Radical dog food fruitful

Jack Newlands (14) and his grandfather John Newlands, with Cop the dog, outside the Radical Dog...
Jack Newlands (14) and his grandfather John Newlands, with Cop the dog, outside the Radical Dog factory, at Incholme. Photo by Sally Rae.
The Newlands family, of North Otago, has gone to the dogs with its latest business enterprise.

Family members have launched a range of dog biscuits under the catchy brand name Radical Dog, with a New Zealand first twist in the recipe.

The biscuits contain Montmorency tart cherries and tart cherry juice concentrate and they are targeting the high end of the dog owner market.

A small factory has been built on the family farm to produce the biscuits, which they intend to sell to the likes of veterinary clinics, pet stores and dog grooming businesses.

John and Maureen Newlands farm in partnership with son Snow and his wife, Nicola, at Incholme, near Maheno.

Springbank was a traditional mixed farming operation, with Snow being fourth generation, when they decided they needed to use their irrigation water more efficiently.

That was back in 1992, when they began looking for a crop that would not take as much water as they had been using.

There was a list of prerequisites: there had to be consumer demand for whatever they grew, it must be able to be mechanically harvested, and they wanted something that was full of health properties.

After years of research and trials, they settled on tart cherries, later establishing their Cherryvite business.

Whenever they were in the orchard at harvest time, their dogs used to ''gobble'' up the cherries under the trees.

They never thought anything about it but, after the harvest, their dogs always looked ''brilliant'' and it took several years ''for the penny to drop'', John Newlands said.

Deciding to take it further, they employed an animal nutritionist and started making batches of biscuits in the farm kitchen. Two old Kenwood mixers might have blown up in the process and it might have taken ''hundreds and hundreds'' of batches to get it right, but they got there.

Extensive testing was done by Massey University's Institute of Food Nutrition and Human Health, and the biscuits were formulated to meet AAFCO (the American Association of Feed Controls) adult dog maintenance requirements.

They also worked closely with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which was helpful in steering them in the direction of people who could help them.

Once they got the recipe right, they distributed them among some dog owners for comments and got ''rave reviews'', Mr Newlands said. Even their own cocker spaniel got her ''mojo back''.

One greyhound trainer, who trains 90 dogs and has more than 200 dogs at his property, trialled the biscuits on a few dogs.

He was interested to see how they worked with older race dogs as they got stiff with age and racing.

He had particularly good results with one older dog who was very arthritic. The dog ''loosened up a lot'' and won some more races.

The biscuits were high in antioxidants ''to kill all the nasties in the body'' and they were good for joint mobility and general good health, Mr Newlands said. There were no preservatives or additives - ''everything's natural'' - and dogs loved the taste of them, he said.

They were ideal as a treat food for training companion pets or farm dogs, or they could be fed in conjunction with other foods.

Getting the machinery to manufacture the biscuits proved to be a little problematic and they ended up designing their own machine and getting it fabricated in Oamaru.

Despite initially knowing nothing about their venture, it had been an exciting and rewarding journey, with a few trials and tribulations along the way.

Already, an order had been received from Australia and MBIE was keen for them to look at exporting in the future.



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