Forget state versus state; our dairy industry will be better when we work together.

The NRL State of Origin pits Queensland against New South Wales in a war for supremacy. Nothing beats the rivalry of the game when it comes down to a Round 3 decider match as we will see this week.

But when it comes to dairying both Queensland and New South Wales farmers and organisations are working towards unity; a goal that will result in a more efficient and effective dairy industry.

This week, we invited NSW dairy farmer, Peter Graham to share his hopes for the Dairy Plan and a unified national dairy industry.

The proposed National Dairy Plan certainly opened a can of worms when it was announced and until we see what the overarching plan and ancillary plans look like, there will be continued speculation as to what will be achieved. 

There is one word that has been bandied around a lot, and that is unity. While the Dairy Plan is still being drafted I thought I'd take the opportunity to weigh in on what I believe needs to be unified.

For me, unity must not just be a principle; it needs to be used in practice, from the top to the grassroots farmers.

A united approach to issues that affect the cost of production.

The drought continues to play havoc with feed costs, and unfair water contracts have major cost implications for farmers relying on irrigation. These are just two examples of issues that affect profitability and sustainability.

Last year’s Drought Levy campaign highlighted this when supermarkets and processors only provided the levy payments to farmers in those areas that were drought declared. These problems affected every farmer regardless of whether they were being directly impacted or not, and the division of them versus us caused friction and disunity.

At a national level, we need processors to factor in all the things that go bump in the night to their pricing and apply it to all contracts regardless of location.

A unified forecasted pricing model.

Currently, all pricing is done based on retrospective figures and then forecasted for only 1 year, yet farmers are expected to commit to a 3-5 year contract period.

Together, we need to force processors to develop a more robust forecasting model or alternatively to change contractual clauses that lock farmers down beyond 1 year. A key area of our RD & E needs to be the development of a model that can provide realistic forecasting beyond 12 months.

A united price.

Perhaps the clearest demonstration of ‘them versus us’ thinking in our industry is the fact that there are contracts based on milk solids or raw milk depending on what the milk supplied is used for. All processors should work on a single pricing unit. Since the world milk price is based on kg/MS, this should be used throughout Australia.

What this will do, is help us compare and evaluate processor contracts easily. If cost of production variables is considered and freight is factored in, a national milk price can and should be set and be regardless of location.

A unified organisational structure.

A fellow farmer recently went to the trouble of developing an org chart of the Australian Dairy industry. To put it bluntly, it is a convoluted mess. I’ve been told many times that advocacy and R, D & E need to be separate entities but it still makes no sense to me.

We need to look at the overall structure of the industry and we need to do it better and be more cost-efficiently.

All states need to have a dairy farming specific organisation rather than being a small entity within a larger state-based body where dairy is but one industry requiring representation. We need to have regional branches feed into a state body and each state body is represented at the national level.

If there does need to be some delineation between advocacy and RD & E, let it be at a senior management level only. Administration, marketing, policy and project officers, education and training should exist as one rather than doubling or in some instances tripling up resources.

All projects and costs need to be fully transparent and accountable. To ensure unity we need open communication and we need to remove the ‘them versus us’ mentality that still exists across state divides.

Personally, I’m very much looking forward to a unified dairy industry in Australia.

NSW Dairy Farmer – Peter Graham

Disappointing price announcement for Far North Queensland dairy farmers.

When we were advised of our contract price for the 2019/20 season by DFMC our supply cooperative & our processor Lion, dairy farmers in the North felt hugely disappointed.

Simply put, a 2c/pl reduction to the current price given the current environment is not fair play.

It’s been a tough 12 months for dairy producers on the Atherton Tableland. Production costs have soared on the back of higher input prices such as grain, protein & hay coupled with a season where home grown feeds have been much less productive due to an especially dry spring followed by a wetter autumn than usual.

There is no overproduction at the moment; excess milk has not been trucked out of the area for months. Given that there is genuine competition for milk across the country, with processors jockeying for diminishing milk supplies to more fully utilize their factories; we felt confident that in this environment, a price increase was imminent. Not only was a price increase needed but given the conditions of the last 18 months here in the Far North, it is well & truly justified.

The pricing letter from DFMC (which was released in a public forum on Facebook) was misleading & lacking in detail to say the least. With the phrase “after positive negotiations with our processing partner Lion Dairy & Drinks the DFMC Board wishes to announce the following competitive milk prices” one could have been mistaken for thinking that the price announcement to follow would be a good outcome.

On closer perusal the stark reality becomes evident - we lose our Dairy Pride partnership payment & everything else stays the same. In effect, farmers have received a 2 c/pl price reduction.

We are told that supply & demand affects the price received for all produce, but this certainly does not ring true for dairy producers on the Atherton Tableland.

This decision severely undermines the confidence of the remaining farmers who are battling hard to supply a wholesome fresh product to the Far North Queensland consumer. It effects the value of properties & the value of their cattle and makes it even more difficult to secure bank finance.

QDO Far North Queensland Member – Colin Daley

Are we seeing the end of loyalty in the dairy industry?

The dairy industry has had a significant shakeup over the last 2 years with most farmers saying that they have had enough of the imbalance of power, unfair contractual arrangements and unsustainable farmgate pricing.

It’s fair to say that change has has been a long time coming and that farmers have put up with a lot more than most business owners would accept.

One of the key shifts that we are seeing is farmers moving away from long term relationships with their processors.

 Loyalty to a processor has been a big part of the Australian dairy industry and is often generations old. This loyalty was based on a time when the industry was predominantly run and owned by milk co-operatives. As those co-operatives were sold to foreign companies, farmers more often than not, stayed with the brand through the transition.

Like so many things today, loyalty is not a given; it needs to be earned. Until quite recently, most processors assumed that their dairy farmers would remain loyal, would accept less than fair terms and would not seek a better deal.

The collapse of Murray Goulburn in 2016 and the resulting fallout was a necessary wake up call for farmers to re-evaluate their relationship with their processor.

Farmers felt they could no longer trust that their long-term business partner, the processor, would do right by them. It signalled the end of old-fashioned business relationships built solely on mutual trust and respect.

The ongoing drought in Queensland continues to drive higher production costs and lower than average milk production has led farmers to look at the pros and cons of their relationship with their current processor.

With some smaller processors offering over 70c/pl in order to secure enough milk to meet their contractual agreements, it is little wonder that blind loyalty is dead.

While the farmgate price being paid for milk is not the only factor that farmers should be considering when they evaluate their existing contract, it should be the starting point for negotiations. If processors are not prepared to discuss more equitable terms, then farmers should certainly be looking elsewhere. 

Today’s business world is all about profitability and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. What we as farmers need to accept is that loyalty has very little value in this environment. Our relationships with our processors need to be based on fair pricing and good terms not on whether our predecessors liked or trusted the company they dealt with.

QDO President – Brian Tessmann

Why JD Testing is important to the Queensland Dairy Industry.

Last week, QDO hit the impressive milestone of 200 Johnes Disease (JD) tests completed as part of our biosecurity commitment to mitigate on farm risks to our members. According to the project team, this equates to 100kg of faecal samples collected over the last 3 months, which just goes to show QDO’s dedication to herd health!

Many non-member dairy farmers questioned why QDO had undertaken the JD testing scheme in the first place when Johnes is not known to be present in any significant level in Queensland.

Much is unknown about Johnes Disease including the health risks it may carry to humans who consume product from JD positive livestock however many countries limit the import of stock and also milk products from JD infected farms.

To be clear, our intention to test for JD is not to cause undue concern or hysteria about a disease that has been in the Australian market for decades. Indeed, according to the USDA, JD is found in all countries around the world.

QDO’s decision to commit to the program was made back in 2016 based on our mandate to mitigate potential risks that may be caused by biosecurity hazards. Good herd health is vital for productivity and remains a priority for our members. Future economic ramifications for farmers with herds carrying JD should also be to be a consideration.

The Johne’s Beef Assurance Score and the Dairy Score that farmers are given following testing allows for the assessment of the risk of a herd for JD. Depending on the outcome of testing, a farmer may wish to amend their biosecurity plan for the property. Although the scoring systems are a voluntary tool in most states, they are part of the WA and NT entry requirements. It makes sense therefore for any farm that may consider de-stocking or selling breeding stock intrastate or interstate to ensure they maintain a good score.

QDO has been in contact with all its members to offer JD testing before the 30 June cut-off date. Time is certainly running out for non-members wishing to be tested by QDO at no additional cost. To join and be tested, contact QDO on 3236 2955 today.

 QDO President – Brian Tessmann

Unity is paramount for the Australian dairy industry.

Coles’ announcement last week that they intend to start direct negotiations with dairy farmers in Victoria and New South Wales again highlighted the need for unity within the industry.

 The announcement brought a barrage of opinions from individuals and service organisations as to whether the proposed arrangement would benefit farmers. Cautious optimism seemed to be the prevailing opinion, but this was measured by a hefty dose of cynicism as to the motivations for the supermarket chain to enter direct relationships with dairy farms.

The biggest concern is the lack of negotiating power individual farmers may have when negotiating with Coles. Certainly, if Coles pays an additional 10 cents/litre or $1.30 per kg for milk solids then farmers will be in a better position than they are currently.

 Over the last year, farmer are talking more opening about the farm gate prices being paid by their various processors for fresh milk. In some instances, this has been in defiance of confidentiality clauses. Be that as it may, the ability to compare farmgate prices and the bonuses being offered have helped provide a clearer picture of the industry nationally.

 What is now abundantly clear is that the dairy industry needs to be unified. The divisions that have existed based on state borders need to be removed and farmers should be looking at collective bargaining arrangements rather than having to fend for themselves.

By getting together, farmers may have a better opportunity to have input into negotiations than if they stay on their own. It’s clear that the current ‘every man for himself’ mentality is a major barrier to the long-term success of the dairy industry. This mentality currently applies not only to the individual farmers but also to the states and the industry bodies.

QDO is currently working on a number of projects with the other state based dairy bodies where our interests are the same. What we are finding is that there is more common ground than there are differences and we can be more efficient when we pool our resources.

By combining knowledge and experience we can create a stronger and more resilient dairy industry.

QDO Vice President – Matt Trace

QDO now reaches over 75% of all Queensland dairy farms.

 While the Queensland dairy industry represents only a small percentage of the total volume of all milk produced in Australia, it does remain a vital industry for our rural communities and for consumers.

 Over the past 12 months, QDO has transformed its core agenda from traditional advocacy to action. We have gone from being a relatively small voice, to be a leader within the in the Australian dairy industry.

 This does not mean that QDO is no longer an advocacy body since by definition advocacy is public support for a particular cause or policy. We do, however, recognise that pursuing traditional advocacy avenues is essentially the definition of insanity i.e. doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Consumers are now our main target for advocacy. In an age of instant and open communication, we recognise the importance of speaking and connecting with the 20-million Australians that consume dairy.

 The success of the campaign to end $1/L milk demonstrates our commitment to helping members be profitable whilst improving the integrity of farm practices.

 Over the last two years, we have been encouraging Queensland dairy farmers to take advantage of QDO membership to have their herds tested for Johnes Disease (JD). While JD testing is voluntary, a good JD score is expected to have considerable market-value in future when farmers want to sell stock.

 By the 30 June deadline, over two-thirds of Queensland dairies will have had their herds JD tested and scored which shows that again that the Queensland dairy industry is leading Australian best practice.

 As the number of dairy farms across Australia decrease, our accountability as an organisations that services the industry needs to increase. We need to accept and embrace scrutiny if we are to continue to be necessary to farmers.

 We are delighted that our membership numbers have reached 75% of all Queensland dairies. Since membership is voluntary, we rely on improving our service offering and encourage everyone to provide feedback on how we are doing.

 Brian Tessman – QDO President

Dairy farmers must take responsibility for their future.

It is very disappointing to see the RSVP numbers back for this week’s Dairy Plan meetings planned for Lismore (22 May); Toowoomba (23 May) and Gympie (24 May) and Malanda (24 June). Based on the lists provided, there are less than ten farmers RSVP’d to each of the consultation sessions.

QDO receives dozens of calls each week and not a call goes by without farmers giving their opinion on the state of the industry and what they believe needs to be done to remedy the situation. For example, we know that farmers are:

  • sick of not getting services they want and expect,

  • sick of not knowing where their money is being spent,

  • sick of lead organisations not actively fighting for a fair farm gate price.

The list of complaints is extensive, but without voicing them in the right forums, they won’t count towards the creation of an actionable plan.

In social media forums farmers are saying that it is the responsibility of the lead organisations to come up with the solutions, and we don’t disagree.

It is helpful that farmers provide clear feedback by complaining about the state of the industry to organisations including QDO. However, farmers also must provide clear input to the dairy plan as to what needs to be done to change.

There are three key questions being asked at Dairy Plan meetings will help inform the level of reform required within the industry and what that reform looks like:

1.    How much change is required to get the dairy industry to a 'better place'? Minor tweaking? Major transformation? 

2.    What needs to change?

3.    If the Australian Dairy Plan is a success, what will people say about Australian dairy in 2025?

Through discussions with members and our board, we have identified the following key points that need consideration:

  • farmers and processors need to lead the industry together - industry wide profitability needs to be every organisation’s primary purpose

  • government funding and levies must go to peak industry bodies to allocate to the highest priorities and most capable organisations

  • a rationalisation of all farmer service delivery organisations so that there is a focus on the profitability of the industry, that organisations have a defined purpose and role within the industry’s structure and that there should be no duplication, overlap or competition for membership or funding between organisations.

As one of the service delivery organisations, QDO is not immune to scrutiny. There may well be some hard truths we learn as a result of the consultations. If that is the case, QDO is prepared to change or be restructured as is necessary to benefit the long-term future of our industry.

We all have a role and a responsibility to create a sustainable industry for the future and we must use these forums either online or in person to have our say.

Please go to: https://www.dairyplan.com.au/get-involved or submit your responses via the online portal at: https://adp.oursay.org/home

If you are not internet savvy, please contact QDO pm 07 3236 2955 and QDO can register for you.

QDO President – Brian Tessmann

The success of the Dairy Plan relies on farmer input.

Many media statements made about the need for a national Dairy Plan makes it seem that Australia’s dairy industry has some minor issues that need to be addressed and that structurally it may need some tweaking.

This would be the huge understatement and an underestimation of the job at hand. Such an attitude is why so many people are disillusioned with and disengaged from the consultation process.

The fact is that the Australian dairy industry is no longer yielding real profit for any sector needs major reform for it to be fixed. This lack of profitability (or sustainable profit margins) applies not just to farmers but to processors, retailers and secondary industries associated with dairy.

All players need to acknowledge their role and responsibility for the industry being in its current state and need to accept that massive restructuring needs to be undertaken for the industry to see sustained profitability.

Farmers have already voiced their opinions as to what they see as wrong with the industry and have done so on many occasions and most question why they need to spend more time outlining their concerns again.

Certainly, without even attending the sessions, we can identify some key concerns regarding the low profitability of the industry, overlap of service delivery, inefficient delivery of services and little or no focus on profitability for the specific purpose of developing the National Dairy Plan.

While we appreciate the frustration of having to attend the planned consultation sessions, they are vital to ensuring that all issues are officially tabled and critically evaluated.

One concern to us is that on top of the twenty-four sessions facilitated by the appointed consulting group, lead organisations are also encouraging additional sessions to be run by parties who have a vested interest in the outcomes.

The feedback that comes from consultation sessions needs to be unbiased. For this to happen, sessions need to be run by independent consultants who specialise in facilitation and market research. Without a trained facilitator and proper process to collate this data, these sessions can skew results.

Any individual interested in the future of the Australian dairy industry needs to attend the sessions planned over the coming months. While there are a number of lesser points that QDO would like to see tabled at these sessions, the three key areas that we believe need to be addressed are:

1.    that farmers and processors need to lead the industry together - industry wide profitability needs to be every organisation’s primary purpose

2.    that government funding and levies must go to peak industry bodies to allocate to the highest priorities and most capable organisations

3.    that there needs to be a rationalisation of all farmer service delivery organisations so that there is a focus on the profitability of the industry, that organisations have a defined purpose and role within the industry’s structure and that there should be no duplication, overlap or competition for membership or funding between organisations.

At the end of the consultation period, it is hoped that the feedback provides a solid foundation for a real plan for the future of our dairy industry. As a working plan, it needs to have clear objectives, deliverables and viable timelines for implementation.

Being a bystander to this process is not an option for any farmer who intends to continue farming. The Dairy Plan will not succeed unless every stakeholder in the industry has their say.

Brian Tessmann – QDO President.

Why JD testing makes economic sense for Queensland dairies.

There have been very few reported cases of Johne’s Disease (JD) in Queensland; the disease is more prevalent in Southern dairy regions.

So many farmers are asking why it is necessary to test at all?

The presence of JD in a herd has a relatively small economic impact but there is no known cure.

 Prevention is the most cost-effective way to manage Johne's disease. It is far less expensive to block introducing Johne's disease into a herd than it is to control or eradicate the infection once it creeps in and invisibly starts to spread.

Where JD can affect a farm economically is when it comes to the sale of animals. With the number of dairy dispersals occurring due to the state of the industry, buyers can afford to be picky when it comes to the animals they buy.

 Over 100 farms have already been tested for JD under QDO's testing scheme. It is expected that by the June 30 cut-off date 60% of all Queensland dairy farms will be tested. For these farmers, having a good JD score will give a distinct marketing advantage to those farmers looking to sell animals in the future.

 Until June 30, there is a period of grace for farms to be tested. If you test and you get a positive result, provided you’ve had no clinical cases, you are a score 4. If you don’t test at all the highest score you can be is a 4.

 If you choose not to test before June 30 and later decide having a score higher than 4 does have some value then it will take a minimum of 1 year to move to a score 5, 2 years to move to a 6 and 3 years to achieve a 7 or 8.

 Some farmers have been reluctant to commit to testing because of the misconception that their farm could be quarantined if found positive. This is no longer the case. Since 2016 the government no longer quarantines farms with positive results so farmers can choose how to manage the herd.

 Torie Harrison – QDO Project Lead Johne’s Testing

 

 

 

Make your voice count on the National Dairy Plan.

The National Dairy Plan is being proposed and promoted by Australian Dairy Farmers, Dairy Australia, Gardiner Dairy Foundation, and the Australian Dairy Products Federation and is a very contentious topic for our industry.

Key to the success of this plan is having consultation and they have been encouraging individuals to attend the sessions to ensure that as many farmers, processors and other industry partners get involved as possible.

From what we are seeing and hearing, many are throwing their hands up and do not intend to attend the consultation sessions, simply because they have already made their suggestions before, but these have not been acted upon.

Farmers have said it time and time again that dairy service delivery organisations are inefficient; they aren’t looking after farmers and that the solution must come from a unified industry whereby retailers, processors and farmers have controlling stakes in the governing body.

They don’t understand why they need to repeat themselves again through an official consultation process.

As frustrating as it seems we need to follow a formal consultation process so that opinions and suggestions are tabled, scrutinised and, if viable, implemented. This is not just the individual farmers, but also the service delivery organisations, the processors and the retailers who can have an impact on our future.

Voicing opinions in social media and to your neighbours is not enough. While we are certainly seeing and hearing your opinions and suggestions, these are not the proper channels and have no true authority.

As annoying as it may seem, we ask that you all take part in the official consultation process.

Dairy Australia already has several consultation sessions planned as listed below.

Please go to: https://www.dairyplan.com.au/get-involved

Dates for Northern NSW and Queensland are:
24th May       10:00am - 2:30pm   Gympie
23rd May       10:00am - 2:30pm   Toowoomba
22nd May      10:00am - 2:30pm   Lismore

If you are not internet savvy, please contact QDO pm 07 3236 2955 and QDO can register for you.

QDO President Brian Tessmann

Updated: There is now an online engagement platform available for those unable to attend consultations in person. The platform is available at https://adp.oursay.org/home.

Dairy update from the North.

While much of the focus throughout 2018 has been in South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales, Far North Queensland had a horror period. From the first week of July until mid-December last year there was very little rainfall recorded in our dairying area. This made fully paddock feeding our cows very difficult.

Fast forward to November, announcements that the price of grain, one of our main inputs, was to rise were put out.  Between November and early January, the price of grain rose between $120 and $200 per tonne. Whole cottonseed was contracted in early 2018 at $300-350/tonne, it is now $700/tonne at the gin plus freight, if any is available.  Once again drought is affecting the growing regions and making a smaller crop while drought is also affecting the regions that use the WCS as stock feed and increasing the required amount.

Even though the Far North Queensland dairy region was never drought declared, drought has had a direct effect on the price of our inputs.  The free market is not so free. 

The Far North has had a lot of rain early this year which has been fantastic.  In the last 35 days we have recorded rain on 34 days.  All areas have their own climatic issues.  Our region is currently trying to plant ryegrass for winter feed, but it has become too wet. We have had in excess of 1.8 metres of rain year to date. We aren’t complaining just stating how it is.

The sale, or not, of Lion continues. Farmers are keen to hear who the new owner is to be and what the future holds. The future of this region will be dependent on the amount of milk the new owners will require and the extent of farmer support they want. 

Far North Queensland is pretty much the only region in Australia that has too much milk but at the moment there is a shortage due to time of year climatic conditions. 

Our farmers just want to do what they are good at, produce milk and look after their cattle—they just want to make a profit out of doing it.

QDO State Councillor James Geraghty.

Are harsher penalties the answer to tackling animal activism?

In light of recent disturbances, the Queensland Government’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries set up an Animal Industries Security Taskforce. Made up of representatives from the Department, The Queensland Police Service (QPS) and national and state primary industry groups, the taskforce is designed to help protect the rights of farmers and other livestock industries targeted by animal activists.

Minister Furner’s commitment to harsher penalties for animal activists who break the law was one outcome from the taskforce’s first meeting. The rapid response to recent events shows the Queensland Government’s determination to keep our farmers, their families, workers and livestock safe and is to be commended.

However, there is still a lot of criticism from farmers of the current laws surrounding trespass, break and enter and wilful damage to property and of the ability and willingness of the police to prosecute. Much of this criticism comes from a lack of understanding of the police’s powers to act and the process required to prosecute.

The government’s announcement of greater fines (of more than $600) and potentially jail time for those considered to be a threat to biosecurity and animal and worker welfare, is good news for the livestock industry, but the question remains as to whether harsher penalties will deter these individuals.

The animal activist groups responsible for the recent disruptions are highly coordinated and tiptoe very closely on the right side of the law.

In statements prior to events, activist organisers are clear that demonstrations are to be peaceful and that violence will not be tolerated. They have also been instructed to leave once formally asked to do so by property owners and police.

So, it is unusual that these demonstrators break the current laws for which they could be penalised.

The fact remains that the onus is unfortunately on the victim to ensure that these people are prosecuted. For the police and courts to do their jobs, a formal process must be followed. Firstly, the property or business owner must report the incident to the police (via their local police, PoliceLink or in case of an emergency 000). Secondly, they must make a complaint as to the law which has potentially been broken. It is only after that point that the police can begin the arduous task of prosecution.

Certainly, the law is not black and white. Trespass relates to entering land whereas break and enter relates to entering a dwelling or place (calf sheds for example). Contrary to popular belief, trespassing, regardless of city or rural location is not an indictable offence whereas break and enter is in most instances.

It seems that a legal degree is required to even determine whether someone is committing an offence or not!

We can sympathise with the DAF and QPS officers sent out to these disturbances. As much as they want to crack down on demonstrators who intimidate and terrorise people who simply want to go about their business, they are bound by the limitations of the law.

Animal activists will continue to walk the fine line between legal and illegal activities. While we hope that harsher penalties will deter demonstrators we may need to make the laws surrounding trespass and break and enter more clear cut and simpler to prosecute.

QDO Executive Officer Eric Danzi

Vegan demonstrations backfire.

For the past two weeks, Aussie Farms and other animal activist groups had been threatening to hold widespread protests and demonstrations and yesterday made good on that threat. In Queensland, an abattoir and one dairy farm was visited by the group.

The demonstrators’ signs said that these were peaceful protests. That they may not have resorted to active violence is neither here nor there. Their very presence in such numbers was enough to cause concern.

These groups swarm over properties, ignore requests of being asked to leave, terrify the livestock in the yards and harass farmers, their family and staff.

The calmness and restraint shown by those who were attacked should be praised. Farmers across Australia spent an anxious weekend on high alert expecting to be targeted by the groups.

Like most Australians, we believe that everyone has the right to their opinion and to follow their beliefs and that people also have the right to peacefully protest so long as they obey the law. What we cannot agree with or tolerate, are persons who believe that only their opinions and beliefs are valid and who are prepared to undertake illegal and often dangerous activities to make their point. And we were not alone.

The demonstrations were designed to gain public sympathy for the vegan movement and to supposedly show inhumane practices of intensive farming. From the footage shown yesterday, the demonstrations did anything but what they were intended.

Any initial sympathy and support by the average Australian soon turned to annoyance and outrage as the demonstrators overstepped their mark.

Not only did the demonstrators trespass and damage property, they also disrupted peak hour in the middle of Melbourne’s CBD. Using a high traffic area may have given the activists the public attention they craved, but their actions backfired when emergency services had to be re-routed due to the demonstrator’s vehicles blocking access points and commuters were made late.

The Queensland state government last week, started the process of toughening up trespass laws to protect farmers and businesses. While the rules that have were announced are a start, they need to ensure that privacy and property is protected without farmers having to wait until after the damage is done and they need to ensure that farmers can protect themselves without having to wait for authorities to intercede.

Yesterday’s public reaction to these demonstrations does not mean that vegans don’t have a place in our society or a right to voice their beliefs; but it does mean that people will not accept being bullied or shamed into changing their ideas.

QDO Vice President Matt Trace

Johne’s testing begins across Queensland.

In 2017, QDO committed to undertake Johne’s testing for its members free of charge. The deadline for testing had been extended by the Australian Dairy Farmers  and now has a final deadline date of 30 September this year. While Johne’s has not yet been detected in any significant numbers in Queensland, QDO and the Queensland Government want to be proactive and have a statistical baseline for ongoing monitoring.

To test as many herds as possible over the next few months, QDO has employed a new graduate Lara Williams to work with Project Manager, Torie Harrison. Lara has a Bachelor in Sustainable Agriculture from University of Queensland (Gatton) and has previously worked in agronomy focusing on hydroponics and running trials to improve productivity and sustainability. 

New QDO recruit, Lara Williamson

New QDO recruit, Lara Williamson

While the JD testing process is not complex, it does involve some significant coordination to ensure that samples are viable. The samples are taken by scraping the dairy yard after milking in an ‘X’ or ‘W’ pattern. For the testing method, Herd Environmental Cultures, the perfect environment for bacteria growth is provided to encourage the growth of BJD bacteria, if present, so it can be detected. The BJD bacteria is a very slow growing organism so results take 14 to 16 weeks.

QDO is also helping the  Department of Agriculture and Fisheries by supplying samples to their lab. They are looking at an alternate testing method to identify BJD through the identification of the bacteria’s DNA. If successful, this method will provide a faster result on samples so farms can respond quicker to any outbreak.

Both Torie and Lara have received training from Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Principal Veterinarian Lawrence Gavey on how to collect Bovine Johne’s Disease (BJD) samples for testing. They aim to collect from up to 16 farms a week and have already got a good start on the Darling Downs.

There will be time for members to ask questions about JD and the testing process while the Torie or Lara are on the farm, but the aim is to minimise disruption to the daily routine of the farm and the herd.

To ensure that testing can be done as efficiently and economically as possible, testing is being coordinated by geographic regions. Testing is currently taking place in and around the Darling Downs. Members from all regions are encouraged to contact the office on 3236 2955 as soon as possible to book their farm in for testing.

There will be limited opportunities for the QDO officers to return to regions if members wait to book.

Eric Danzi – QDO Executive Officer

Victory on $1/L milk is just the first step.

Last week signalled a major victory for Queensland dairy farmers and the Australian dairy industry with Coles and Aldi following Woolworths’ lead and declaring an end to $1/L milk. Indeed, it is almost an anticlimax for those who have been battling for the last 8 years, that almost overnight, the war on $1/L milk has been won.

$1/L milk has been a loss leader for supermarkets and a headache for processors since its inception. While QDO will continue to monitor all supermarkets and individual stores, we do not believe it is anyone’s intention to go back to a fixed base price of $1/L.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been asking shoppers whether the increase has affected them or their purchasing behaviour. Unsurprising to us, almost everyone that QDO interviewed were unconcerned by the 10-cent increase. This is not to say that everyone is happy with the result.

Many do not realise that the 10-cent increase on private label milk represents only a percentage of the amount paid to farmers. It does not mean that farmers are automatically paid an additional 10-cents for every litre produced.

Whether a farmer will receive an increase at all is dependent on several factors. Namely to which processor a farmer is contracted, what product that farmer’s milk goes towards (e.g. fresh white milk, flavoured milk, bulk cheese, powdered milk etc) and whether a processor has a private label milk contract.

While the 10-cent increase on private label milk will benefit the majority of farmers in Queensland, NSW and WA who supply for the fresh white milk market, most farmers in other states will not see the reward.

We have made inroads into solving the problems of fresh white milk but in order to survive and prosper as a national dairy industry, we must reform the value of the whole of the dairy cabinet. We need to identify products other than white milk which are being undervalued and resolve these problems.

To create real and lasting change, we need to look beyond the traditional supply chain and focus on the consumer. Only by acknowledging and harnessing their influence, can we create a sustainable dairy industry.

QDO President: Brian Tessmann

The Dairy Industry’s Mandatory Code of Conduct may be one step closer, but we need an end to $1/L milk now.

Late last week, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud announced that the federal Cabinet had endorsed the dairy industry’s Mandatory Code of Conduct.

Cabinet endorsement clears the way for the Committee to submit the draft wording for the regulations in the Code. Given the careful but laborious processes involved in the development of such a Code, Minister Littleproud and the Government are to be commended for the progress it has made to date.

There are 5 major issues that the Code of Conduct addresses and QDO supports these reforms and believes they will assist in redressing the balance of power between processors and farmers.

However, the Code does not address the urgent issue killing the Queensland dairy industry which is $1/L milk. All political parties, retailers and processors have a social responsibility to remove this cancer that has slowly killed the dairy industry not only in Queensland but in many other states including NSW.

If certain retailers with no social conscience continue to ignore the extreme and negative economic and mental health impacts of their policies, they need to be held accountable by all political parties. Or are profits of big business and bonuses for staff more important than the viability and mental health of farmers and the regional communities that depend on them?

The Code of Conduct is welcome but what the Queensland dairy industry need now is a permanent end to $1/L milk. For many dairy farmers in Queensland, and indeed, across Australia, the reforms that will come from the introduction of the Code will bring too little change. We need all parties in the value chain to take responsibility to ensure the survival of the Queensland dairy industry.

Eric Danzi. QDO Executive Officer

 

Coles’ Tweet confirms $1 per litre milk creates milk shortage for consumers.

A few days ago, I got a surprise when I opened my social media page to find I’d been tagged by irate farmers asking me what Coles’ response to NSW dairy farmer Adam Forbes’ tweet, as seen below, actually meant. While Forbes posted in late February, it seems the tweet only reached the eyes of Coles’ social media response team early last week. Farmers were certainly quicker to respond and screengrab the post for posterity.

Forbes tweet was in response to Norco’s recent in-store notifications that it is currently running short of Norco branded products.

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While it is a case of reading between the lines, the message relayed in Coles’ four seemingly harmless sentences is very clear –  the industry has reached a point that it no longer has enough milk to meet consumers demand for both  branded and private label milk supply requirements

On the face of it, Coles’ response seems to be rational and cooperative. In layman’s terms, the phrase ‘In partnership with’ implies that together, Coles and Norco put several alternate ideas on the table and came up with a mutually beneficial solution to help Norco’s current, supply shortfalls in Queensland and New South Wales.

‘We have also worked with our other partners…to source them more milk’, makes Coles seem to be exemplary corporate citizens working with its suppliers in times of need.

In effect, this tweet says that Norco should say thanks Coles for helping them out, when in fact it’s anything but the truth.

Rather than assisting the 100% farmer owned Co-Op by raising the recommended-retail-price (RRP) of private label milk which would allow for some leeway in the margins to keep farmers in the industry , Coles’ intends to source a larger volume from its other milk supplier, out of Victoria in an attempt to meet Qld & NSW consumer’s requirements for fresh milk.

Many may argue that this is just business as usual. Any company that can’t get a product from one supplier is justified in sourcing it from another. In this case however, Coles is a large part of the reason that Norco & the Qld Dairy industry finds itself in this position, short of milk.

What the market continues to ignore is that supermarkets are key players in the supply chain and have a corporate responsibility to ensure that primary industries such as dairy, can profitably survive. Woolworths have recognised their role and have done what is right for the dairy industry and ultimately for the consumer.

If Coles wants to continue to spruik its what’s best for the consumer mantra, it had better have a good explanation when the dairy industry turns sour and consumers are left without.

Mr Matthew Trace – Vice-President Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation.

Norco gives its suppliers some much needed relief.

Last month QDO wrote about the long-term issues caused by Coles’ tokenistic Dairy Drought Levy stunt. Of concern, was the emotional and financial impact Coles’ convoluted payout system had on the Norco farmers who supply Coles’ private label milk.

Expecting that Coles would follow the Woolworths’ model and pay Norco the 10 cent levy to distribute, Norco farmers were dismayed when Coles announced that they would share the Levy funds to any dairy farmer regardless of what brand they supplied.

So, while we were pleased for any farmer able to receive a share in the shopper generated funding, it was never going to be more than a publicity gesture.

Many were lured into thinking that Coles was being a responsible and caring corporate citizen, but in fact, all it wanted to do (and did) was relieve the pressure and complaints from shoppers who genuinely did and still do want to help our farmers by paying a fair and equitable price for milk.

Because of Coles’ disregard and disrespect for its contracted supplier, from mid-January, Norco was unable to match the farmgate price being paid by its two major competitors. This led to some serious concerns that Australia’s remaining Dairy Co-operative may not be able to meet supply contracts, if its farmers were forced to go to another processor able to pay a higher farmgate price.

The good news released late last Friday, was that by creating some operational efficiencies, Norco have been able to increase its farmgate price to its farmers by 6.5c/L and are now on par with that being paid by Parmalat and Lion.

On top of Norco’s announcement last week was the news that the Australia dairy industry has waited for. Woolworths’ announcement that it would no longer sell fresh milk for $1/L but would increase its minimum price to $1.10 was a bold, brave move. It showed true leadership for them to stand alone and come out fighting for our farmers. Most importantly for our farmers is that the full 10 cent increase will be passed back to its suppliers via Parmalat.

This move was not about increasing profit. It was not about publicity. It was the Woolworths’ Board, CEO, COO and CFO unanimously agreeing that having a floor price on milk, or any other basic commodity for that matter, was unsustainable and ultimately, not in the best interests of the consumer.

Time and again, we see weather events causing short term scarcity in some of our favourite produce. Due to the 1 in 500-year weather event in the Townsville region, livestock and crops were flooded and lost. As a result, shoppers are feeling a significant pinch at the checkout or having to go without.

Coles constantly proclaims its strategic direction is always based on what’s good for the customer. We must ask; how can a discounting policy that is leading to permanent scarcity in supply caused by farm closures possibly be good for the consumer? Already the Queensland dairy industry is unable to meet our state’s fresh milk needs due to farms going out of business.

Unstable and unprofitable farmgate pricing and predatory pricing practices from supermarkets like Coles squeezes the profitability at all points in the value chain to the point of unsustainability. If Coles continues to ignore the needs of the dairy industry, they will face the wrath of shoppers forced to buy inferior and / or imported dairy.

As a Norco supplier myself, I am torn between the company whose private label contains the bulk of my milk or supporting a company that ultimately has the true and best interests of the dairy industry at heart. That’s why now, I pick Woolies.

Mr Matthew Trace – Vice-President Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation.