The milko is back — the clinking of glass bottles, the layer of cream at the top of the milk — harks back to a time long gone.
Dairy farmer Shane Hickey delivers fresh bottled milk straight from his Jersey cows to homes around Kyogle.
Through drought and poor milk pricing at supermarkets, Shane and partner Julia Curtis forged a meagre living from their dairy farm on Lynchs Creek Rd for the past five years.
“There was pressure to perform with no returns,” Shane said of the push to produce as much milk as possible for suppliers.
Fed up, Julia and Shane sat down at the kitchen table and talked about how they farmed.
“Why were we working seven days a week to give our milk away?” Shane said.
They could get out or they could change the way they offered their products.
“We like cows, we like milking cows, why not value-add?” Shane said.
They bought a vat to pasteurise the milk and bought glass bottles.
“We threw everything at it,” Julia said.
Hickey Food Services started quietly.
“We tested it on a small circle of friends,” Shane said.
The response to milk in glass bottles has been tremendous.
It’s not only the creamy taste and the ease of recycling – Shane picks up the empties when he delivers – it was being able to stop using chemicals and to treat their cows better.
“We wean our calves at 10 months and keep them with their mothers for two years,” Shane said.
“I only milk in the morning around 10am and after that the cows go out with their calves.”
The welfare of the cows matters to Julia and Shane and it seems their growing list of customers also care.
Calls have come from Casino, Nimbin and Lismore for fresh milk.
“The business is about Shane,” Julia said.
“He has stepped out of the normal way of milk production.
“And he is much happier now he doesn’t have to use chemicals.”
The milk is pasteurised at the farm using low temperatures to keep the milk as “natural” as possible.
Hickey Food Services also makes yoghurt, ice cream, chocolate milk and mousse.
A litre of gold top milk costs $2.50.
Shane said bypassing the supermarkets meant people could connect to a farmer who “farmed in a way that was ethical and sustainable”.
Shane’s parents milked on the same property from 1979 till 1992.
Now 130 cows including Jerseys, Friesians and Aussie Reds graze in the green pad-docks and benefit from the new way of slow farming.
To order products direct from the farm, go to the website, hickeyfoodservices1.square. site
This article appeared in the Richmond River Independent, 31 March 2021.