Founded in 1924, Bannister Downs Dairy Farm was created by Northcliffe pioneers Edith & James Daubney, and named after Edith’s family, the Bannisters. Now almost a century later, their grandson Mat Daubney and his wife Sue are at the helm. They have taken the farm from strength to strength, developing the dairy cattle farm into a company that also processes, packages, and markets the range of milk products. Together with their parents, children and business partner, Mat and Sue are passionate about raising happy and healthy cows; as well as focusing on three pillars to guide their brand – People, Place and Product.
Sue, originally hailing from Perth, moved to Northcliffe in 1996 to experience the farm lifestyle with Mat. Together they decided to take on the challenge of managing and expanding the family farm, “We were young, enthusiastic and ready for the challenge,” says Sue. After the dairy industry was deregulated in 2000, the sector was destabilised, and the couple had to work hard to reframe their future. With some helpful advice, they were able to secure a grant that helped move the dairy into fresh milk manufacturing, a bold step towards vertically integrating and building a brand. In 2014 they partnered with Gina Rinehart, and together they developed the plan for the Creamery, which opened in 2018.
Bannister Downs Dairy employs a whole host of talented people who bring expertise to their roles to help the business thrive. Most of the team have been working with the Daubneys for many years and are excited to be involved in the development of new technologies, markets, and sustainable considerations, as well as providing their community with good ol’ fashioned milk.
The Creamery is situated on Muirillup Road, just out of Northcliffe, on the original family block. The building, designed by Bosske Architects, rises out of the landscape with a flurry of red panels that beat a visual rhythm. The entrance reaches towards the heavens like a kite, creating a memorable first impression. The multipurpose building houses the robotic milking station, processing facility, dispatch of product, offices, and a café space. This striking building invites visitors to see all stages of the dairy journey and learn what makes a Bannister Downs product different.
The cows at Bannister Downs Dairy are free range and grass fed, grazing across the many acres of green pastures on the farm in Northcliffe. Ethical farming practices are a key focus, with Mat leading the farm team in ensuring minimal stress for the dairy cattle. The dairy yards include massage brushes, race and gate systems to accommodate ‘less confident’ cows, low stress handling techniques, selecting breeding to eradicate horns, and even coats for the youngest calves to keep them warm.
The robotic dairy allows Mat to collect a wide array of data from each milking, to keep a very close eye on the health and wellbeing of every cow. Each cow has her own electronic ear tag, which is scanned upon entry to the dairy. Smart gates recognize the cow, and direct her to be milked, or back out to the pasture for more rest. The machines analyse milk from every quarter of the cow’s udder, picking up on any deviations that could point to illness. After milking, the cows are directed to the feeding station, where they’re scanned again and delivered a portion of individualised ration, suited to their needs. The milking is voluntary, with cows choosing to approach the smart gate to enter the dairy, with the incentive being additional feed and a pass at a new paddock.
Within hours of milking, the milk is processed in the state-of-the-art facility a mere 10 meters away from the robotic dairy. Using a lower temperature over a longer time period (differing to most commercial processing methods), the milk is pasteurised gently resulting in a higher-quality product.
Sue and Mat have always prioritised innovation and sustainability. The distinctive packaging results from a partnership with Swedish company Ecolean, and Bannister Downs were the first milk processing facility in the Southern hemisphere to use the state-of-the-art system. The Ecolean milk pouches are made from 35% limestone which reduces plastic use, and can be recycled using the REDcycle system, burnt, or returned to landfill to break down. The design of the pouch is space-saving and can be laid down in boxes, reducing transport requirements.
Along with their fresh milk, Bannister Downs Dairy produce a range of flavoured milks and fresh cream. Their cherry flavoured milk is always a popular drink in summer when the cherry orchards are laden with fruit and the Cherry Harmony Festival fills the main streets of Manjimup with colour. In the cooler months their double cream is extremely popular, as it’s the perfect addition to warm comforting desserts like homemade apple pie or Sue’s favourite, apple crumble.
On living and working in the Southern Forests, Sue says “The Southern Forests is such a beautiful, clean area that we feel privileged to enjoy. There is sense of peace (apart from in the middle of a busy working day!) and plenty of space to enjoy – a lovely place to call home. Spring is my favourite season, it’s simply stunning and wraps around everyone with a feeling of positivity after the short days and winter cold”.
Bannister Downs Dairy products can be found in most grocery outlets within the Southern Forests, as well as a wide variety of supermarket and independent retailers across the state and country. Plans to expand into Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam and Hong Kong are underway, and the team are excited to take their quality Australian product to Asia. Bubble Tea enthusiasts can visit King Tea in Northbridge, Cockburn or Mandurah to try a beverage made with Bannister Downs Dairy milk – Sue says their Brown Sugar Tea flavoured Bubble Tea is to die for.
Photographs supplied by Bannister Downs Dairy.