In 1978, three small dairy units were built in response to increased milk production in the Basque Country: SICA Esna (Macaye), Baiguramendi (Irissary) and Baigorry. Beginning in 1982, the 3 units combined to form the Berria Cooperative, improving milk collection efficiency. Onetik, the Macaye cheese dairy, was launched the following year. This superb new facility employs state-of-the-art technology while preserving traditional techniques and know-how.
Located in the heart of Basque Country, right in the center of the milk collection area for Ossau-Iraty, Macaye (Onetik) is the ideal location for a cheese dairy. Pronounced “mah-kaiye”, this small village is nestled at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains near Espelette.
Onetik collects milk from more than 150 sheep milk farmers and 200 dairy cattle farmers in the Pyrenees region, for a total of over 33 million liters (8.7 million gallons) of milk. Some of the farms are distant and difficult to reach; Onetik supports the preservation of historic pasturelands by continuing to collect in these remote areas.
The Basque grazing prairies are home to three ancient breeds of local sheep traditionally kept by Basque farmers. Black-Face Manech, Red-Face Manech & Basco-Bearnaise.
From the end of spring to mid-October, certain herds migrate into the high mountain pastures known as estives. The migration period or transhumance remains to this day a festive and memorable occasion. The animals graze on pristine meadows of fragrant grass at an altitude between 1’000 and 2’000 meters (3000 to 6000 feet) while hay is harvested on the prairies in preparation for winter.
Ewes are milked twice each day, and milk is collected daily from the farms. The estives are too distant for milk to be transported each day, so the special estives cheese is made on site, in Cayolars, traditional mountain pasture shelters used by shepherds.
The differences and and variability of milk, changing with the seasons, must be taken into account to ensure the same high quality of product all year round.