It just goes to show that being the biggest isn’t necessarily best as a small farmer from Norway is officially the best cheese producer in the world.
With a herd of only 12 Norwegian Red cows, farmer Jorn Hafslund from Ostegarden won the accolade in November 2018 with his gouda, Fanaost, emerging as the top cheese of 3,472 entries from all over the world.
The 25th World Cheese Awards were held at Bergen in Norway and attracted entries from 40 countries. Category winners were judged down to 16 ‘super gold’ cheeses from which the judges selected the supreme award winner.
Jorn has passionately produced his own cheese since 2006 and in 2018 produced 20 tonnes of cheese, mainly of his award winning Fanaost variety.
Thanks to high demand for his cheese, this year Jorn is upping his production to 30 tonnes. To cater for this expansion he and his wife Ruth have already invested in new cheese boilers. The successful husband and wife partnership also produce a Camembert and Brie cheese to order.
Jorn’s small herd produces around 80,000 to 90,000kgs of milk per year plus he buys in 120,000 litres from TINE, Norway’s largest producer, distributor and exporter of dairy products, to make his cheese.
The average milk yield for Jorn’s cows is a commendable 8,000kg per cow per year. And, the use of antibiotics in the herd is low, as it is in many of Norway’s dairy herds thanks to genetics.
“I rarely have to use antibiotics,” said Jorn. “In fact I’d rather milk a cow separately for a few weeks than treat with penicillin.
“I think the combination of our system and the genetics contributes to our milk quality. We get 15 cheeses from 700 litres of milk, compared with 14 cheeses from the same volume of milk sold to our farmer co-operative TINE, and we only use our own milk for making camembert and brie.”
The cows run on 96 hectares of a combination of tenanted and rented land with heifers put to more extensive grazing land and are each fitted with GPS collars so Jorn can locate them easily.
Not all of the grazing land is good quality but Jorn says the older meadows produce much more complex milk that adds distinctive flavour to his cheese.
For Jorn and his wife, cheese-making started on the kitchen table seven years ago. Jorn admits that he was completely clueless about cheese production when they started up and the first three to four attempts were unsuccessful. “Ruth and I went on a course, and then travelled around Europe to gather knowledge about cheese production,” he added.
Subsidies from Innovation Norway helped the enterprise take off, as it enabled Jorn to hire a person in production so he could promote sales. They now have six full-time employees to run the herd and the cheese-making business.
Jorn said: “Our cows are our key resource and everything else is built around them. I always do the morning round of the cows to keep up with what is happening in the barn. And it’s a good way to get up in the morning,” he said.
Although he does not spray his land for weeds he does use an additive in his silage to reduce the risk of mould. This silage is the staple winter ration for his cows along with bread.
Jorn breeds his own pure Norwegian Red cows suitable for his system usin
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