Billawarra Organism's Tulip isn't giving much milk. Just seven liters a day. That's up from one liter when the gorgeous young jersey cow first calved. Tipsy, a black, short-legged Dexter cross, is a few years past her first calf and producing 15 liters a day, hand-milked by Maureen Rowe.
Tulip and Tipsy are the only two cows milking when I visit Rowe's idyllic Billawarra dairy near Denmark in Western Australia, where I taste the best milk of my life. Better than Lee win Estate chardonnay. Better than Cullen's merlot. Better than most things you can drink.
Sadly, Billawarra Dairy's organic milk is not for sale (though its fresh cheeses and marshmallow-textured yoghurt are). There's simply not enough to go around, and I'm thankful for the few tablespoons I taste from the farmhouse fridge. As far as milk is worried, it has ruined me forever.
Billawarra's small process is a welcome keeping out within the Australian dairy industry, one that is more and more moving towards mass manufacture. The industry deregulated in 2000, ending a fixed-price, quota-based system. Deregulation has meant a huge shake-up and, for many, a shake-out.
Barambah Organics estimated that half the dairy farmers we had 10 years ago are now doing something else. The remaining dairies are larger (averaging more than 300 head in milk at a time) and the majority use contract milkers, according to the peak industry body, Dairy Australia.