There’s nothing but good news swirling around the milk pipeline at Malanda, Queensland, where Lion Dairy & Drinks’ processing plant has just entered its 100th year of operation and is powering along.

The factory is the town’s biggest employer, with 100 staff, and draws from 48 Dairy Farmers Milk Co-operative (DFMC) supplier properties on the Atherton Tableland, just south of Cairns.

Its milk ends up in the hands of consumers between Cape York, Mackay and Mount Isa.

Lion processes roughly 47 million litres a year at Malanda under the Dairy Farmers label among more than 60 milk and milk-based products.

More than 180 Malanda district residents – including DFMC members and current and former factory employees – gathered on 23 May to celebrate the approach of the iconic institution’s centenary.

Commercial dairy farming began at Malanda in 1904, when the first factory was built at Atherton. In 1919 the Atherton Tablelands Co-Operative Butter & Bacon Company moved its operation to Malanda, establishing processing on the site occupied today – almost a century later – by Lion.

In its early days processing was run by a farmer-owned cooperative. After a succession of takeovers and mergers it made its way into the hands of Lion, one of the world’s biggest food and beverage manufacturers, and its Japanese parent company, beer brewer Kirin Holdings.

Since 1996 Lion has invested more than $25 million in capital works and facilities upgrades at the Malanda factory and in 2014 it was named as the company’s ‘plant of the year’. Lion also partners with DFMC to run dairy farmer training programs in the region.

In 2014 it rebranded Dairy Farmers milk from the Malanda factory as Malanda Original Milk, generating an immediate two per cent boost in retail sales of the locally farmed and processed product.

The following year Lion and DFMC honoured nine Malanda district dairy farming families who had been supplying to the Dairy Farmers brand for 100 years or more. The third- or fourth-generation farmers were John Bevan, Ravenshoe; Cherie Davis, Millaa Millaa; Lex Emerson, Jaggan; Greg and Bronwyn English, Malanda; Peter and Veronica English, Malanda; Tom Hamilton, Jaggan; Bob Kelso, Evelyn Central; Max Neal, Butchers Creek; and Steve Soley.