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.