A milkmaid’s dirty linen and why you shouldn’t see it

In the three years since I started Milk Maid Marian, I’ve written about everything we do here on the farm. I’ve got nothing to hide. Well, almost nothing.

You haven’t seen our kids running around starkers in the paddock because, goodness, there are some weirdos out there and, in any case, my little people deserve some privacy.

You haven’t seen much in the way of veterinary treatment, either. I’ve written about sick cows here and here, for example, but I’m not going to post a picture of a newly-lanced abscess; me in action using a tractor to lift a cow threatened with paralysis; or the face of a cow in recovery after eye cancer surgery.

Why not? Because it would be unfair. You might not want to see graphic images as you munch your muesli and, second, the images could be abused. In the name of a higher cause, it’s not unknown for activists to take images of cows being nursed back to health and portray them as abuse.

My family’s privacy and the potential for misleading the public are two reasons why I shudder to imagine activists creeping onto the farm or spying on us with drones. I’m naturally protective, so when an email came through from an animal welfare group on just this topic today, I read it with a sense of dread. Here’s part of what it had to say:

“Alarmingly, support for ag-gag legislation is slowly creeping into politics here in Australia.”

“Ag-gag targets undercover investigators, whistleblowers and journalists by criminalising the undercover surveillance of agricultural facilities or by requiring that any footage which is obtained must be turned over to enforcement agencies immediately rather than given to animal protection groups or the media.”

My farm – my home – is an “agricultural facility”, you see.

And, you know what? If cruelty on a farm was recorded, I’d want the information to get to the enforcement agencies immediately so the animals could be rescued straight away rather than whenever it fitted in with the media cycle, wouldn’t you?

Thank you

Happy New Year from all of us at the farm

Happy New Year from all of us at the farm

Thank you. When I began writing Milk Maid Marian in a fury two years ago, I had no idea whether anyone would be interested. It’s turned out to be incredibly fulfilling, thanks to the often unexpectedly feisty discussions sparked by stories from the farm.

I can’t tell you how encouraging your comments are as I thump away at the keyboard.

Please, tell me what you’d like to see more of in 2014 and what bugs you about the blog. Best wishes to all (even the relentless people who want me to advertise ugg boots) for the New Year.

Gonna sue the ABC: look what Peppa Pig did to my children


We love the ABC. We need the ABC. Please leave the ABC alone.

I write Milk Maid Marian in the hope of building bridges between farmers and those who care about what we do and how we do (or don’t) look after the land, animals and your food. But my humble little blog does a poofteenth of the work that the ABC does.

No other media outlet provides the coverage – both in terms of content and accessibility – that the ABC does and I am incredibly grateful for it. If you feel the same way, please let your MP know.



How the political parties responded to a Milk Maid’s questions

For the first time in my life, I really don’t want to cast a vote, such is my disenchantment with the politics of our times. It seems more about point scoring and personalities than ever before. And now, perhaps more than ever before, ag needs leadership: we are on the cusp of a food boom with the promise of new golden agrarian age. An age that may never dawn for Australian farmers as we struggle with inadequate investment coupled with a tilted trading field (more on that soon).

So, waaaay back in February, when the election was but a twinkle in Julia and Tony’s eyes, I invited Joe Ludwig (the then Minister for Ag) and John Cobb (the Coalition’s Shadow Minister for Ag) to answer four fundamental questions here on Milk Maid Marian:

1. What are the three biggest challenges facing Victorian dairying?
2. How will you as a government address each of these?
3. What are our three most significant opportunities?
4. Please outline the top three policies that will help us seize those opportunities

After countless phone calls and emails to both politician’s offices, I received two recycled and general media releases from John Cobb’s office that didn’t answer my questions. Earlier this week, I did, however, get this post and pic from Joe Ludwig’s successor, Joel Fitzgibbon.

Good luck making the right choices tomorrow and over to Joel Fitzgibbon!

Joel Fitzgibbon meets a Hunter farmer

Joel Fitzgibbon meets a Hunter farmer

My deep thanks to Marian for the opportunity to speak directly with dairy farmers, families and their communities through her blog. It is a great project and as an MP from a country seat, and as Agriculture Minister, I appreciate the chance to outline Labor’s support for the dairy industry.

Labor’s strong plan for Australian agriculture will help dairy farmers become more productive, competitive and profitable. This is important for both those with a domestic focus and those looking to grab the opportunities of the Asia-led ‘Dining Boom’.

Challenges like drought, a high Australian dollar and falling prices have given the industry a tough decade and farmers are rightly looking to Government for assistance.

In response we have done a number of things. Our $420 million farm debt relief is now starting to help farmers who are viable but in need of a bit of short-term help. Our additional $20 million to help fight our war on weeds will help maintain pastures. Our ‘Fair Go For Farmers’ package seeks to redress the power imbalance between the supermarket chains and producers. Our ‘Planting the Seeds for Australian’s Farming Future’ will encourage young people into agriculture and give them the skills they will need. We have also committed more than $20 million to promote agriculture in primary and secondary schools. The Food in the Australian Curriculum initiative helps students better connect with food and appreciate the important role of producers. We must make sure there is a ‘next generation’ of Australian dairy farmers.

Each year the Government provides $18 million for dairy research and development. We have also invested $28 million into the Dairy Futures Cooperative Research Centre to invest in large-scale research projects and, more recently, $1 million through the Energy Efficiency Information Grants program for Dairy Australia to conduct on-farm energy assessments to help reduce energy costs for a number of dairy farmers nationally.

For those with an eye to export markets, our National Food Plan and our efforts to improve market access are important. Since 2005-06, Australian cheese exports to China have grown from less than $10 million to nearly $37 million in 2011-12. Cheese exports to Japan during the same period have grown from $298 million to over $422 million in 2011-12. The value of skim milk powder exported to China has grown from $14 million to $49.6 million at the same time. We can build further on this success.

Infrastructure, both soft and hard, will help everyone in regional Australia. That’s why we are building the National Broadband Network (NBN). It will transform the way dairy businesses operate, as well as the way your health services are delivered, and how students and your children (of all ages) access educational opportunities.

Road, rail and port infrastructure will be vital to help the dairy industry grow as new markets are opened, so Labor has delivered a record $60 billion towards transport infrastructure. Much of this investment occurs in regional Australia and dairy and other agricultural industries will benefit from resulting infrastructure improvements.

Australia is a great producer of milk and dairy product. Together we must ensure it stays that way.

You can find more on Labor’s strong plans for agriculture and regional Australia at http://www.alp.org.au

Hon Joel Fitzgibbon MP
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Why are so many people interested in a cow’s vulva?

There have been just over 10,000 views of my blog since I started it in April and I’m delighted to have struck up conversations with so many people in such a short time but something has got me stumped.

The second most common term people used to reach the Milk Maid Marian dairy blog via a search engine was “cow vulva”. Why is this so fascinating? I’ve only referred to it once in passing in the blog. If my naivety is telling and I have offended anyone with its mention, please accept my apologies.

Farm life is educational but not “discreet”. Five-year-old Zoe knows how babies are made and, equally, what it means to die, simply by observing the cycle of life as it unfolds here every year.

I’d love some suggestions about future posts, so please don’t be coy!