Social media campaign to support a ‘fair go’ China FTA

FTA4Dairy

The Kiwis already have one. We need one too and Aussie dairy farmers are calling on people power to win it next Monday.

A free trade agreement with China is the difference between being truly competitive, or not, in one of the world’s most important markets for Aussie dairy. The peak body for Australian dairy farmers, appropriately named Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) is leading a social media campaign to get the deal done.

ADF CEO Natalie Collard answered some questions on the campaign.

MMM: What’s planned?

ADF: Through a coordinated social media campaign, ADF is seeking via a trending hashtag to raise public awareness and media focus on the benefits that a positive China-Australia FTA conclusion could achieve for the Australian dairy industry and the overall Australian economy.

This initiative has been embraced by the Australian agriculture community and National Farmers Federation and ramped up under an all-of-agriculture umbrella.

ADF is encouraging consumers and stakeholders to upload a photo of themselves (a.k.a. a “selfie”) holding a sign reading “#FTA4dairy” on social media, and including the campaign’s hashtag in their post as well “#FTA4farmers.”

MMM: Why is the FTA so important to dairy farmers and why should other Australians support it?

ADF: Signing a commercially meaningful FTA with China would allow the dairy industry realise its goals for growth. For a start, a “New Zealand plus” deal, one that is on terms or exceeds those of the deal that China signed with NZ in 2008, would deliver savings of at least $31.5 million, based on current China exports, as well as removing Australia’s competitive disadvantage with NZ.  With the application of NZ terms it would save the dairy industry a cumulative savings total of $630m over the period 2016 – 2025.

It would deliver additional jobs in the farming, dairy processing and manufacturing sectors as well as indirect employment in logistics and shipping.

MMM: Who are you trying to reach with this message and why?

ADF: ADF is trying to reach as many people as possible.  Anyone from the Australian dairy community – whether you are a dairy farmer, industry support group member, political representative, agriculture student, dairy supporter or everyday consumer, you can help! The further the reach, the more viral it will become.  To have a top ranking trending topic on Twitter/social media will raise general awareness of the importance of a positive China FTA as well as generate media interest in our message and campaign.

MMM: I’m sure the ADF will lobby politicians directly – why the social media campaign?

ADF: ADF is seeking to shake up the way usual advocacy is done – we’re pursuing a grassroots approach. We want to put the China FTA on the community’s radar and indirectly pressure the government by showing them the community is watching and listening. ADF stresses that this is a non-politically aggressive campaign, aiming to highlight the positives a good dairy deal could achieve for Australian and Chinese people alike.

MMM: How can people become involved?
It’s easy! Just jump online on Monday, 1st September and tweet/upload positive messages on social media with the hashtag #FTA4dairy.

We encourage you to take a #FTA4dairy ‘selfie’ holding a piece of paper which reads a short message in support of a positive China FTA outcome for dairy and upload this to social media using the #FTA4dairy hashtag.

ADF encourages you to grab a pen and paper, and hand write one of the following messages to feature in your #FTA4dairy selfie – you may also like to be creative and make up your own:
·      I support a dairy deal for our Aussie farmers #FTA4dairy
·        China FTA dairy deal = more Aussie jobs #FTA4dairy
·        China dining boom NEEDS Aussie dairy #FTA4dairy
·        Give Aussie dairy farmers the same chance as NZ #FTA4dairy
·        China FTA dairy deal = less tariffs, more savings #FTA4dairy
·        We need a great dairy deal from China FTA #FTA4dairy

If you don’t have a social media account simply email your ‘selfie’ to ADF: communications@australiandairyfarmers.com.au We’ll post it for you.

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The call of the farm speaks to so many

"Trough activated, Captain!"

“Trough activated, Captain!”

Alex was excited as he pulled on his boots this morning. He had full custodianship of the big Dolphin torch and lit our way through the paddock to open the gates in time for the cows.

With the gates open and the track diverted, Alex checked the operation of the trough, just as the sun’s glow lit the sky.

The Little Man is growing up with the call of the farm in his blood, something that makes him unusual for Australian kids these days, something that’s a real privilege.

He doesn’t realise it yet and I suspect many of the Year 8 students I met today don’t, either. Two DEPI experts and I were part of a panel drawn together to help inspire a new generation to follow their passions and keep learning all the way through life. A lofty aim that’s somewhat daunting, for it took two tragedies to find my way here.

During the questions that followed, one boy illuminated the elephant in the room: “Is it better to get a job you really like even if it pays badly or should you go for one that pays really well?”

For me the answer is clear. While Lynne Strong is undoubtedly correct when she writes that an adequate financial reward is key to seeing more young people return to agriculture, it’s not the only thing. Profits support a passion but rarely do they invoke one.

WinterValleyLoRes

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A lunchtime punt on the farm

What a wonderful day to go boating!

Unconventional boat launching, granted.

Unconventional boat launching, granted.

 

“Nice? It’s the only thing,” said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leaned forward for his stroke. “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

“Simply messing…about in boats — or with boats… In or out of ‘em it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not.”

“Look here! If you’ve really nothing else on hand this morning, supposing we drop down the river together and have a long day of it?”
– Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Although my invitation for Wayne to unblock the effluent pond pipe was not quite so romantic as Ratty’s, it was a little more pressing.

All the manure that collects on the dairy yard while the cows are waiting to be milked is hosed away into ponds. This way, it can be reapplied to the paddocks where valuable nutrients are recycled rather than leaking into waterways.

Realizing we would run out of storage over winter, we had an extra pond excavated back in autumn. The system is now getting rather full but, still, the pipe from pond 2 to the new pond refuses to flow.

Damnation

Damnation: this should be a waterfall

We suspected the pipe was too long, buoyant and flexible, so the idea was to simply row in and saw some off. After a false start and some safety modifications (getting some hay band to stabilise the boat with an anchormaid) to the Good Ship Shi%, Wayne did just that.

Wayne wrestles with the Loch Macdonald monster

Wayne wrestles with the Loch Macdonald monster

The rotten thing still popped up defiantly above the surface. Another metre lopped off and it sank. Triumphantly, we waited for the water to flow. Nothing.

The next weapon in our armoury was a long piece of poly. Wayne thrust the two-inch down the throat of the pipe with all the courage of his Viking ancestors, daring a blockage to reveal itself. Four or five metres in – about where the two sections of pipe must join in the centre of the pond wall – it did.

Ah well, not every boating story has a happy ending, as Toad would attest. The next exciting episode will have to feature some serious yellow horsepower. Life on farm is never boring!

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The blueprint for NSW dairy

A week or two ago on Twitter, CEO of NSW dairy body Dairy Connect Mike Logan made an intriguing reference to a “blueprint for NSW dairy”. There’s only a limited amount you can learn from the 140 characters of a tweet, so I invited Mike to elaborate on Milk Maid Marian and here’s what he had to say:

Mike Logan, Dairy Connect CEO

Mike Logan, Dairy Connect CEO

In the NSW dairy industry the issue is that the value chain is not adding value at the farm gate. Since deregulation the farmers have descended from being strategic partners in the value chain, to an input that must be minimised.

Perhaps this is similar around the rest of Australia – I am not qualified to say. However, it is easy to assume that the dairy model in NSW is flawed as we watch our cousins across the ditch (dutch) grow their businesses, convert sheepmeat farms to dairy and build new kitchens. (The ‘New Kitchen Meter’ is a reasonable measure of success in agriculture.)

It is also easy for the NSW dairy industry to look at the New Zealand dairy industry and suggest we should emulate their model of ‘one big co-operative’. Without doubt that is the best model in the world at the moment. I call it the United Soviet Socialist Republic of Dairy (USSRD) and Barnaby Joyce says that Fonterra is a Maori word meaning ‘single desk’.

As much as we would like to, we shouldn’t emulate their model.

Firstly, because we can’t. The legislation required would make the current budget look easy. Between Clive Palmer and David Leyonhjelm it would be a nightmare.

Secondly, it is because we need to think about the next model after New Zealand. What is better than the USSRD?

Our current model of the value chain in NSW dairy seems to look a bit like this:
CurrentNSWdairymodel
Sort of messy eh?

The real problem with that value chain is that the farmer is held a long way from the representative of the consumer – otherwise known as the retailer. There are lots of ticket clippers, gatekeepers and a few value adders in the chain. There is not sufficient transparency and doubtful equity. The last person to make any money is the farmer.

So who is making the money?

Well, certainly the retailer. Here in Australia we have two of the three most profitable supermarkets in the world (Woolworths then Walmart then Coles/Wesfarmers).

Also the banks. The four most profitable banks in the Western world are right here. I needn’t name them. There are more profitable banks in China and Russia.

The distribution and transport sector is quite profitable. Linfox is not going out backwards.

Oddly, the processing sector in dairy is not making that much money. They are making more than the farm sector, but not an inordinate amount more. They only have about 25% of the capital invested when compared to the farm sector but they are mostly in control of the milk, its destiny and its value. They are the gatekeepers. The profit of the processors precedes the profit of the farmers.

So, what would a better model look like in NSW?

We suggest a value chain that is circular. We could call it a ‘value cycle’;

ValueCycle
The most important part of the value cycle is that the farmers and the retailers are side by side. The needs and values of the farmers and the supermarkets align. They align because the farmers have a secure supply of a high quality product and the supermarkets need a secure supply of a high quality product. Both want transparency and equity.

The first time I saw the value cycle work in NSW dairy was with the Woolworths Farmers’ Own brand and the group of seven dairy farmers in the Manning. The farmers were told by their processor that they couldn’t get any more money from the supermarkets for their fresh milk. They were told how tough it is dealing with the supermarkets. To their credit, the farmers took the challenge and decided to find out how tough it is to deal with the supermarkets.

The processor was half right. It is tough to deal with the supermarkets, but there was more money available. Both the supermarket and the farmers got what they needed because their values aligned. The system is transparent and equitable.

If that is right here in Australia, is it right in the export market?

Yes it is. Along with Norco and the logistics company Peloris Global Sourcing, the NSW dairy industry facilitated by Dairy Connect has developed contacts in the retail sector in China for the sale of fresh milk. Again, the milk is worth more with a direct deal with the consumers. The model does work.

It is easy to scoff at the volumes for fresh milk to China, I will tell you that they are small but they are invaluable.

If we can deliver albeit small volumes of fresh milk into the fastest growing dairy consumer market in the world at a profit by developing direct relationships with the supermarket sector in China, then what is next?

Can we develop those relationships to deliver other NSW dairy products without having to enter the export commodity circus that is mostly controlled by the USSRD?

Of course we can. The NSW dairy industry is actively seeking investment and partnerships with the Chinese retail sector to access the infant formula market. Again, the processors are right, it is tough. The farmers in the Manning too are right; it will bring value back to the farm gate.

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Charged by a cow

It all happened in slow motion. I was walking across the paddock to offer our vet, Sarah, a light steel pigtail post for protection when the cow we were so desperately trying to save squared up to me, lowered her head and charged.

I managed to strafe her face once with the spring steel rod but it did nothing to deter her.  Collecting me under the chin with her neck, she effortlessly threw her pathetic matador into the air. Luckily, I was not trampled; as my head hit the ground I saw her white belly soar through the sky as she cantered off towards the distant corner of the paddock.

I stood up, sobbing, laughing and shaking. My jaw sat unnervingly askew and my head was already sore but I was still alive and walking.

After three x-rays and a CAT scan, I’m home again, neck in a brace and feeling chastened for the anxiety I caused my ashen-faced children, who witnessed the whole thing. So, what went wrong?

The cow was a terrified first-time calver (“heifer”) in big trouble. She’d been down for a couple of hours with a rotten calf inside and sprang up miraculously the moment Sarah arrived.

1. My instincts were right that she was cranky but I didn’t know her and should have been triply careful.

2. I got off the Bobcat and walked to the vet. Why oh why didn’t I drive to the vet?

3. The vet was on the ground instead of in the Bobcat. I’d already called for extra help on wheels and if we’d waited another five minutes, this would never have happened. A vet’s time is valuable but not more valuable than life itself.

In other words, I was in a rush and took unnecessary risks in the name of getting the job done even though I pride myself on being very safety-conscious. The latest WorkSafe statistics prove dairy farming is agriculture’s most dangerous job: please learn from my mistakes and take care out there.

 

 

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But we don’t get tornadoes in Gippsland

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
- Wizard of Oz

Hayshed gets a makeover

Hayshed gets a makeover

Our dairy farm now boasts a hay shed roof that spans 20 acres. Bits of it, anyway.

We knew yesterday’s winds were coming, so had shifted the cows, heifers and calves to shelter.

The calves big enough to be weaned in the next couple of weeks were bunkered down in the hay shed when Mother Nature began her renovation work. Thankfully, none of them or the Maremmas who live with them were injured.

Nor were any of the yearlings who could have escaped through crushed fences Alex and I discovered during “border patrol” this morning. We count ourselves very lucky.

Alex aboard the lazy milk maid's chainsaw

Alex aboard the lazy milk maid’s chainsaw

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The beauty of trouble

Every now and then you have a day like Friday, a day marred by a flat tyre, stripped wheel nut, machinery breakdowns and a string of bad luck.

I was scrabbling through my paperwork with Alex tucked in for his midday nap when one of our Holstein bulls ambled across the lawn past the cubby house.

As I watched in dismay, the one-tonne giant turned nonchalantly to scrub his massive head against the base of a tree. Until that moment, I’d decided to sit tight and hope he would settle in for a quiet graze until Little Man awoke. But head scrubbing is the first step in an avalanche of bullish destruction that, set in my treasured garden, is too awful to contemplate.

I rushed outside with flailing arms and a bark bigger than its bite. It was enough to distract Bos Perditor and buy me time to rustle up the Little Man.

The Little Man is always up for an adventure and woke with bright eyes when I explained that we were going bull hunting. “Bull hunting, Mama? Like the bear hunt, it’s a beautiful day?”

Bouncing into the Bobcat, we pursued Bos into the wilds of the windbreak, where he turned and faced me. In the ensuing standoff, I broke a flimsy stick over his broad head. Bos didn’t flinch. Simply stood, staring, and then in his own time, wandered out to the road back towards the gate he’d broken and his buddy. So far, so good, but then his mood changed and off he went down the road.

By now I was on foot again with another stick and managed to get in front of him as a 4WD rounded the curve and slowed. The bull sized me up, lowered his head and simply stood there.

I wasn’t scared,
For I have never been afraid.
Of anything. Not very.

This stick, too, broke across his poll without any effect as the 4WD glided by. Now I was getting desperate and ran back to Alex and the Bobcat – at 730kg, the machine weighs almost as much as the beast and makes a more formidable opponent than a flimsy middle-aged farmer.

But by then, the man in the 4WD had done something wonderful. He reversed, pushed the nose of his vehicle towards the bull and tooted the horn like he meant business. My heart leapt. Together, we could win this. Armed a little more meaningfully with a star picket, I marched up to Bos, who turned and swaggered through the gate to join his buddy.

I didn’t get to thank the 4WD driver wearing his Chubb uniform – apart from a smile and a wave – but by taking three minutes out of his day, he made mine. Sometimes, it feels like we’re living in a dog-eat-dog world but a scratch of trouble reveals beauty that lies just below the surface.

 

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