Udder Success Dairy Co director Shirley Loats has converted
an Oamaru house into cheese manufacturing premises. Photo
by Sally Rae.
Shirley Loats is unashamedly ''old school'' when it comes
to making cheese.
Ms Loats (64), who has established the Udder Success Dairy Co
in Oamaru, has an involvement in the dairy industry that
spans more than 45 years.
She started in the industry in Australia in 1967 and was the
country's first female dairy technology graduate.
At the time, she admitted she did not realise the enormity of
the achievement, but it dawned on her many years later, she
After leaving school, Ms Loats got a job at the Gilbert
Chandler Institute of Dairy Technology at Werribee, in
Victoria, as a research assistant working in butter
She was the first female to graduate from the institute's
associate diploma of dairy technology course.
The dairy industry became a passion and, while she later left
it for some time and became heavily involved in the arts, she
has now gone back to cheese making.
Ms Loats came to New Zealand in September 2012 and, while she
joked that she ''tried to buy virtually every property in the
South Island'', nothing panned out.
People repeatedly told her she should go to Oamaru, given she
was both a cheese maker and an artist, so she decided to
''check it out''.
During a weekend visit, she became hooked on the town and
later got a job as a consultant cheese maker at Whitestone
When her contract expired, she decided to open her own cheese
A house in Humber St has been converted, equipment - much of
which she designed herself - has been sourced, and she made
her first batch of cheese last Friday.
It was going to be a small, boutique operation, producing
high-quality cheese and, possibly, butter, she said.
''I'm old school; that's how I was trained to work. I want to
go back to that, the real way of making cheese.
''It's my belief a lot of people can make cheese, but there
are very few people that are cheese makers.
"Cheese making is an art - that's what I want to bring to
it,'' she said.
Ms Loats believed she had the experience and skills to make
the venture a success.
She had experience working in both big and small factories,
which included managing a cheese factory. She had also worked
in other industries.
The support from the Oamaru community had been ''just
absolutely mind-blowing'' and she was also receiving
inquiries from potential customers and stockists.
During a trip to The Food Show in Christchurch, celebrity
chefs and MasterChef New Zealand judges Simon Gault
and Ray McVinnie both told her to send them samples, which
she intended doing.
Visitors to the premises would be able to look at the
cheese-making process through windows, something which Ms
Loats believed was important.
''The contemporary food movement, to me, is as much about
having an experience as about eating good food,'' she said.
She believed that experience enhanced consumers'
understanding and appreciation of the product they were
There would also eventually be retail sales at the premises.