Fonterra: no Chinese milk coming to Aus

Fonterra logo

An NZX announcement today celebrated a partnership between Fonterra and A2 Milk Co. It also seemed to suggest that Fonterra had plans to put Chinese milk on retail shelves in Australia and New Zealand. Not surprisingly, farmers took a great interest!

Milk Maid Marian is grateful to Fonterra Australia’s Matt Watt for setting the record straight.

MMM: Fonterra’s NZX announcement states: “The partnership encompasses…Exclusive period to explore a2MC branded butter and cheese, and China sourced liquid milk for sale in Australia, New Zealand and China. These relate to other dairy products not presently marketed by a2MC and would be complementary to Fonterra’s existing portfolio of dairy products.”
Will Chinese milk be sold on retail shelves in Australia and NZ under the agreement?

MW: There are no plans to sell Chinese milk on retail shelves in Australia. The China sourced liquid milk under this partnership would be retained in China for sale there.

 

MMM: Which other Chinese dairy products will be sold here?

MW: No products

 

MMM: Why will the milk be sourced from China?

MW: For fresh milk, it makes sense to source the milk in country if possible – in China we can do this for the local market and be confident on our quality control on our farms there.

 

MMM: Problems surrounding Beingmate, which has a large stake in Fonterra’s Darnum plant are well publicised. Will Darnum process less nutritional product in the future?

MW: As an investor in Beingmate, we are disappointed with their performance, and this is being worked through by the Co-op as one of the higher priorities to get the investment back on track.
However, Darnum is running well and the plant is almost at full capacity which is why we’re investing to unlock more capacity. In the last two years we’ve seen nutritional volumes treble at Darnum, and this partnership with the a2MC enables us to further grow volumes with confidence.

 

MMM: Will farmers with A2 milk be preferred suppliers in Gippsland?

MW: We now need to work through the plan to develop the A2 milk pool here in Australia. This is an important step for us but we also need to be clear that our broader milk pool and cheese/whey/nutritionals strategy remains at the core of what we do so all suppliers of high quality milk are valued by Fonterra.

Milk Choices: let’s explore this further

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Milk Choices explores an open market for milk at the farm gate

A team of volunteers has just launched a novel idea: what if dairy farmers could sell our milk to more than one customer? It’s a radical concept in dairy circles but not for any other business.

The volunteers have called the concept “Milk Choices” and say the time is right for a fresh look at the way milk is traded at the farm gate. And why not?

When the Milk Choices group asked me to help explain the idea, I jumped at the chance. It’s always important to consider the alternatives and this one may well change things for the better.

Put simply, Milk Choices involves an open market for milk would help farmers and processors manage risk and increase their profitability.

It’s not a working model yet – just a concept – and the Milk Choices team wants all of us to have a say in how it develops.

I’d highly recommend learning more at the Milk Choices website and, if you can make it, hear Scott Briggs present the idea in person at the Australian Dairy Conference this week.

To get inspired, take a look at the quick little video below.

 

 

Milk price index prize goes to…

An email sent to dozens of processors by Australian Dairy Products Federation chief, Dr Peter Stahle, has revived discussion about just who will do the analysis for the Milk Price Index (MPI).

It’s the latest twist in what can only be described as a “peculiar” chain of events to dog the rollout of what was billed as a $2 million solution offering transparency in farm gate milk pricing.

In the email, Dr Stahle wrote:

“…the group agreed that the Department would work to deliver, before the end of the financial year, a two-part MPI along the lines of:”

“Part 1 – A commodity price index based on global data, which would additionally indicate near-term trends

“Part 2 – Specific regional supplements that would, with brief commentary, refer to how farm gate prices had been impacted by market conditions. This would include a median price paid for milk (with a range), developed through a survey of farmers in the respective regions.

– extract from ADPF email dated February 6, 2018

During a phone call, Dr Stahle told Milk Maid Marian that industry was yet to see the final proposal and that the details remain open to negotiation and refinement.

Dr Stahle said it was proposed that, through ABARES, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources would conduct the background analysis and deliver the index.

Meanwhile, Dairy Australia’s Charles McElhone said the involvement of a private consultant had not been ruled out. Although DA has consistently said it will not deliver the MPI, Mr McElhone said the research body would assist whoever was responsible for the analysis.

To ensure participation and a sense of ownership by dairy farmers, Dr Stahle said it was hoped that state dairy farmer organisations or other farmer representative bodies will engage in the delivery of training on the use of the index.

Can do attitude: a dairy daughter’s tribute

DadMumAndrew

Dad, Mum and my brother Andrew at Wilson’s Prom

It never occurred to me that there were any limits for women during my childhood. My strong, stoick mother had it all: an off-farm teaching career that was as much vocation as occupation; family; weekly squash competitions; a trumpet; horse riding; a massive garden encircling a newly-built home and the farm.

But I did confuse what it is to “have it all” with “do it all”.

It was Mum and we kids who raised the calves before and after school, Mum who built the calf shed out of hand-mixed concrete and recycled iron, Mum who managed the finances.

She was no matyr but she did work smart and very hard. Everything was organised to the nth degree and time was a precious commodity.

Now Mum lives on the other side of the state but something of her continues to live on here, too. While I had no doubt that women can do anything, even after a neighbour told me girls were only good for getting married, I suspect the thought has never even crossed my daughter’s mind.

Times are changing, yes, but my mother’s legacy will endure for generations.

 

Weird farm facts: what does a cow and a hair dryer have in common?

via GIPHY

Yep, it’s a heatwave. Dairy cows hate heatwaves. How much? Take a look at some of these weird facts from Dairy Australia’s Cool Cows website:

  • Each of our dairy cows gives off body heat equivalent to a 1500-watt hair dryer on a hot day.
  • Cows eat 10-20% less when the air temperature is more than 26°C.
  • A cow making more milk is more easily heat stressed.
  • Each dairy cow can drink 200-250 litres per day in hot weather – double the normal intake.
  • A heat stressed cow makes less milk for one to two days afterwards. If she’s heat stressed for two days in a row, milk production can be affected for a fortnight.

Suffice to say, the weatherman has our attention. Farmer levies fund a Temperature Humidity Index (THI) forecast that gives us a heads-up on just how tough it could be on the cows.

A THI of over 68 has a measurable impact on milk production, not to mention our cows’ wellbeing. As you can see, the forecast has us reaching a THI of 83. Nasty.

THI

THI Dairy Forecast http://dairy.katestone.com.au/

We’re onto it. To help keep the cows cool, we milk earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon when the sun is low.

The cows have a paddock with enough shade and water for everyone that’s close to the dairy. We serve up a light meal of silage just beyond the trees, so they can sneak out from the shade, have a nibble and go back where it’s cool for a nap.

The dairy yard is sprinkled with water, giving the cows a welcome shower while they wait to be milked. Inside the dairy, ceiling fans whir above the cows for maximum comfort.

There are three water troughs on the way to the night paddock, which is a juicy crop of emerald-green millet. Better than being at the beach!

via GIPHY

 

UPDATE: Milk Price Index definitely back on

Index

SECOND UPDATE 23/01/18: Hours after the Department provided this update, the Minister’s office rang to clarify the CMPI’s status with this news:

“The Minister last week met with dairy farmers and senior dairy leaders who expressed support for the further development of the dairy price index.

“The Government is committed to working with industry to deliver the index to provide dairy farmers with extra information to help them plan and risk manage their businesses.

“The Minister is encouraged by the positive approach of dairy farmers to rebuild from recent challenges to create a stronger and more profitable future for the industry.”

It’s on again!


UPDATE 23/01/18: After the UDV president, Adam Jenkins, tweeted that the post below was incorrect, I asked the Department for further clarification. Here is the response:

  • “The contract in place to deliver the Commodity Milk Price Index was terminated by mutual agreement.”
  • “The department will put options to the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources on the best way forward to deliver on the government’s commitment to achieve greater transparency and market signals in domestic and global milk prices, in accordance with the advice received from industry.
  • “This may still be via the CMPI.”

Meanwhile, Milk Maid Marian has been informed that the team which had won the contract to deliver the Commodity Milk Price Index has not been permitted to engage with stakeholders since late last year.


The Milk Price Index intended to offer farmers transparency around farmgate milk prices has been quietly scrapped.

It’s not yet clear where the $2 million set aside for the project will be reallocated.

In response to an email from Milk Maid Marian, a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources said:

“The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and Webber Quantitative Consulting have mutually agreed to terminate the contract to deliver the Commodity Milk Price Index.”
“The department will put options to the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources on the best way forward to deliver on the government’s commitment to achieve greater transparency and market signals in domestic and global milk prices, in accordance with the advice received from industry.”
For Milk Maid Marian’s money, some really rigorous research into how the milk pricing system could be reshaped to address the issues identified by the ACCC would be very well spent indeed.

 

Of course our cows are sentient

Heifers and Zoe reach out

“You can trust me”

Any dairy farmer who does not know her cows are capable of feeling pain and suffering, or pleasure and comfort, should be stripped of her licence.

Yet this simple concept, called sentience, has created one hell of a ruckus after the Victorian government released its Animal Welfare Action Plan this month. All sorts of farm leaders have railed against the use of the term, calling it a “slippery slope” and claiming it could actually hurt animals.

“…the introduction of sentience will cause adverse welfare outcomes for animals as production systems are thrown into chaos. It will render some farm businesses unviable, causing job losses and untold economic damage to regional communities and cripple the supply chains that rely on these businesses.” – VFF media release, January 5, 2018

As a farmer who works with cows every day, I have no idea what’s prompted this outrage but I do know it’s got nothing to do with whether cows are sentient or not. Of course they are.

Farmers are animal practivists: we balance what’s best for the welfare of our cows all the time. How long do we keep treating that downer cow or should we euthanase now? And the big one: should we rear the calves with the herd or away from their mothers?

I get the feeling that our agripoliticians are on the offensive because they’re worried what the animal activists rather than practivists out there will do with the inclusion of sentience in welfare law.

The problem is that everybody knows cows are sentient. To deny it makes farmers look either cruel or willing to say anything at all to avoid being accountable. How we achieve the best outcomes is certainly very debateable but the need to consider cow comfort is not.

The importance of cow comfort is already well accepted in dairy circles. Cows and farmers do better when animal health and wellbeing is a priority. Goodness, it’s practically a science of its own! A quick Google reveals dozens of research papers on the subject.

The minister is being very courageous. It’s about time our leaders were, too.