Dairy Australia Chair Max Roberts answers a Milk Maid’s questions

One of the dairy community’s most prominent leaders is Dairy Australia chairman, Max Roberts. Thank you, Max, for answering the Milk Maid Marian’s questions and a thank you in advance to those of you reading this who can fire some more questions in via the blog!

Dairy Australia chairman, Max Roberts

Max Roberts in his own dairy

MMM: Why are you a dairy farmer?
MR: In 1982 I had what many would call a good government job that said that I had to leave Bega and go to Sydney. Sue and I didn’t like that idea so we bought a dairy farm and have never regretted that decision. It had a few interesting moments with a couple of deep and meaningful conversations with the bank manager. Over time it has worked well for our family. It has given us a lifestyle we now enjoy, educated and given a good start to both the kids and we enjoy it.

MMM: What are the hot topics discussed by dairy farmers?
MR: This depends in what part of Australia you are in and we should never generically assume that one problem fits all. For example it could be water in the Murray Darling Basin, the supermarket pressure on domestic milk prices in the northern parts of our industry, the impact of drought or wet weather in other dairying areas. Milk prices will provide some common ground as will input costs and there may be a combination of the above issues dominating farmer discussion. It’s interesting to look at the last three or four outlook reports and the variation of emphasis placed on the varies topical issues.

MMM: What is not being discussed that should be?
MR: This is an interesting question and one that exercises our minds around the board table because DA needs to be ahead of the issues and not playing catch up. It will be interesting to see what comes back via your blog. One I would suggest is farmer succession but dealing with the issue from the older or grumpier end of the industry.

MMM: How would you describe the mood of dairy farmers at present?
MR: Dairy farmers are generally cautious in terms of sentiment. Our research shows the confidence levels among dairy farmers has remained relatively stable over the past 3-4 years. Confidence levels are currently around 66%. There is still a lot of rebuilding to do after the drought years of the past decade and we should not expect an instantaneous result from the better seasons that we have had.

MMM: What is the role of dairy farmers in the management of DA?
MR: DA is the service body of the dairy industry and therefore farmer involvement in what we do is essential. Farmer access to DA’s forward planning process is available through a number of channels. In no particular order they are via one of the eight RDP’s (Gipps Dairy, Dairy Tas, Sub Tropical Dairy and the five others) the state farmer organisations, the staff and directors of DA, the dairy company’s and the many dairy research facilities.

MMM: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities for the dairy community?
MR: The dairy industry is a producer of food and has a reputation second to none on the delivery of high quality foodstuffs especially as a source of protein. Food security is a growing international issue that creates headlines outside of Australia. There will always be demand for our product which creates the opportunity but the real challenge is at what price will that demand be at. We have to have farming systems and technologies that allows us to produce milk within the demand and price parameters . We also need resource policies that allow us to be profitable farming business’s. To have the right policies we need a strong farmer lobby voice to support the work of DA. So one of the key challenges is to have farmers involved in the future of our industry.

MMM: If you had a magic wand…
MR: My magic wand would iron out the volatility of milk pricing and input costs.

More questions for Max are welcome! Simply leave a comment.

3 thoughts on “Dairy Australia Chair Max Roberts answers a Milk Maid’s questions

  1. Thanks Max as always articulate and well considered responses.
    I believe one of the key issues not being discussed by dairy farmers and perhaps even at DA and should be is nowadays farmers need to know what is happening beyond the farm gate if their businesses are going to survive and prosper in 21st Cent. My experiences in this area shows producing great food and fibre is just not good enough anymore.
    Today’s consumer is 5 x more interested in knowing that you care about your animals and your landscape than knowing that you actually have the knowledge to look after them. So for our farming business its all about relationships and I believe as an industry we are wAy behind the 8 ball and as a sector…WE HAVE JUST GOT TO GET OUT THERE MORE!

    I would love to hear your comments and thoughts with respect to the need for, the opportunities available to and the skills sets required for dairy farmers to move beyond the farm gate and actively engage, share their stories and build closer relationships with consumers


  2. Although like many Australians I don’t know
    enough about your industry I am eager for rural Australia to be given more equitable consideration in our national conversation.


  3. Sorry about the long delay in responding but I have to be “trained” in the new forms of media.

    The Dairy Industry needs the support of communities all over the world. Too often we just think of our domestic consumers when we talk about protecting the status of the Australian dairy industry. Internationally, Dairy Australia is involved in a whole range of activities protecting the markets that consume more than 50% of the milk we produce and underpin the price that we all get for our milk. However, let’s not ignore the domestic market and the need to have communities aware of just how important our industry is to them. At Dairy Australia we talk about dairy’s health benefits. We are proactive in the obesity debate. To our consumers who are fitness conscious we tell them that our milk is a good way of rehydrating. Dairy Australia is in constant contact with others that influence customer thinking. These people include the medical profession, health and nutrition advisors and so called experts in healthy living.

    It’s a constant job at Dairy Australia countering the many negatives that can be thrown at the Australian dairy industry and I have seen days when we have had specialist Dairy Australia staff on the phones taking part in talk back radio across Australia on issues that if not answered would have a very negative impact on dairy. Every dairy farmer has a responsibility to promote and protect what they produce and it’s up to Dairy Australia to give them some of the tools that make this job easier. All across Australia I have seen individuals and groups who are doing great things for our industry whether it is in schools, community gatherings or just out there talking up our Industry. It’s all about the passion that we have.

    DA’s management is currently developing the business case for investing more in this area. Once this work is complete and has been through the Board we will share with industry our proposed activities.


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