On a beautiful property at Salisbury Plains (near Uralla), you’ll find a couple busy raising their children (and kids … of the goat variety!) Corinne Annetts, Richard Downes and children Zebedee, Toby and April own and operate Sunhill Dairy Goats … a property that not only produces delicious goat’s milk and cheese, but also a range of goat’s milk skincare.
Their farm shop stocks a wonderful array of products, and you can also book ahead to organise a tour!
What’s the history behind your property and businesses at Uralla, Sunhill Dairy Goats and Sunhill Skin Essentials?
Our journey with goats started in southern Tasmania in 2000, where Corinne and I were looking for a lifestyle change and some level of self-sufficiency – having decided to leave the rat race of inner city Sydney. A love of a certain British police drama and a hillside property with an unfettered view of Bruny Island and beyond led to the establishment of Sunhill.
Unfortunately, a large section of our sunny hillside decided to let loose and knock our dwelling over at 2am one morning in 2003. Gotta love Tassie weather. How rude!
It was at this time we decided to relocate back to our home state of NSW.
Goodness! How did you recover from this disaster? Where is your current property?
After a little looking around, we stumbled upon Uralla and soon
after, Sunhill – take 2. It was flat, gave the same sense of open space as we’d had in Tassie, offered lovely grazing land, schools, employment and a very friendly community.
Sunhill is located on Salisbury Plains, just east of Uralla – 5 hectares surrounded by several hundreds of hectares of open grazing land. It is a very beautiful spot, and you can pick us out by the pocket of large Elm trees.
What breed/s of goats do you run on your property – and why have you chosen these breeds specifically?
After having many breeds of goats (both dairy and meat) we finally settled on the Saanen, a Swiss dairy breed. Do one breed and do it well, was the idea. We have found them to be well suited to the New England climate and they produce the most delicious milk, which is always consistent in flavour.
How does the day to day operation of your farm work?
The whole Sunhill ethos is about trying to be as sensible and sustainable as possible. We milk in the morning, with the routine taking around 2.5 hours. All of our products are made onsite. I (Richard) am the soap maker, and Corinne is the mastermind behind the skincare and cheese. We share the milking evenly with our children (not kids) helping us out on weekends.
We organise a block kidding each year, usually from late August/early September. This allows the does to have a break over winter and allows us as a family to get away too.
In 2012 we built our dairy, cheese factory, soap factory and farm shop. This is where all the magic happens. It was very important for us to keep everything on farm. We wanted to be able to show people the happy goats and their beautiful products, all in the one place.
What’s involved in making a quality goat’s cheese?
Happy goats means good milk, which in turn makes good cheese. Goat’s milk is naturally homogenised, which allows for easier digestion. It’s a very clean looking white cheese with fresh, tart flavours. As the cheesemaker, I (Corinne) make cheese about three times a week and have a high turnover in both the local and boutique market .
I concentrate mainly on fresh cheeses with short maturing time. Six core cheeses are produced here at Sunhill: Traditional Feta, Marinated Feta, Goat Camembert, Chevre, Chevre rolled in Ash, and Chevrotin.
This month we hope to be releasing unpasteurised goat’s milk as a new product. The demand from our customers has been overwhelming, and we can’t wait for you all to taste the beautiful milk our gorgeous girls produce.
What are some of the most popular goat’s milk items you produce, and what are their benefits?
I first dabbled with making my own moisturiser when I became unsatisfied with what was available in shops and the ingredients that were being used. With excess goat’s milk (they produce a lot!) I decided I could make my own.
The first was Sunhill Skin Essentials Hydrating Day and Night Cream. The recipe has not changed from my original, and it is still the one I use every day. It’s my favourite, as well as many of our customers’. All natural ingredients, with 80% fresh goat’s milk – that’s the secret. Goat’s milk shares the same pH as human skin, so it does a natural rebalancing, as well as helping to benefit any skin irritations.
Goat’s milk is a great natural solution, benefitting those with eczema, dermatitis, rosacea, psoriasis and other skin complaints. It’s just a lovely natural moisturiser!
From the Day and Night Cream I then delved into making soaps, lotions, eye creams, scrubs, body washes, shaving soap (for the buck in your life) and a Bub Rub. This was developed for our daughter (April) who suffered from cradle cap as a young child (not kid). I found that rubbing this into her scalp and leaving it overnight removed that dry, irritating patch. I am glad to say she now has a beautiful scalp.
The Sunhill Skin Essentials range is great for the whole family, from baby to teen to uncle to pop, as well as making wonderful gifts.
You offer farm tours too. When/how can people come and visit – and what will their on-farm experience involve?
Our farm shop is open 10 – 4, Wed – Sun. Tours are by appointment and happen at 10:30am, Wed – Sun. We always recommend calling ahead to avoid disappointment; you know how it is with children (not kids).
I’m not sure how the tours came about, but we love to share our story, and the girls always love having visitors. On the tour you get to meet our bucks, does and kids. We walk through the dairy and then finish with a cheese and milk tasting in the farm shop, where all our other products are also available. The tour goes for approximately one hour, and the cost is $20 adults, $10 children, $50 family and depending on the time of year, you may get a kiss and cuddle from the kids (not children).
Coaches and groups are also welcome, and these groups have increased significantly over the past two years.
What are your future plans for Sunhill?
Sunhill’s future is a little uncertain at the moment, with a large scale solar farm being proposed in very close proximity. We are advocates for renewable energy, but need to see how the development is handled. We would like to think we will still be operating Sunhill in years to come and are also looking at the potential to expand our skincare line to overseas markets.
Where can we contact you/find out more info?
You can find us online, through our website www.sunhillskin.com.au on Facebook and Instagram, at the Armidale Farmers’ Markets, DJ’s Foodie Bliss Armidale, Dale’s Downtown Meats Uralla, Armidale Information Centre, Uralla Information Centre, Uralla Wellness Centre and of course, at our farm shop, or more usually out in the paddock playing with the kids (and children).
Sunhill Dairy Goats,
645 The Gap Road, Uralla NSW.
Phone 6778 4505 M 0416 509 295.
Interview: Jo Robinson.