In an era where small businesses are being swallowed up by large multinationals at an alarming rate, it’s refreshing to discover a family-owned and run operation such as Maleny Dairies. They are not just surviving but thriving by producing top quality products for which many satisfied customers are happy to pay a premium. Needless to say, you won’t find supermarket-style dollar-per-litre milk here because that’s not what this outfit is about.
An integral part of Maleny Dairies’ business plan right from the start was to create a working environment where the general public and school groups could visit and see the various processes involved with milk production from the paddock to the shop. As a result, the factory was built with large internal glass windows for public viewing and a kiosk where the products can be purchased. There are also farm tours that enable visitors to see the cows being milked, in addition to other farm attractions.
“It’s our best form of marketing, we get lots of school groups – sometimes we’ll have a couple of hundred kids come through in a day,” says Ross. “We actually have received complaints from parents because after their kids have been here they won’t drink anything but Maleny milk.
“We have around 25,000 people coming here each year and it works really well. They can see everything from the cows being milked right through to the milk going into the bottles and tasting it at the end. We don’t believe there are too many other places where the public can experience the whole process like this.”
Ross goes on to explain how the company philosophy has always been to stand out from the crowd and be a leader, not a follower.
“Our truck colour is a good example, all our trucks are gold because Guernsey cows are known as ‘Golden Guernseys’,” he says. “Obviously it’s hard to keep them clean but we do our best.
“We’ve always been into presentation as a point of difference. The products we’re selling are top-notch and they’ve got to be presented as top-notch. Our drivers are not farmers wearing gumboots with cow manure all over them, they wear our uniforms and fit the image we want to portray.
When the business was growing and the time had come to upgrade to a tri-axle Tieman tanker pulled by the company’s first tandem drive prime mover, an Isuzu Giga with AMT. The original single axle tanker was put out to pasture, literally, and is now a permanent landmark in a paddock next to the main road into the Maleny township.
As the business continued to grow it became clear to Ross that the Isuzu Giga was in need of a stablemate. Which brings us to the current flagship of the fleet – a recently purchased new 500hp Volvo FM12 – appropriately named ‘Prime Moover’.
The fact is Maleny Dairies doesn’t have traditional fleet numbers, every vehicle has a cleverly devised name right down to two new forklifts called ‘Turtle’ and ‘Harey’. The Isuzu is ‘Legendairy’, the MAN was ‘UnRollaBull’, the original Scania was ‘Bull Rush’ and the Volvo FL6 was ‘Udder Bull’.
The new Volvo is used for both the tanker and fridge van work while the Isuzu primarily pulls a fridge van. The company delivers six trailer loads per week to the Caboolture depot and three loads per week to the Ormeau depot. From there, vendors using their own trucks painted in Maleny Dairy’s livery deliver to the shops, supermarkets and cafes.
An interesting feature of the business, linked to the vehicles having names is that all the information about each vehicle in the fleet is stored on the company’s smart phones.
“All the information is linked between the phones including things like VIN numbers and filter numbers,” says Ross. “Invoices for work that’s been done can be accessed through the phones, making it easier to keep tabs on things, particularly if there’s a warranty issue.”
Each of the vehicles is serviced by Diesel Men Australia, a mobile service headquartered near Beerwah, that does the work at Maleny Dairy’s premises.
As the business has steadily grown over the last 18 years, continued investment in the factory has been needed in order to keep pace.