The new business, Ewe Care, is the latest addition to a suite of businesses run by Diane Rae, her daughter Nicole Gilliver and her son Ryan Hartshorn from the family farm, Grandvewe at Birchs Bay.
The family’s operation already included Grandvewe Cheeses and Hartshorn Distillery, home to an award-winning vodka using sheep’s whey.
Grandvewe executive director and cheesemaker Ms Gilliver said Ewe Care came about after they brought on two other Tasmanian farms to milk for them a few years ago, each with a flock of about 400 sheep.
“With any milking operation it takes a while for milk quality to actually manifest itself and during that process we arrived at the conclusion that if we were going to continue to take milk from these farms we needed to add more value to it than just cheesemaking,” she said.
“Milk products in general have always been used historically in skin care.
“They have natural hydrating properties, natural moisturising properties and also natural exfoliating properties… there’s lactic acid that is an alpha hydroxy acid that actually gently exfoliates your skin.
“In addition to that Massey University did a study on the antimicrobial, antibacterial properties of the fats in sheep milk a few years back and found that in the Himalayas and other regions of the world… for centuries they’ve been using the healing properties of fats in sheep milk to actually treat skin conditions and wound so with that in mind I thought why not do some market research around taking our milk and putting it into a skin care proposition?”
But the decision to make skin care raised another problem, that of the high rates of single use plastic used by the beauty industry.
The team at Grandvewe connected with local potter Ian Clare to create bespoke ceramic domes for their cream. Adding a further unique element to the design, waste wool is burnt onto the pots to emblazon each one with a unique design, while reinforcing their sustainable ethos.
Each portion of the cream will be sold in a compostable pouch that can then be squeezed into the ceramic pot.
Ms Gilliver said the cream was being sold that way as selling it in the pot would have meant using a plastic seal, undermining their values in terms of sustainability.
“We live and die by those values, we hire and fire by those values, it’s the essence of the integrity of everything we hope to represent,” she said.
Ms Gilliver said to create their own Grandvewe breed of dairy sheep the family had used a combination of East Friesian and Awassi genetics, as well as some genetics from other sheep breeds.
“We through luck managed to procure some Awassi genetics from a Queensland farmer on the border of NSW who was in drought-declared area and we bought them from him and brought them into Tassie,” she said.
“We through the next 15 years started a program of genetic selection within the crossbreed that meant eventually we had a breed we could confidently sell as a dedicated Australian dairy breed.
“With the Awassi genetics essentially what that does is it gives you a robustness in the animal and an ability to graze the animal off low nutrient fodder rather the East Friesian which needs high protein as per most dairy animals so there were lots of benefits to be had with crossing them out.
The fledgling Ewe Care skincare line had a soft launch when the Grandvewe businesses were recently featured on ABC television series Movin To The Country.
The product will be properly launched in August but not without its share of COVID-19 challenges, with lockdowns causing supply issues.
“We’ve sold all of our initial stock, which is a great problem to have, but our manufacturers in Sydney and our boxmaker in Victoria are all locked down so I can’t actually get any product or packaging for the proper launch until mid to end August,” Ms Gilliver said.
“We’re actually running at the moment a waiting list… I’m really chuffed to be in this position, I feel incredibly fortunate.”