Nelson dairy farm with cheese factory

7:18 PM Tuesday January 23, 2018 Colin Taylor

The Wangapeka Family Dairy Farm in Wakefield, southwest of Nelson, is for sale with its artisan cheese-making operation. Photo / Supplied

In Wakefield, 27kms southwest of Nelson, one of New Zealand’s few integrated dairy farms and artisan cheese-making operations has been placed on the market.

Wangapeka Family Dairy Farm encompasses a 187ha farm with a herd of A2 cows producing milk to make Wangapeka cheese and dairy products.

The dual-pronged Wangapeka Family Dairy farm with cheese factory operation is now being marketed for sale by Bayleys Motueka through a deadline process, with offers closing at 4pm on February 28.

Leeon Johnston of Bayleys Motueka says the gourmet Wangapeka brand has won multiple New Zealand awards for its cheeses over the past five years in various categories - ranging from washed rind, European-style or jacketed cheeses, through to fresh unripened cheeses, Feta and Camembert.

“The farm’s Jersey, Friesian-Cross, and Normandy cows are carefully bred for the quality of their milk. The farm runs an organic practice employing holistic production which is based on a high degree of animal welfare – and it really does show in the final product,” Johnston says.

“Cows are milked just once-a-day rather than the industry standard twice-a-day cup connection, and calves are left longer with their mothers to instill a greater sense of calmness for both generations.”

Johnston says Wangapeka Family Dairy Farm has branched out into the production of Kefir – referred to as the ‘Champagne of Milk’ – a fermented drinking yoghurt with a thick creamy texture and a refreshing ‘bubbly’ mouthfeel. Packed with probiotics and beneficial bacteria, Kefir is classified as one of Nature’s sought-after super foods, he says.

Under Wangapeka’s cheese-production business model, the freehold block milks up to 40 cows in the winter, increasing that number with up to 70 cows in summer. The farming operation and associated cheese-making business employ five full-time staff.

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The gourmet Wangapeka brand has won multiple New Zealand awards for its cheeses over the past five years. Photo / Supplied

Infrastructure on the farm includes:

  • a 165sq m purpose-built cheese factory on a concrete slab, with chillers, processing room, multi-racked refrigerated storage space, an office and staff room amenities;
  • a refurbished and upgraded 16-aside herringbone milking shed;
  • a main three-bedroom farm-style homestead heated by a wood burner and electric heaters;
  • a four-bedroom manager’s residence; and
  • a range of sheds for implement, animal, and hay storage.

Wangapeka Family Dairy’s cheese operation is accredited to the National Food Safety Plan and its cheeses are sold by retail outlets and supermarkets throughout New Zealand, the Nelson Farmers’ Market and via an online shop.

“Minimal processing of the raw ingredient means that the milk and the resulting Wangapeka cheeses are as close to ‘natural’ as they can be,” Johnston says. “The farm’s A2 whole milk is rich and creamy and the subsequent cheeses have a depth of flavour and texture that highlights the significance of being hand-made.

“The volume of cheese produced from Wangapeka has been very much at an 'artisan' level; but a new owner could look at ramping up output by either running more cows or by taking in milk from qualifying herds in the region.

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A herd of A2 cows produces milk to make Wangapeka cheese products. Photo / Supplied

“From that perspective, there is the potential to grow wider distribution networks: through the domestic market, exporting of existing products, for an experienced cheese-maker, or by adding new styles and types to the existing Wangapeka cheese range.

“Alternatively, the property could be converted back to a straight dairying operation capable of sustaining about 280 cows.”

Johnston says that under the latter option, the cheese-making plant could be sub-leased to a solely-focused food manufacturer to either buy part of the farm’s milk production or to source product from elsewhere in the immediate Nelson region.

Farm irrigation on the Wakefield farm is derived from a 5m deep bore, with the water stored in a 30,000 litre holding tank before being pumped to the 69 paddocks and drinking troughs.

The predominantly-flat and easy-rolling unit produces its own supplementary feed comprising 200 bales of baleage and 400 bales of hay annually.