Arab sheep finds home at Grandvewe

Arab sheep finds home at Grandvewe

Diane Rae making the sheep cheese at Grandvewe, Birchs Bay, Tasmania.

Diane Rae making the sheep cheese at Grandvewe, Birchs Bay, Tasmania.


A SHEEP breed that originated from the harsh Arabian deserts is making waves at a Tasmanian cheesery.


A SHEEP breed that originated from the harsh Arabian deserts is making waves at a Tasmanian sheep cheesery.

Grandvewe has even registered its own dairy sheep pedigree, which is a cross between the enterprise’s own East Friesland ewes and Awassi rams.

The breed is now most commonly found in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel and is typically known for its meat qualities.

But the organic cheesery - situated south of Hobart at Birchs Bay and run by Diane Rae and her children Ryan Hartshorn and Nicole Gilliver - is reaping rewards after introducing the Awassi to its dairy sheep flock.

The family established their thriving sheep farm and cheese factory around eight years ago, initially kick-starting their herd with East Friesland ewes sourced from Tasmania.

But after taking a good look at their survivability rates, decided to cross their flock with another breed.

“East Frieslands are extremely susceptible to any change in weather conditions, whether it’s cold to hot or hot to cold,” Mr Hartshorn said.

“They can have bad respiratory systems. We wanted to make them hardier, so we had fewer deaths in the flock.”

After some research, the family discovered the Awassi breed and have found that using the breed over their own ewes has made them less susceptible to weather changes.

He said production was reduced, but the benefit was that more sheep survived.

Recent heavy rainfall across the State has not fazed the flock at all, he said.

“The sheep are coping much better with the Awassi genetics; it’s reduced the death rate by 80 per cent,” he said.

Mr Hartshorn said the Arab breed’s unique “fat tail” helped the sheep to store energy

The farm recently built a website to sell surplus sheep and promote their pedigree, which they call Grandvewe dairysheep.

“People are interested in the genetics and at the moment we’ve got 100 ewes for sale,” he said.

Mr Hartshorn said generally sheep would milk for 9-10 years, so these sheep at 4-5 years of age were at their prime.

“These are surplus animals,” he said. “We are downsizing our flock at the minute, because we need more land.”

The 263 hectare property is home to 80 milkers, but the family hope to acquire more land in the near future to expand their operation.

Milking is carried out between September to March, with lambing season expected in three weeks.

The sheep are run entirely on pastures, but have access to a 200-head shed for lambing.

The flock is also supplementary fed silage which is grown on-farm, as the business is certified organic.

Grandvewe is also the only sheep dairy in Australia which has a milk recording system.

“For each individual animal it records how many litres and how long it milks for,” Mr Hartshorn said.

“Our average is 1.5 litres per day for seven months of the year,” he said.

Once the sheep are milked, the Grandvewe team is responsible for making up to 15 different types of cheese.

Their most popular cheese is Rockfort Blue, but they also make a white and black range.

More recently, Grandvewe has experimented in other dairy products with success.

“We now have an icecream and butter in our range, which is great,” he said.

A whey liquor is also made from the waste product, which he describes as a “vanilla Baileys”.

“People are initially hesitant before trying the Whey liquor, but once they try it they think it’s fantastic,” he said.

Grandvewe sells it organic sheep dairy range through an on-farm retail outlet, as well as to five States across Australia.

The cheese factory churns out up to 10 tonnes of cheese annually, but they family are hoping to increase that figure.


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