Sundale Free Range Dairy, which is located in the East London Industrial Development Zone, has joined forces with Just Milk – the largest organisation of dairy farmers in the country – to acquire the iconic cheese operation Cookhouse Creamery previously owned by Dairybelle.
The move puts Sundale on the national map and cements its position on the shelf with other big names in the industry.
Cookhouse is located in the “dairy belt” of South Africa – 24 km east of Somerset East, which is the home of many dairy farming operations. The region is fed by the Great Fish river, which provides for agricultural crops and natural vegetation, supporting pasture-fed grazing in this farming community.
Sundale CEO Pierre van Rensburg says its interest in Cookhouse is two-fold – it allows the company to extend operations beyond the borders of East London without compromising on its promise of producing authentic pasture-fed dairy in its purest form.
The site is also the original home of Dutch-style gouda, which was first produced in South Africa in October 1937, at Cookhouse.
“Cookhouse enjoys a special place in the history of dairy in the country and we are proud to be a part of its continued legacy. Affixers agree that proper Dutch-style gouda can only be produced from same day fresh milk, which is why Cookhouse is a natural fit for Sundale.
“For us to get Dutch style gouda right, we need to get it from the cow to the dairy on the same day,” Van Rensburg explained.
The milk produced for the cheese is procured from the Just Milk Riverside farm, which currently produces 12-million litres a year. The initial production will yield gouda rounds, cheddar and mozzarella with plans to produce fixed-weight cheddar and gouda packs in early 2019.
The projections for the plant have allowed Just Milk to invest in a start-up farm, Riverview, that will supply an additional four-million-litres of milk a year for the new dairy.
The farms, all within a 30 km radius of Cookhouse, yield about 300 000 ℓ/d of milk.
Upgrades are under way at the new Cookhouse facility and operations should be under way by mid-July.