What it will take to encourage dairy farmers to grow

The much lamented stagnant Australian milk pond

The much lamented stagnant Australian milk pond

Consider this entreaty from the charming Lino Saputo Jr, who is the newish owner of Warrnambool Cheese & Butter:

“…what will it take for the dairy farmers to be optimistic about the dairy industry and investing in their farms and what kinds of programs can we put in place that will assist them.”

“What we are trying to do in Australia is appeal to the dairy farmers and say, ‘Look, we can be a good home for your milk. If you choose to increase your herd size and you’re producing more milk, we will put on the infrastructure to process that milk’.”

Lino’s not alone. Many of the processors including our own co-op, MG, would like to see Australian dairy farmers arise from our slumber and produce more, more, more. Why, the industry even commissioned the Horizon 2020 Report last year to work out why we are so sluggish.

But even a simple dairy farmer can sum it up in two words: Continue reading

Dining on data is good for the bottom (line)

Farm planning meeting

Farm management meeting

Depending on how you look at it, dairy farmers are very trusting, natural exhibitionists or visionaries. I say this because I have always been amazed by how readily we share the most confidential of our information with our counterparts – right down to the profitability of our farms per litre, hectare and even per cow.

I have just joined the ranks of these exhibitionists by submitting our farm’s data to Frank Tyndall, who oversees a project called Tracker that benchmarks dairy farms across all sorts of productivity measures.

The results offer an incredible amount of information that require some very thoughtful interpretation. Great fodder for discussion with our farm consultant, Matt Harms.

Unsurprisingly, we have achieved a lowly rank. Our dryland (or “rain-fed” if you’re feeling optimistic) farm is being compared to those in the Macallister Irrigation District (MID), where water when you need it is pretty much assured. We have just come out of an impossibly wet year that has depressed production in the growing season and, now, the dry has set in.

We may end up winning the wooden spoon but I’m not concerned. The race here is to a greater discipline when it comes to farm management, which should reap efficiency dividends and make our farm more resilient.