Wine, cheese a perfect pairing for Barossa estate

Nietschke approach helps build business

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WINE and cheese are a classic pairing, particularly in the Barossa Valley, with the Nietschke family at Moppa not just supplying milk for cheese production, but also growing top-end grapes for premium wine.

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WINE and cheese are a classic pairing, particularly in the Barossa Valley, with the Nietschke family at Moppa not just supplying milk for cheese production, but also growing top-end grapes for premium wine.

It is having these established markets for their milk has helped provide Jamie and Annaliese Nietschke with the confidence to invest and grow their dairy operation.

They milk about 250 cows, as well as running another 120 dry cows and young stock, on 430 hectares in the north of the Barossa Valley.

But they plan to grow these numbers to 270 milkers this year.

Mr Nietschke said good recent farmgate prices, as well as a positive start to the season, had supported plans to build their capacity.

To supplement this, they have invested in heat monitoring systems for their cows.

"As we get more cows, it is going to be more critical to spot every cow as they're coming into heat," he said.

The Nietschkes have two markets for their milk, with both making use of their location.

They are the sole suppliers for the Barossa Valley Cheese Company, based in Angaston. The brand recognises this link with its mature cheddar named the Nietschke Farm Cheese.

Mr Nietschke said the cheese company took the equivalent of one day's milk volume during the week.

The remainder of their production, plus milk from four other dairyfarmers in the Barossa and Mid North, is bought by Woolworths for its Farmers Own label.

"It is good to be involved a bit more with the end product and know exactly what's happening with our milk," he said.

Due to their farm size, and lack of irrigation, the Nietschkes have to be strategic in feed production.

Pastures include a mix of cereal-based annuals, ryegrass and clovers, while they also grow and make their own silage.

But they can only graze for six months of the year, due to the seasons.

"We do have to buy in a lot of feed - some years it is economical and some years it's not - so we need to use as much of the feed as we can," Mr Nietschke said.

About three years ago they introduced feed troughs and have also bought in a mixer wagon to create rations.

Mr Nietschke said this has helped even out production.

"We can maintain or even increase our production in summer, whereas before we used to see a drop," he said.

With beef prices so high recently, they have capitalised on renewing their herd.

"Any cow not performing goes on the truck and we're able to buy in young heifers in-calf for a similar price," he said.

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Much of the herd is a Holstein-Jersey cross, in part for the smaller size as well as the milk quality.

"We want to maintain solids, particularly for the cheese company, as that's what we get paid for," he said.

Alongside their dairy operation, they also grow about 30 hectares of vines, with some remnants more than a century old.

Mr Nietschke said the majority of their grapes go to Treasury for its Penfolds label.

They grow shiraz, superavi, graciano, durif and grenache.

"This is Penfolds country," he said.

While he said the two enterprises of dairy and grapegrowing may not "complement each other, they don't exactly clash either".

"With (regional) land prices so high, you need to have fairly intensive use of land to make it worthwhile," he said.

They are working with a local wine group, establishing a trial block to compare 10 varieties of grenache.

The Nietschkes also care for the environment.

They are involved in the Wildlife for Wine pilot program in the Barossa, planting insectories to encourage beneficial insects into the vineyard, as well as monitoring bat numbers.

Mr Nietschke said it was something to help the next generation.

"It gives us an interest outside the every day vineyard and dairy work we do," he said.

They recently bought 30ha of heritage scrub near their estate to help maintain and preserve it.

This site is also helping them tap into another major Barossa enterprise - tourism.

They have established Moppa Bush Retreat, with a bed and breakfast, as well as conference facilities.

The story Wine, cheese a perfect pairing for Barossa estate first appeared on Stock Journal.

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