.

"One bad experience with a small processor can compromise it for the rest of us."

Dairy farmers can register for the Manufacturing Workforce Webinar Series via Dairy Australia's Manufacturing Resource Centre at

This story first appeared on Australian Dairyfarmer