Here to be Herd

Located on the picturesque Fleurieu Peninsula, south of Adelaide, Fleurieu Milk was established by three local farming families who still continue to manage and operate the growing enterprise.
Hino 500 in South Australia.

Operating a dairy farm has always been hard work.

In the early 2000s the industry was faced with the mounting challenges of increasing costs, particularly for feed, and declining farm gate prices as the major supermarket chains used milk as a “loss leader”, mostly at the expense of the farmers who were supplying the products.

Around the town of Myponga in South Australia the number of dairy farms decreased from around 40 to just ten as many farmers sold up and left the industry.

The Fleurieu Milk Company was created in 2004 by three local farming families who saw there was still demand for high quality full-cream milk products and by having the processing and transport operation “in-house” the customers would benefit from fresher milk and the farms stood a better chance of remaining viable.

The three families of Barry and Merridie Clarke, Chris and Karen Royans, and Geoff and Louise Hutchinson had the shared vision to efficiently provide the best quality milk and its associated products, and the Fleurieu Milk brand is today carried by more than 1,000 stockists throughout South Australia including supermarkets, convenience stores, restaurants, and cafes.

The company is also the official supplier to the annual Adelaide 500 Supercars race which provides an opportunity to showcase the products to motor racing fans at what is arguably Adelaide’s largest public event.

Supercars in Adelaide where Fleurieu Milk has a major presence.
At the Adelaide 500 Supercars event.

A repurposed 40-foot shipping container serves as the company’s on-site outlet at the Supercars and the Adelaide Show. Processing around 1.3 million litres of raw milk each month, Fleurieu Milk has expanded its offering of dairy products to around 50 different items ranging from white milk, flavoured milk, cream, yoghurts and a unique range of Australian Native yoghurts.

The company uses its own trucks to transport to the various customers.

An online ordering system has been utilised to further enhance efficiencies through the routing of the trucks to service the customers throughout metropolitan and regional South Australia.

Wayne Deacon has the role of Distribution Manager and joined the company in 2017 when the management decision was made to buy out the distribution company which had been performing the bulk transport task of collecting milk from the farms.

The change of bringing that vital step of the operation in-house not only provided control over the logistics associated with sourcing the basic product but has also delivered sustainable incomes for the distribution transport team.

Additionally, operating its own trucks has produced a higher level of personal service and a higher degree of flexibility which benefit both customers and company.

Importantly, the truck drivers are regarded as customer service representatives and play an important role in client satisfaction that goes beyond simply performing timely deliveries.

It was early in its operation that Fleurieu Milk established a strong relationship with Adelaide’s CMI Hino dealer group.

“One of the reasons we went with Hino originally was because they were building the service centre at Lonsdale, which is probably only 40 minutes from here,” says Wayne, noting the majority of truck dealerships are on the other side of Adelaide in the northern suburbs and consequently more than an hour and a half away.

“Having them based at Lonsdale has been amazing and the service and everything else they have provided over the six or seven years we have been with them has been exceptional.”

Adam Wilkinson Fleurieu Milk.

The fleet presently includes 22 Hino trucks, with a couple more currently on order, from both the 300 Series and the 500 Series with servicing carried out by the dealership.

The trucks range from a FM 3622 tanker, to 14-pallet FE1426 models and eight-pallet 916 models from the Hino 300 Series.

Other than the tanker, the Hino trucks are equipped with refrigerated bodies from Adelaide-based Advanced Transport Refrigeration or from Thermo King distributor TRS.

The tanker collects the morning’s milk from the various local dairies and delivers it to the processing plant at Myponga where it is pumped into a silo tank and is put into the production schedule that day to be pasteurised to eliminate bacteria and enzymes, and then homogenised to evenly distribute the fat globules to provide the rich white colour and smooth texture that Fleurieu Milk is renowned for.

The processed milk is sent out to resellers within the first 24 hours. An innovative way of supplying milk are the 18-litre kegs that Fleurieu Milk has developed thanks to a partnership with a small Tasmanian company, named appropriately enough, The Udder Way.

A number of resellers are already embracing the concept which involves the use of refillable one-litre glass bottles and has the additional environmental benefits of reducing plastic waste from single use plastic bottles. “They approached us when they needed someone to fill kegs for them and we’ve taken over a fair bit of the whole process,” says Wayne.

Hino 500 FM 3622 tanker at the Myponga plant.

The Udder Way supplies the kegs and Fleurieu Milk supplies the milk product and handles the distribution and collection of the kegs.

Fleurieu Milk’s substantial growth has been largely due to the support of the South Australian public which has got behind the locally owned and operated business.

But the rate of growth presents challenges in itself. One area is the extended lead times involving additional new vehicles and equipment, a situation shared by most Australian transport operators over the past few years.

The public’s appetite for Fleurieu Milk products has also meant the capacity has been maxed out to supply the raw material from the local dairy farms, which range from being located just 300 metres away from the processing plant to up to 30 kilometres away.

“We’ve had to reach out and bring on more farms outside of the Myponga and Mt Compass local areas and we’ve got farms down at Victor Harbour now, so we have to go a little bit further just to keep up with our growth,” says Wayne.

During this current period of sustained low employment rates in Australia, a growing organisation like Fleurieu Milk could have been expected to have some critical staff shortages, but the attraction of working for what is essentially a family-managed operation has assisted in keeping pace with the growth and the need for additional trucks and drivers.

“Over the past few years, we’ve been very fortunate that we haven’t had huge staff turnover,” says Wayne. “Because drivers in general are very difficult to find at the moment.”

They are, after all, the face of the business.

“Moreso than anyone else because they see the customers two or three times every week,” Wayne says. “We’re quite lucky we’ve got very good staff, and we try to look after our people as best as possible.”

He adds, “Having a couple of farmers and a former fisherman as directors means they’re pretty grounded people.”

Hino 300 unit.
Hino 300 with eight pallet body at work in Adelaide.
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