Cadell Training Centre’s new multi-million-dollar dairy and processing facility is boosting the prison’s milk supply to the South Australian community.

Located within a low-security prison farm in the Riverland, the Cadell Training Centre dairy will be officially opened on 22 May but has been in action since 22 January.

“We milked in the old dairy in the morning and then moved into the new dairy in the afternoon. It was a great feeling,” said Industries Manager Marcus Wills.

“Our old dairy, an eight-bay walkthrough, was about 50 years old and it had gone past its used-by date well and truly. For more than a decade, there’s been a campaign within the Department of Corrections to build us a new dairy.

“We’ve brought ourselves very rapidly into the modern day by commissioning a new 16-bay herringbone dairy and a new milk processing centre.”

The Cadell Dairy has 137 in its milking herd. In the old dairy, milking took about an hour and a half. In the new dairy, the herd is milked in 45 minutes.

“The efficiency gains are huge. And all the modern technology is incredible. We have better plant, better equipment and we’ve noticed already that our raw cream has increased in quantity and quality immensely, with massive increases in quantity especially,” Marcus said.

“In the old dairy, we’d struggle to meet orders over 36 15-litre vats per week. Now I need to find at least one more customer because we’re outstripping our previous supply. We’re averaging at 2,000 litres a day and we can see it rising to at least 3,500 litres a day come spring. And that will keep climbing as we build up the herd.”

Cadell Prison Dairy. Photo by Brad Griffin.

The new facility utilises advanced monitoring systems to ensure cleaning and pasteurisation processes are carried out effectively. Temperature sensors, pressure gauges and automated monitoring software continuously track critical parameters to detect any deviations that could compromise food safety.

“We are also equipped with an automated cleaning system that streamlines the cleaning process, to ensure thorough cleaning of equipment, pipelines and storage tanks, reducing the chances of contamination,” Marcus said.

“Design of the new facility centred around workflow and hygiene. Surfaces, equipment and materials are easily accessible which reduces the likelihood of bacteria build up and makes cleaning more efficient.”

Cadell Prison Dairy. Photo by Brad Griffin.

Cadell Training Centre supplies milk to Barossa Valley Cheese and La Casa Del Formaggio and is in discussions with Moo Premium Yoghurt.

It also supplies milk to most South Australian prisons, including Yatala Women’s Prison, Adelaide Pre-release Centre, Adelaide Remand Centre, Mobilong Prison and Port Augusta.

The milk for the prisons is processed at the centre. “Processing, packaging and distribution are all done here at Cadell. It’s quite a large operation,” Marcus said.

Cadell Prison Dairy. Photo by Brad Griffin.

All farm work, milking and processing is conducted by prisoners, with about 22 employed in the dairy alone.

“Being a prison, it’s all about employment for these guys, and trying to give them a better understanding and possibly a career on the outside, when they exit us,” Marcus said.

“Some prisoners come with some outside experience, but a lot of them come in green and raw. We’ve got three excellent officers down there who train everyone up.

“As well as the prisoners working in the dairy and processing centre, we have other prisoners responsible for everything outside the dairy, from feeding the herd to cutting hay and tending to calves.

“Come rain, hail or shine, I have to take my hat off to the prisoners – they are always there and keen to work. The cows need to be milked and the guys just get in and get the job done.”

Cadell Prison Dairy. Photo by Brad Griffin.

Cadell Training Centre conducts its own AI and natural breeding program and is aiming to build its milking herd to 200 plus over the next two years.

“We have 273 total in our herd and about 40 heifers that are pregnant. They’ll go into milking for the first time this year which will raise us to about 170 in the milking herd, so we’re on track,” Marcus said.

“We’d like to grow to 200 to 250 in the milking herd and that’s what the new dairy is capable of milking comfortably. We’re also keen to look at producing some different products in our processing centre for the prison network, possibly yogurt, cream and ice cream, down the track.

“It’s an exciting time for our centre. The officers in charge are jumping out of their boots. They’ve been waiting for this for a very long time. And the prisoners have taken it on as if it’s their own, with a great sense of pride, which is the most incredible thing.

“Because we’re all new and shiny, there’s always a visiting group wanting to go down and have a look at it, so the prisoner workers are on show 24/7. They’re more than happy to stop and talk and demonstrate, which is fantastic. It’s helping them break down their fear of talking.”

Cadell Training Centre might be Australia’s most unique prison, with an active CFS crew, consisting of 22 prisoners, who assist with fires and road accidents in the community, as well as an Outside Work Gang who do building and repair work, including during the recent Murray floods.

“We also have olive and citrus orchards, and our fruit often wins awards at the Royal Adelaide Show,” Marcus said.

“We enter our cows in the Royal Adelaide Show too, and we’ve won some awards. This year, now that we have the new dairy and processing centre, we’ll also enter our milk in the Show, so hopefully we win some awards for our dairy produce next.”

Cadell Prison Dairy. Photo by Brad Griffin.