To increase accessibility to local, nutritious dairy in the Castlemaine region, practicing regenerative agriculture with the utmost respect for the animals involved.
Growing up on a farm in Victoria’s north east, Tessa Sellar has long been passionate and heavily involved in promoting, farming and developing sustainable food systems to reconnect people with their food, farmers and landscapes.
Her partner, Oliver Holmgren, grew up in central Victoria immersed in a Permaculture way of life. Bringing a host of practical building and engineering skills, he is building much of the infrastructure.
Working so closely with these ladies is a beautiful and humbling experience, each cow has a very individual personality. Getting to know them and build trust is one of the corner stones to this business. Running such a small herd also means that the individual characteristics of each cow’s milk is very noticeable in the flavour. Cow’s are named by family lines so in future years it’s easy to recognise who is related to who.
Named by her previous owner after Roberta Flack, she was our first cow and the start of the singer family line. Now in her 8th lactation she is about 13 years old. Berta is a mix breed, most likely a large percentage Holstein meaning she has a large boney build and definitely produces milk before looking after herself. Reaching 43ltrs a day at peak she has one massive udder which can leave her quite vulnerable. Her milk is similar to the Shorhorn in flavour. Berta is the most beautiful creature to behold; calm, affectionate with very strong mothering instincts. She was the matriarch but seems to be dominated by Joyce and Olive currently. Berta will come to her name when called.
Olive is a classic Jersey. Born and raised on the corner of Danns rd, daughter of the infertile Daisy, she will be the start of the Edible tree family line. Eight years old Olive hasn’t had a very successful calving history. When I can get her in milk she’s a very good milker who held condition after calving and held her milk volume right through for 15 months, shes my dream jersey, once milking. A very rich yellow milk which sometimes you could mistake for straight cream. Olive is very cheeky, she loves to steal food and sneak into areas she shouldn’t. She’s known as Boomba as she can get quite fat. Currently Olive is dominated by Quartz and Iggy. Olive has a very husky jazz moo. After being absent from the milking herd for 2 years she is currently confirmed pregnant and due to rejoin the herd in Sept 2022.
Joyce arrived August 2019 and has been a complete no fuss cow to work with, even if she is a grumpy old bag. Joyce is the beginning of the Buffy line, mother of Rupert, Willow and Clem. She’s a 12 year old Illawara dairy shorthorn who came from a certified organic dairy nearby. True to her breed, her three calving’s with me have all been a very straightforward. She loves the routine of milking and will often putting herself back in the stall after milking if I leave the gate open. Her breed combined with her age means her milk is very complex and savory. Joyce doesn’t moo, she yells.
Luna arrived from Guildford in 2019 as an 18 month pure A2 jersey heifer. In Oct 2019 she calved with Stella and Pluto in May 2021, continuing the Astronomy line. Stella made it to be a beautiful 18 month old heifer, the spitting image of her mother who tragically died following a date with the bull. Luna is a little mad, quirky energy, but very affectionate. When she arrived she’d had very little human contact and I couldn’t touch her, she now is the first cow to come to you for a scratch and comes to her name for milking. She has darker colouring in winter and a very dainty build. Luna had milk fever after calving and serve edema which led to her losing the use of one quarter of her udder. She has made an incredible recovery and produces a classic rich and creamy jersey milk. Luna will probably remain my most vulnerable cow around calving.
Quartz also came from Guildford in 2019 as an 18 month old pure Dairy Shorthorn heifer. We chose the mineral line as her registered breeding line was Molly and we made a very loose connection to molybdenum. She had a straight forward calving with Onxy December 2019 then Selenite in May 2021 (Selenite will join the milking herd in late 2023). Quartz wouldn’t let me near her when she arrived and prior to calving I didn’t know how I would ever tame this cow. Quartz has a very different energy to the rest of the herd, she often does her own thing, can be a little vague and get left behind a bit. She has a very gentle soft nature and loves a good butt scratch. Her breed and age makes her milk very simple, clean and savory. Quartz can get picked on a lot however she dominates Olive so theirs always someone to steal from. Unfortunately Quartz has what’s knows as corkscrew feet at the front and we have to regularly trim them to avoid her getting lame.
Iggy was the first calf I had on the property, born to Berta with a dairy shorthorn sire. A combination of following the singer line and my fathers nickname being IG. Iggy was a teenage tart who broke in with the neighbours bull, twice! She has been my first experience of working with an animal I raised and it’s definitely paid off, although she has the attitude of a spoilt brat and throws her weight around. As a human she is great to work with however she abuses her power within the herd, only being dominated by her mother. She maintained awesome condition after a very easy calving or Patti then Marianne and has been a good milker, having clean, simple and savory milk. Thankfully I finally have Iggy in calf to a bull of my choosing, due Sept 2022. Iggy has the understanding that I put fences up to restrict other animals from spaces, not her.
Ginger arrived mid 2020, as a five year old Certified Organic Illawara dairy shorthorn. Finally I have a roan shorthorn and she even has a love heart on her schnoz! Ginger is most definitely the sweetest cow to walk the earth. She went down hard with milk fever after having twins; Monte and Carlo, it was touch and go but she pulled through and is a beautiful milker who holds her milk production well for over 12 months, with a large volume of savory shorthorn milk. Ginger is the biscuit line. She went down again the next calving with Kingston but an I was prepared for it things were only rough for 10 min.
Norma Jean was our adopted jersey calf who Berta raised along side Iggy. Marilyn Monroe was also adopted and while she did sing she mainly acted so Norma will split off into a film star line. She arrived as a 24hr old angel who has certainly learnt to hold her own. Norma calved with Doris in Oct 2020 and Bette in Jan 2022. She has been a dream to work with producing beautiful sweet milk and being very easy to train; not a single kick, poo or wee in the milking parlour! However her an Iggy are the two naughty sisters; escaping, getting there heads into everything.
Swish arrived from Guildford mid 2021 in a mad rush to get some more milkers after having a crap winter losing Stella and having Nancy not work out as a milker. Once again a calm cow with no prior handling, by the time she calved I could put the halter on her and she was the first to come over for a pat. Her registered breeding line was Fancy. She had her second calving with me, a stocky little roan heifer called Dapper which will be a future milker. Swish is true to her breed, easy to calve, good mother, good savoury milker, holds condition well.
Sellar Farmhouse Creamery holds a lease at the foothills of Leanganook just outside of Harcourt, 9km from Castlemaine, Victoria. Harcourt was once the premier apple growing region in Australia and continues to have a large orchard industry, requiring the recently upgraded irrigation system.
Sitting about 380 metres above sea level with rolling granite hills, red gums and lightwoods dotting the landscape.
Our average rainfall sits around 560mm, mainly falling over the winter months. Turning the concrete granitic sands of summer into porridge in winter, with springs popping up everywhere as the ground-water follows the underground boulders.
Summer days mainly sit in the 30°s and can reach 45°C, with a winter average of 2°-12° occasionally dropping below 0° with frost.
Sellar Farmhouse Creamery farms on Dja Dja Wurrung country. We acknowledge that Aboriginal sovereignty on this land has not been ceded.
We pay our respects to the Dja Dja Wurrung people whose knowledge and care for this land has nourished and fed people for countless generations before us.
At the foothills of Leanganook we marvel and are reminded of the power and history of this country we farm.
The Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op
We’re lucky enough to be part of he Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op. A collaboration of diverse organic farmers in Central Victoria.
Katie and Hugh Finley have taken a new approach to succession planning for their second generation family farm, a 47 acre certified organic farm in Central Victoria now home to the co-op. Unlike the traditional farming co-op model; people farming the same product on different properties, using the combined energy to sell together, we’re doing things a little different. Different farming enterprises, working together on the same land to bring diversity and resilience to the land and our customers.
So far we are:
Gung Hoe Growers
Mel Willard is Gung Hoe Growers. With help fom a dedicated crew of interns and volunteers, they grow real, dirty, food and build soil, belly laughs and veggie porn. They feed their local community through veggie boxes, a seasonal farm shop and various restaurants and cafes.
The Orchard Keepers are a collective of friends; Yoann, Ingrid, and Alex who took over from Ant, who previously leased the orchard as Tellurian Fruit Gardens. We manage an organic fruit orchard growing cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, apples and pears. Selling through CSA shares, farmers’ markets, pick your own, farm shop, and custom orders.
Carr’s Organic Fruit Tree Nursery
Under the mentorship of Merv Carr, who has been grafting and budding heritage fruit trees for over 50 years, Katie Finlay and her sister Liz Carr are continuing the family tradition. Carr’s Organic Fruit Tree Nursery grows a huge variety of quality heritage fruit trees for sale in winter as barerooted trees.
Grow Great Fruit
Hugh and Katie Finlay use their 20 years’ experience as organic fruit growers to teach others how to successfully grow organic fruit at home with their home-study program and one-on-one support.
And of course Sellar Farmhouse Creamery!
We’re still looking for new co-op members so please get in touch if you have a farming idea that is compatible and complementary with existing enterprises. Some opportunities that have been identified include:
• native foods
• plant nursery
Connect with the Co-op at hofcoop.com.au or facebook
We run two main breeds in the herd which together create our delicious milk:
A small to average sized, classic dairy cow. Caramel colour often having a darker winter coat with black areas on face, neck, tail and feet. Black colour pigment: visible around eyes and nose. The Jersey cow has the highest butter fat content of the mainstream milking breeds in Australia. She is the best converter of feed into fat and her milk has a yellow appearance when on pasture. A very rich, simple and sweet flavour. Being a higher production cow they have a habit of producing milk first and then looking after themselves which can lead to higher risks of milk fever, weaker immune systems and struggling to keep weight on after calving.
I have two types of Dairy Shorthorns in my herd; the classic English dairy shorthorn and the Illawara dairy shorthorn which is an Australian Breed created by breeding a small amount of Ayrshire and Devon blood into the classic shorthorn. The Illawara is considered to be a straight dairy breed as opposed to the traditional dual purpose Dairy Shorthorn. Both animals are known for their roan markings, they can range from pure white to pure red and everything in between. Red or white colour pigment around the eyes and nose. A medium size animal who is far beefier than a modern dairy cow; looking after herself at the same time as producing milk means they are known for easy calving, resilience, strong mothering instincts, fertility, grazing efficiency and calves which can be raised for meat. Their milk is white with a savory, complex flavour. While there are very few purebred herds of either left in Australia, they were previously one of the most popular breeds.