Communication is key to success of the National Dairy Plan.

An often-quoted truism is that trust is earned not given

The failures of the individuals and organisations whose roles exist to lead the dairy industry mean that our farmers find it hard to trust them on faith alone to develop a Plan that will see a sustainable future for the Australian dairy industry.

 Key to a successful merger or, as is required in the dairy industry, a major transformation, is communication. As human beings, we are naturally nervous about change since with it comes uncertainty and insecurity. Given the scepticism surrounding the Plan, murmured assurances that everything is OK is not enough to woo farmers into submission. 

Since the Dairy Plan Committee was formed and the consultation process concluded, there has been little communication of the Plan’s progress. Is it still on track to be delivered? Are the farmer's core priorities – restructuring, ensuring a sustainable farmgate price and marketing dairy still the cornerstones of the Plan?

It would be fair to say that there has been a lot of criticism about how the Dairy Plan is being developed. I would not be alone in saying that phrases like “it’s off the rails”, “it’s a train wreck” and “it’s fracturing the industry” are being said too often and by too many individuals to ignore. 

The Dairy Plan's every element and process was always going to be heavily scrutinised and criticised. 

To be fair, it is difficult to determine what information it is appropriate to share during the early stages of the planning process. But the more the Dairy Plan Committee tries to reassure the industry without evidence of progress, the more individuals will doubt. 

We need those who have appointed themselves as leaders of our industry's future to communicate openly and transparently. Allowing the speculation to continue causes more dissent in an already fractured industry.

 Sarah Ferguson – QDO Communications Manager.

 

What were they thinking? Concern over the future of the Dairy Plan.

As a dairy farmer based in Far North Queensland, I couldn’t be further physically removed from the politics and machinations of the national dairy industry and its problematic hydra-headed organisational structure.

So, I was honoured to be asked to attend the National Dairy Plan meeting that was held last month in Victoria.

At that meeting, I was pleasantly surprised. It truly felt that our national leaders were heeding the warnings of their individual members that they represent. It seemed not just likely, but a fait accompli, that major transformational change was in the works and that it would happen soon.

When the call was put out for individuals to apply to sit on the Joint Transition Team (JTT), the window for applications to be submitted was extremely narrow - just one week! The JTT is expected to recommend options for transformational change, which will form part of the Dairy Plan's report.

Given that there aren’t enough hours in a day to do most jobs, it seemed a tight timeline for any person to put together a formal application and CV so quickly.

By the time I saw the first article telling me about the application process for the JTT, the chairman of the Dairy Plan Committee, Mr John Brumby was quoted as saying "I think we've probably got enough," and "The ones that have come in have been very good quality and I'd like to resolve this ideally within the next week or so."

Perhaps it is my Far North cynicism and scepticism creeping through, but I did wonder how Mr Brumby’s committee could have received so many quality applicants when most dairy farmers didn’t even know about it.

There have been some key players throughout the Dairy Plan consultation period who have been strong advocates for change and yet when I saw the list of successful candidates, these people are not on the JTT.

It seems to be a odd that someone who is no longer active in the Queensland dairy industry has been appointed as our sole representative. I question therefore whether what the farmers called for and what the people who attended the Melbourne Dairy Plan Workshop demanded, is actually going to happen and that it can be achieved with the JTT panel as it stands.

That our industry needs change without delay is not in question. The situation in Queensland is dire and we need immediate help. But we need to be careful of making wrong decisions simply because we want to get the Plan together quickly.

QDO member – Colin Daley

FNQ hosts the 2019 QDO AGM and Forum.

Far North Queensland farmers were very happy to welcome the QDO State Council  and southern farmers to the Tablelands last week for the QDO AGM and Forum held in Malanda. 

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Farm visits were held allowing our guests to get a handle on the differences of farming here to farming in the south.  A visit to Greg and Bronwyn English’s farm to meet Eachamvale Precious 7, the Supreme Champion of the Ekka, visit their old walk thru dairy which is still in working condition but not used in favour of the herringbone.  David and Tonia Daley showed their new silage pits and the lay down crush that will facilitate much easier foot work on lame cows and for drying cows off.

QDO’s Executive Officer Eric Danzi tries his hand at milking

QDO’s Executive Officer Eric Danzi tries his hand at milking

A dinner was held in Millaa Millaa on the first night and Malanda on the second night, open to all farmers.  About 30 attendees were at each event.  Both were great nights for Council members and other visitors to get to know other farmers.

The forum held following the AGM, was packed with intel that was highly relevant to our farmers. Guest speakers explained the unannounced audits currently being done by Workplace Health and Safety auditors and the rules the auditors work under; explained simply what signage is required and about the records that need to be kept.  QDO has a series of WHS workshops coming up shortly and this presentation made the necessity to attend the workshops clear to all.

Also presented were the changes around biosecurity rules as far as Biosecurity Plans and signage is concerned, also the need the re-register as a Biosecurity Entity.

Part of the enjoyment in showing people around that are not from up here is that we can explain we have kangaroos that climb trees, Lumholtz tree kangaroos and green (that is correct) green possums. While we had trouble convincing visitors that these do actually exist, they were very happy to see platypus and turtles just on the edge of Malanda.

Visitors enjoyed factory tours of both Mungalli Creek and the Dairy Farmers’, Malanda facility. The Malanda factory tour showcased the start of Malanda factory some 101 years ago and how farms, processing and freighting has changed.  Many of the farmers and factory workers in the photo alleyway are still around, as are some of the tanker drivers photographed back in the 50’s.

A great few days were had by all involved.  Please come back again.  We would love to see you and show you our region.

QDO Board member FNQ – James Geraghty

Increased flexibility of cattle movement within tick-free zones is a major concern to dairy biosecurity.

 

Biosecurity is one of the most vital concerns for dairy farmers in Queensland. Under the most recent changes to the state government’s Biosecurity Bill, farmers and livestock owners have biosecurity obligations including the obligation to not spread any pest to other properties and not allow a pest to establish on their land.

This is most certainly the case with Cattle Ticks.

The new bill gives the DAF increased powers to enforce compliance with the rules and regulations around biosecurity which is good news. But the Bill sees greater ease of movement for those transporting cattle which could put the security of the tick-free areas at risk. It also puts much of the responsibility for controlling pests on farmers and landholders.

It has been suggested by some, including departmental staff, that there is a higher level of tick incursions in regions such as the South Burnett and northern and southern Darling Downs. It is portrayed as if the tick line is more difficult to manage in these regions because of climate and/or geographical reasons.

Following the recent tick outbreaks long distances inside the tick free zone in places such as the western downs and beyond this must now be doubted. Clearly ticks can move and thrive well to the west of the current tick line if someone transports them there.

The core reason tick outbreaks are more common in the above-mentioned regions is simply that there are far more individual cattle producers in those regions and so more cattle managers not doing the due diligence in moving cattle or doing illegal trips across the tick line.

Cattle ticks rarely move far without humans being a major provider of their movement.

This clearly shows the need for DAF to be instructed and resourced to carry out better monitoring and oversight of cattle movements across the tick line. The increased flexibility of movement needs to be closely monitored. If we see an increased number of tick outbreaks across the tick line, then there needs to be a re-evaluation of this in the policy and management.

Brian Tessmann – QDO President

Cuteness overload at this year’s Ekka.

Last Friday marked the first anniversary of QDO’s Cutest Cow of Show competitions at agricultural shows across Queensland and the last day of dairy judging at the 2019 Royal Queensland Show.

Since our young public ‘judges’ found it hard to go past the cuteness of the young calves, this year sashes were awarded to both the Cutest Cow and the Cutest Calf of Show.

The Cutest Cow of Show went to the beautiful and popular Holstein, Glen Echo Honey exhibited by the Parker family of Kenilworth. The Cutest Calf of Show was awarded to the 5 month old Jersey, Nobbyview Pansy, exhibited by Tim Beattie of Glanmorgan Vale. The prizes were awarded to the worthy winners by Minister for Employment and Small Business and Minister for Training and Skills Development, Shannon Fentiman MP in the Main Arena.

Cutest Calf of Show - Pansy

Cutest Calf of Show - Pansy

The sashing was the final award given in the dairy exhibition in the arena following the hotly contested Supreme Udder that went to Guernsey breed - Bruhanna Francis the 12th exhibited by the Hayden family from Pilton and the Supreme Champion Dairy Cow which was taken out by Illawarra breed -  Eachamvale Precious 7 exhibited by the English family from Malanda in Far North Queensland. A terrific effort from both exhibitors who had won both Supreme Udder and Supreme Champion earlier this year at Gympie and Malanda Shows respectively.

Cutest Cow of Show - Honey

Cutest Cow of Show - Honey

The final award at the wrap up event was the prize given to the Champion Milk Production Cow which was taken out by Illawarra - Riverwood Joy exhibited by the Ledger family with 2.64kg of Fat + Protein and 37.27kg of milk to win both the fat plus protein class and the weight of milk all produced in 24 hours.

While certainly the winners were grinning at the competition wrap up, there was much talk of whether many exhibitors would attend next year. The combination of entry fees, staffing, transport and feed – not to mention having most of the experienced hands off farm for over a week, has many questioning the value of the exhibiting at the Royal Queensland Show.

Crowd volume through the dairy exhibit was also down from last year since dairy cows and goats were placed on the second floor of the Arrow Energy Pavilion. Unfortunately, many show goers didn’t realise this due to poor directional signage, so it took significant spruiking from QDO staff to direct show goers up the stairs.

That said, there should be an even rotation between the exhibits for fairness, so let’s hope that next year dairy will once again be in the thick of things.

Sarah Ferguson – Communications Manager QDO

Drought preparedness schemes are no substitute for assistance now.

Last month, the Queensland Agriculture Industry Development Minister Mark Furner announced that the Drought Freight Subsidy Assistance scheme would be phased out starting in mid 2020.

The decision was made because state-based drought assistance subsidies are not in line with the national drought plan - an agreement every premier and chief minister signed in December last year.

While the drought is by no means confined to our state borders it is our state Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ task to specifically look out for the needs of our state’s agricultural industries. At this point in time, this means providing as much viable financial assistance as possible to ensure our agricultural industries can survive long enough until the current drought conditions ease. 

The August to October climate outlook, issued by the Bureau of Meteorology’s suggests a drier than average three months is likely for large parts of Australia. Simply put, the drought is going to get worse in many parts before we see an improvement.

Winter rainfall in W.A. means that fodder from that state is likely to be available over the spring and summer period. Certainly, it’s welcome news that there will be fodder available from other states in Australia, but there are serious financial implications to transport feed over 4,000 kms if no government assistance will be provided to subsidise freight costs.

QDO welcomes the Queensland and federal governments commitment to longer term solutions for farmers and agree that farmers need to take a significantly more proactive approach to drought preparedness.

However, just cutting the current freight subsidy scheme without a replacement scheme in place will just put more pressure on farmers, their families and their livestock already struggling to make ends meet.

We don’t simply go from being in drought to business as usual in a matter of weeks or even months. It will take years for our farmers to get back on their feet financially. Both state and federal governments need to work with agricultural service industry groups like QDO to come up with satisfactory schemes to replace the funding that has been lost and to provide incentives for farmers to develop drought preparation plans.

DAF needs to be working with industry now to develop viable funding schemes that will assist in future proofing our agricultural industries. This needs to include funding for bodies such as QDO, incentives funding and low interest loans to help farmers prepare their farmers for drought.

Eric Danzi – QDO Executive Officer

The National Dairy Plan Workshop steers our industry towards a unified future.

Over the last four months, 25 regional consultations were held across Australia to help inform the Australian Dairy Plan.

Nearly 1200 people including farmers, industry representatives and other interested parties attended. While there was no doubt that change is urgently needed, it was heartening that so many attendees sincerely believe that change is not only achievable but that it will ultimately help our industry to thrive.

From the regional consultations, three major themes were consistently supported by attendees. These included:

1.  the necessity for transformational change to the industry’s structure;

2.  marketing dairy to support and sustain the growth of the industry and growth of consumption; and

3.  securing a sustainable and fair farmgate price for all farmers across Australia.

At the National Dairy Plan Workshop held in Melbourne last week, these three themes were discussed at length; but the chief priority that dominated discussions was the need for transformational change.

From the outset, Australian Dairy Farmers’ President Terry Richardson has led the charge for restructuring. In his opening address at the two-day workshop, Terry reiterated his belief that transformational change is vital if our industry is to reverse its fortunes.

The major issue that has been voiced around merging key industry bodies stems from a concern that Federal Government funding provided in the past would be withheld if RD&E and Advocacy were to sit under one roof.

Mr Brian Ramsay from Inovact Consulting was one of the key guest speakers at the Workshop and was specifically invited to address concerns surrounding a merger which would see key functions being performed by a single entity.

Mr Ramsay said that so long as the merged entity remained firmly a-political and did not undermine government policy, there was no rational reason that these two areas need to be housed under separate bodies.

Clearly, these are major decisions for the dairy industry. The Dairy Plan has been a long time coming. The consultation process has been thorough, and all groups and individuals have been given ample opportunity to contribute. We cannot let the opportunity for major positive transformation be lost to endless and fruitless backroom arguments and petty rivalries.

Certainly, the changes will be felt across the industry. What we must accept and indeed embrace is the necessity and urgency for change.

Brian Tessmann – QDO President.

Research debunks discounted milk.

Two weeks ago, various media outlets reported that major supermarkets may be set to increase the price of a number of discounted products. This came on the back of a report conducted by leading market research company Nielsen, which suggests that Australian supermarkets lose $10 billion a year on "wasted" discounts.

That is selling products at a discounted price when customers would have bought the product regardless.

So it was of little surprise early last week when Australia’s third largest supermarket chain, Aldi announced a price increase on milk from $1.29 for $1L, 2L at $2.39 and 3L at $3.59. Woolworths quickly followed and Coles followed suit on Friday.

When we petitioned to have the supermarkets remove the floor price of $1 per litre from their shelves via the Drought Levy campaign, we were criticised on several fronts. We had the supermarkets and even our own Prime Minister tells us that the “poor ole Aussie battler” needed to be given discounts on staples such as fresh white milk.

But when Woolworths and Coles and subsequently all supermarket groups increased the price of its discount milk lines, we did not hear a word of complaint.

Our own communications officer spent several days asking shoppers in the supermarkets about the price rise. We actually tried to find someone prepared to object to paying more to pay our farmers a fairer price.

Surprise, surprise, no one objected.

In fact, many suggested they’d be happy to pay even more if it would ensure the future supply of fresh local milk.

Long-term discounting on staples like fresh milk, cheese and butter has never made economic sense and this report provides the data that proves it.

Most shoppers are still in the dark about how bad things have got for the dairy industry. They don’t know that milk production is at an all-time low and that farmers are dropping out of the industry at an alarming rate.

Over the coming weeks, QDO and other state-based organisations will be renewing its efforts to increase the farmgate price.

We will be using evidence such as this marketing report to push for an increase to the RRP of milk back to a pre-discount price of $1.50 per litre. Further we are looking to have the supermarkets commit to increase the floor price on discounted cheese and butter.

By doing this, processors will be in a position to increase the RRP on their own branded products and ultimately to pass the retail price increase back to their farmers. While it has taken a crisis to reach this point, now is the time to redress the imbalance in the value chain and give farmers the fair farmgate price that they deserve.

Brian Tessmann – QDO President.

State and federal politicians need to do more to support our dairy farmers.

Last Thursday the 18th the plight of dairy farmers in Southern Queensland was highlighted to some State Politicians and dairy processors at an event organised by David Janke on his farm west of Toowoomba.

Along with me the attendees included directors from Norco and the collective bargaining group Premium along with field staff from at least two major local processors and State opposition members Tony Perret and Pat Weir. In his address to the gathering David made the point that while the Farm Gate price of milk has gone up since the QDO inspired scheme to get 10 cents onto the former $1 per litre generic supermarket milk, the increases in feed costs since this current drought started has far outweighed the improvement. He added that many farmers in his region are facing the prospect of being completely out of feed soon with little prospect of being able to source any more.

David’s focus on the day was to encourage the State Government and regional processors to raise the retail price of milk by 30 Cpl and for all that revenue to flow back to Queensland dairy farmers. Some other speakers including me related other relevant issues from the difficulty sourcing any fodder for cows to the now massive under production in this state to the huge loss of dairy farms in Northern Victoria and resulting loss of milk production there. All the while David remained resolute that he was focused on the Queensland price and that state government could work with retailers and processors to increase milk price here in Queensland. David became focused on that following a discussion he had with deputy Premier Jackie Trad at the community cabinet event in Toowoomba a few months ago.

In following on from this event I believe the onus is now on the state politicians on both sides of parliament to outline both what they are able to do and/or willing to do both to raise the local milk price and also assist dairy farmers in Queensland to survive the current drought and achieve better margins in both the short and long term. 

Brian Tessmann – QDO President.

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