Quad bike videos you can’t afford to miss

A fantastic new library of videos, tools and guides have just been released by WorkSafe Vic and I reckon they’re really worth a good look for everyone on farm.

Quad bikes are part of everyday life on most dairy farms but it’s a big mistake to take them for granted.

Some say it’s only operator error that gets people killed on quads. But everyone’s capable of being human.

Wayne and I pride ourselves on being safety conscious but over time, have almost squashed or necked ourselves just making simple mistakes.

Fast, powerful and agile, quads are incredibly practical machines that can kill precisely because they are fast, powerful and agile. We were lucky not to be hurt but, sometimes, luck just isn’t enough.


Our farm is up for sale


There’s no other way to say it. We’ve decided to sell.

Wayne hurt his back badly a couple of months ago and it’s still what I’d call “delicate”. The injury is aggravated by everyday farming chores and nothing’s more precious than health and family. Not even the farm.

It’s satisfying to look back at what we’ve acheived over the last 10 years.


We’ve planted about 15,000 trees to create shade and shelter for us, the cows and the wildlife


We’ve harnessed the dam and effluent ponds to guarantee fantastic summer feed.


There have been massive improvements in the form of dozens of troughs, kilometres of new water lines and more kilometres of fancy fencing.


Our kids have learnt a lot along the way, too. But now, we’ve got our sights set on new adventures.

It’s time for someone else’s family to enjoy this beautiful place. If that might be you, please contact the agent.






What’s wrong with welfare milk: back to 1992

The public tide of sympathy for dairy farmers has pushed the supermarkets to act again, this time, with “drought relief” milk. It’s the latest incarnation of what DIAA scholar Norman Repacholi rightly calls “welfare milk”.


I cannot tell you how grateful I am to everyone who is pushing the supermarkets to do better. But this just can’t go on.

The so-called “drought relief” of 10 cents will reach few of us but all of us are affected by skyrocketing feed prices and need to pass some costs on. Only, we can’t.

Despite the special $3.30 for 3 litre milk that will be promoted for three months or so, most homebrand milk will remain priced at $1 per litre.

Those are 1992 prices. If milk had kept pace with inflation, it would today sell for $1.80 per litre.

Now, it’s true that fresh white milk sold through supermarkets does not account for a big percentage of the milk produced by most Victorian dairy farms. Some will tap their noses wisely and say that it doesn’t really matter a hell of a lot.

But it does, even to a farm like mine whose milk is turned into infant formula. It matters because it demonstrates perfectly how terribly captive Australian dairy farming is and how much reform is badly needed.

I can’t imagine any other Australian who would put up with all their blood, sweat and tears being discounted to 1992 prices. Yet we do, and that culture permeates the way prices are set for all of our milk.

It’s time to banish the begging bowls and get Australian dairy farming back on its feet.

Aldi refuses to lift milk prices

Following the commitment from Woolies and Coles to lift the price of some of its homebrand milk, Milk Maid Marian asked Aldi if it would follow suit. Here’s its response:

“In recent months, we have accepted price increases from a number of our processors to compensate farmers due to current market conditions.”

“Although the cost price we pay for milk has increased, at this point in time we do not intend on increasing retail prices for our customers.

“We support the findings of the recent ACCC Dairy Inquiry and agree with the recommendation to introduce a mandatory Code of Conduct.

“We remain committed to playing our role in contributing to the ongoing success of the dairy industry and a long term commitment to Australian farmers.”

Woolies, Coles move away from $1 milk but ignore the biggie: 60 cent cheese

Coles has followed Woolies’ move to increase the price of its 3 litre milk from $3 to $3.30 and both have promised they will donate the entire increase to farmers affected by drought.

I’m rapt that the supermarkets are finally doing something to loosen the screws. Farmers are suffering death by a thousand cuts and even this limited relief is certainly very welcome, particularly in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia, where most of the milk ends up in the supermarket fridge.

To everyone who has spoken up for farmers, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

But, and it’s a BIG but, at the risk of sounding like a whingeing farmer, there are three inconvenient truths that will continue to see farmers quit dairying:

  1. The drought is big trouble, yes, but there’s an exodus of dairy farmers (including those not hit by drought) because there’s simply not enough profit at the farm gate.
  2. The milk that goes into Colesworth’s $6 cheese is worth less than 60 cents per litre.
  3. Only about 13 per cent of the milk produced by Australian dairy farms ends up as fresh white milk on the supermarket shelf, even less in Victoria where most of the cows live! The biggest use for our milk is…cheese.

In other words, it’s like putting a band-aid over an ulcer. Better than nothing but you’re hardly going to save the patient.

In an interview with Milk Maid Marian, federal Agriculture and Water Resources Minister David Littleproud said he was open to applying a levy to other dairy products, such as cheese, so long as industry asked for one.

In a response to Milk Maid Marian’s question about cheese, Coles would only talk about milk and, at the time of posting, I had no response from Woolworths. Stiff cheddar, I guess!

Exclusive interview with Ag Minister: the code, the levy and a lack of leadership

In an interview with Milk Maid Marian, the federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud, has made some extraordinary comments.

The Minister:

  1. is open to a levy on a range of dairy products (not just milk) if industry asks;
  2. believes a retail levy should be imposed until there is “market purity”, which means true competition for milk at the farmgate;
  3. says the supermarkets have a big role to play in the sustainability of Australia’s dairy industry;
  4. wants industry to come to him with ideas about how to halt the exodus of dairy farmers but says the ADF has not made any requests of him that would address farm profitability.

I hope the interview stimulates debate about how our industry has responded to the crisis over two years. Worth watching all the way to the end, so grab a cuppa.



Mandatory dairy code vote goes through

Sources have confirmed that a 7 to 6 vote in favour of a mandatory code was passed at Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) this week.

The close result follows a campaign against the adoption of a mandatory code from the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria.

It’s a postion that appears to put the UDV in direct conflict with its own members, according to survey results presented by the ADF to a small group of farmers earlier this week.


The UDV declined to comment on the vote result yesterday, referring Milk Maid Marian to the ADF, which has promised a response on Monday.

What’s stopping us?

red stop sign

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Like an oozing sore on the ankle of Australian dairy, the frustration with the inaction of our national umbrella body has finally broken into an open wound.

Months after releasing its report into our woes, the ACCC has released a guide to the recommendations in an apparent attempt to build momentum.

Meanwhile, the federal agriculture minister, David Littleproud, has delivered dairy leaders an ultimatum backed up by a statement issued yesterday that includes this slap in the face for our representatives:

“The ACCC report into the sector identified market failure. I asked the dairy sector to come to a united position on a response to the report and a mandatory code of conduct for the dairy industry. This has not yet happened.”

Apparently, they have until tomorrow to be forthcoming, or else.

Yesterday, Minister Littleproud threw his support behind a 10 cent levy on milk to help farmers. Today, the new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison poured cold water on the idea.

Two years have passed. The silver lining to any crisis is change. We’ve seen none. Why? Who or what is stopping us?


Dear Prime Minister: practical farmers prepare

handheld tools hang on workbench

Time to get on the tools

Dear Prime Minister,

I know you’ve pledged to be practical about the drought. You know we farmers love everything practical.

Just as well. We know that if we didn’t maintain our gear, manage the land and look after our cows, stuff would be constantly breaking down. So, bothersome and costly as maintenance can be, we change the oil, repair the fences and attack the weeds.

Drought is little different: as you said, nobody can make it rain but, as bothersome and costly as preparation can be, we work really hard to prepare for its inevitable arrival.

We squirrel away feed and funds for the long dry spells, create microclimates with our Landcare brethren, and invest in the latest water-efficient technology, pastures and crops.

When El Nino unfolds and hangs on, we adjust both our herds and our bankers’ expectations, draw on those precious reserves, toughing it out until one of those thumping east coast lows heralds our salvation.

I was hoping you’d take a similar approach to drought and climate change. As bothersome and costly as action now on climate change might be, it’s our best bet to avoid these climate breakdowns becoming more and more regular.

Practical farmers prepare, Prime Minister. The climate needs a little TLC and you’re just the right man for the job.




Milk a microgrid

Copy of Chris Farm 9

There’s something interesting going on in the Latrobe Valley right now that I thought you ought to know about.

Local residents are being asked to sign up to a local energy feasibility study which, if it gets the go-ahead, will enable people with solar panels or wind turbines to sell any excess energy to others in their neighbourhood on their own terms – determining their own profits.

For dairy farmers, with lots of land and rooftops, it could provide another profitable income stream – not only saving energy costs but turning farms into profit-generating powerplants of the future.

To tell you more about it, here’s Belinda Kinkead, from the LO3 Energy team who are setting it up.

The Latrobe Valley project is such an exciting project for us because it is an opportunity for our technology to provide a significant and much-needed benefit to an entire industry.

We are working with Dairy Australia on this project and understand that reduced revenues are already making it hard to balance the books. We hear you.

Increasing running costs and greater weather unpredictability is only making it worse – and we were surprised to learn that, as a result, one in five dairy farmers are now preparing to quit.

But don’t quit just yet – because this could provide a way for you to turn things around.

It’s all about electricity.

You know better than me that dairy farming spends a lot of money on electricity. It’s used to run milking machines, pump water for irrigating fields, keeping milk chilled, heating water for cleaning equipment and providing light in the early morning hours.

And it’s expensive.

One case study showed a farm with 500 cows, 400 of which were milked twice daily, used 320 MWh of energy per year (875kWh per day). At an average cost of 25cents per kWh, that’s approximately $80,000 per annum[1].

But as farmers, you have extensive land and large areas of rooftops – perfect for solar panels or micro wind turbines.

Installing solar clearly has its benefits – it can reduce the amount of energy you have to buy from the grid, and any excess can be sold back to the grid.

Therein lies the problem. Right now, the only place to sell it is back to the grid, and it’s a closed market. There’s no price negotiation which means the return is usually in the retailers favour.

But, what if you could sell your unused energy to people in the local area – at a price they’re willing to pay? You reap the full benefit of the sale price of your energy.

For example (unless you were lucky enough to be an early solar uptaker) you would probably receive a feed in tariff of 10 – 15c/kWh[2] from your retailer. When you buy electricity from your retailer you would likely pay more than 35c/kWh at peak times, and more than 20c/kWh off-peak. That’s a significant gap.

There’s the prospect of a win-win where you can sell your excess generation to a neighbour for more than the feed in tariff, and they can buy electricity from you for less than the retail price. There are also other benefits associated with keeping your energy spend within your community – supporting local businesses and local jobs.

That’s the idea behind the Latrobe Valley Microgrid, a local energy market place.

It sounds complicated, but actually, it’s simple, and it’s proven – we’ve been running one in Brooklyn, New York for two years and the locals love it.

You might like to know that we have also partnered with SMF, and through the local councils, offer a financing option (Environmental Upgrade Agreement) that could ease your cashflow concerns for solar installations.

Everywhere in the world, technology and the sharing economy is changing business models – from Airbnb to Uber.

Adapting for the future is essential – and this really does make sense.

So if you’re looking to add additional revenue streams into your farm, take a look at what could be the solution. It’s all laid out on www.LatrobeValley.Energy

You can help make it a reality by taking part in the project. Join our feasibility study now. It doesn’t cost anything, we just need your consent to use your energy usage data on an anonymous basis to model the cost/benefits for the project. The more data we get, the more precise the results. Get online and register www.LatrobeValley.Energy.

[1] http://www.aginnovators.org/initiatives/energy/case-studies/energy-efficiency-supports-viability-family-run-dairy-near-wagga-wagga

[2] VIC minimum tariff for 2018/19 is currently 9.9c/kWh (https://www.energy.vic.gov.au/renewable-energy/victorian-feed-in-tariff)