Sustainable dairy farming

Sustainability isn’t about the environment, animal welfare, profitability, business succession or manageability. For me, the definition of sustainability is all of them.

Australia’s dairy farmers are good at environmental sustainability – we are the front line environmentalists behind the Landcare movement. I like to think we are also exceptional when it comes to caring for our animals too. Profitability, not so good. Business succession, woeful. Manageability, well that’s debatable.

City friends think I live an idyllic life, frolicking among the cows but this lifestyle can bring stressors urban Australians would never imagine. According to the University of South Australia:

UniSA Psychology PhD student Alison Wallis knows what can drive a dairy farmer to cry over spilt milk.
For the past four years Wallis has been investigating the work stress of South Australia’s dairy farmers.
It’s a group she says at the time of the research had one of the highest incidences of work-related stress in the nation.
“There hasn’t been a lot of research done on the stress levels of those who are self-employed,” Wallis said.
“But we found that dairy farming produced some of the highest distress scores of many Australian occupations.”

Reading Tom Phillips’ excellent dairy blog, Pasture to Profit, I discovered we are not the only ones. Our trans-Tasman counterparts are also studying dairy farmer burnout.

It’s all amplified in times like these – when the rain won’t stop falling here in the south and when the prices won’t stop falling up there in New South Wales and Queensland – and so much of your success or failure seems to be in the laps of the gods (whether Thor or Coles).

On the other hand, it’s times like these that faith in human nature is restored by the generosity of people who care. People like Queensland ag teacher, Lisa Claessen, who, seeing the distress of her students, has taken to social media to petition the Coles CEO for a sustainable milk price. If you would rather not have UHT on your cornflakes, please add your name to her cause.

9 thoughts on “Sustainable dairy farming

  1. Your blog inspires me. When the 2 major shopping stores put milk down to $1/L I always felt weird about it. I have to admit that I was sucked in for a few months as I was trying to be very budget conscious.
    Then I stumbled across you blog and people started talking about “permeate” and I realised that saving $4.50 a week at the expense of hard working Australians (not to mention the taste) was ridiculous. I now happily am back to branded milk even though it’s getting harder to get.
    Thanks for sharing your blog with us.
    Michelle – on the gold coast.

  2. I was horrified to learn recently that in India a farmer commits suicide every 13 minutes. Clearly not just a problem we are dealing with in Australia or NZ but one that deserves a lot more attention in trying to fix it.

    Well done to those, including yourself for bringing attention to the stressors of farming and well done to those working to improve the lives of farmers.

  3. The thought of having to have UHT milk in my coffee because that’s where Coles would like us all to be so that they can continue to increase profits has made me change my milk buying habits. In my local Coles I have seen Great Ocean Road branded milk, and I also try to get Sungold when I can as I know it’s from Warrnambool. It never sat right buying $1 milk…it always just seemed too good to be true. UHT milk in coffee is horrible, honestly I’d get my own cow before I went down that path!

  4. How can I be sure that I am supporting dairy farmers to get the best price possible for their milk? Even if I buy more expensive milk does that mean these higher prices are because the raw produce was bought at a higher price at the farm gate? I feels like it’s hard to make the right decision. Can you help guide me in the right direction?

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