From family farm to corporate farming in Australia

I am not Farmer of the Year, just Ms Average Australian Dairy Farmer, with around 260 milkers doing a respectable 7000 litres each on 500 rain-fed acres. But the ground is shifting beneath my feet. Although family farms make up 98% of Australian dairy right now, the big corporates are moving in and moving people like me on.

Our herd still looks quite large when you take a cursory look at the international figures.

What these figures don’t show is the rise of the “mega-dairy” across the globe: from Saudi Arabia and China through to California. Modern Dairy, mainland China’s largest, has more than 186,000 cows including almost 20,000 at a single facility (hard to call it a “farm”).

It had to happen here eventually, I guess, and it’s happening fast. Led by the Chinese, investors from around the world are snapping up Aussie family farms at a rate I couldn’t have imagined only a year ago. Here are just three in Victoria that spring to mind:

A high-ranking dairy executive recently told me that our very average farm straddles a barbed-wire fence: it’s not one of the protected little European herds or one of the massive Californian or Chinese herds whose scale commands special treatment from suppliers and processors alike.

I think I’d better come up with a boutique dairy product sooner rather than later.

14 thoughts on “From family farm to corporate farming in Australia

  1. I think the right mixture of family farms and company-owned farms is healthy. But massive dairies of the kind described above, owned by governments or city-residing investors? Not a pleasant thought.
    And how dumb are we, to sell the assets rather than just the produce.
    Especially when it’s to countries that would not allow an identical purchase in return.


      • I live in a city myself Marian. (Small by world standards, but the largest city in the top half of Australia.) I’m referring to the big end of town; venture capitalists etc – out for maximum profit, with no heart in what they’ve bought into (as distinct from investors who do). Vast majority of rural arms-length investors these days have a track record of buying viable businesses & leaving them much reduced shadows of their former selves, when sale-time rolls around a few years later. (Doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about farms or any other kind of business – all suffer a similar fate.)


  2. I think you do yourself a grave disservice by describing yourself as an average farmer Marian. This blog is far from average and the way you try to build bridges is amazing.

    The other thing that sticks out on the map is the vast number of subsistence farmers relying on only a couple of cows.

    (If you do ever go boutique, I’m your first customer. Maybe start with kumis?)


      • Send me some from your first batch and I will be your taste tester. It might take a lot of tasting though. Anytime between now and Xmas would be a good time.



  3. One of the problems with the mega dairies, which has reared its head in America and in the UK is the individual care that each animal might or might not receive in the case of injury or illness.
    Having thousands of cows moving through, sometimes 24 hours a day, can make it very difficult to notice and if necessary isolate animals that require treatment. One wonders what would happen, heaven forbid, if FMD should get into one of these facilities, presumably vaccination is the answer, but then there are contagious respiratory diseases to be considered which may escape notice, CBP ?
    Mastitis must be of constant concern where individual attention is not given to each animal.
    It is some time since I was in the dairy industry, so treat me gently if I am way behind in modern technology.
    All I can remember is that the better the attention a cow received the better it performed, and I just wonder when I look at these mega milk production factories.


Leave a Reply - comments are moderated, so don't worry if your comment doesn't appear straight away, I'm probably just off feeding a child or a cow!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s