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.

Dear Coles....

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While many dairy farmers are frustrated and talking a lot about their issues with the grain prices due to the drought, it is good for us to get individual stories that go to the heart of the matter. This letter to Coles from the Darling Downs from Donna and Mark Fitch outlines the true costs to farms.

Thank you for your drought relief funds- however I would like to make a point that the Consumers are actually the ones receiving Charity - from the pockets of the Dairy Farmers who are trying to make ends meet-and in many cases are unable to.

We have milked for three generations- have invested into our business to meet market demands- our herd numbers and workload has doubled to ensure that we are able to remain viable in the face of an industry that is capped by the $1 litre milk.  We supply two million litres to Norco on the Darling Downs. 

As stated, we received $6200 from the Drought Relief fund, however we calculated that the added feed cost alone per month is $17 500 extra over that of a normal season.  With those figures, the 4 Million Dollars that Coles collected would support approximately 20 farms to break even for 12 months. Feed on the Darling Downs is becoming difficult to source with any reliability. Our summer silage is now looking like a complete failure, having been cooked off in the recent heatwave.

To add insult to the situation, we spent $50 000 in November on a new bore as our bores are running dry with stock water pumps running 24 hours to keep supply to our herd. This bore has now failed, and we have been forced to drill another bore totalling $90 000.

Given this information we are obviously looking to stop the business from haemorrhaging, having maintained a steady growth of production over the years and maintain supply to our consumers.

In summary, our only option will be to cease supply within the next 6 months if we cannot get the market to carry some of the burden of the cost of production. 

I ask that you please consider increasing the price of milk to the consumer to allow the money to return to the farmers who are desperately trying to survive this crippling drought.  I would welcome a visit to our property to discuss our request further.

Regards,

Donna and Mark Fitch - QDO Members

Shoppers are urged to support Woolies as they start the end of $1/L milk.

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It is a day filled with joy in the dairy industry today as Woolworths ends the $1/L price war on milk. This is a war that has crippled the dairy industry for over 8 years.

This is a great move by Woolworths that Queensland Dairyfarmers Organisation (QDO) and all dairy farmers strongly support. QDO is delighted that Woolworths has shown such leadership today. This signifies understanding, empathy and a social conscious that is so dearly lacking in other major companies. It will make a massive difference to the dairy farmers who supply Woolworths milk across Australia.

Particularly in the face of Coles’ blatant disrespect for the dairy industry in its refusal to increase its price, QDO asks all consumers to support Woolworths by shopping at Woolworths. Customers can be confident that any milk they buy in a Woolworths store will help dairy farmers. Woolworths deserves to be supported by all consumers for the great leadership they have shown on this crucial issue for dairy farmers.

Customers can be extremely confident that if the buy Woolworths branded milk that 10c/L will go back to farmers. Woolworths has a track record of ensuring every cent collected goes back to farmers after the highly successful and transparent drought levy that Woolworths have applied in Queensland and NSW for the past 5 months.

Finally, QDO pleads for all other retailers to follow the leadership shown by Woolworths and apply an additional 10c to all retailer branded milk with all proceeds to go directly back to farmers. If you walk into a shop and they still sell milk for $1/L, turn around and leave the shop and go to retailer than supports dairy farmers like Woolworths.

Today is a great day for all dairy farmers. Thank you to Woolworths for the understanding, empathy, social conscious and most importantly leadership you have demonstrated today. All dairy farmers say thank you.

QDO welcomes new Natural Resource Manager.

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In light of the major environmental disaster and public outcry over the Murray-Darling Basin, water quality and our responsibility to ensure healthy waterways is more important than ever. Farming practices have been widely blamed for much of the damage. Ongoing management, trialling new methods and providing advice and assistance to our industry members must be the responsibility of industry bodies like QDO, particularly when key heritage listed sites like the Great Barrier Reef are at stake.

 Last week, Tony Mills started in the role of Natural Resources Manager at QDO. Tony takes over the role and brings with him extensive knowledge and practical experience in Agriculture and Agribusiness. Starting in the Burnett-Mary region Tony will conclude the final phase of the 3-year Reef Alliance Project to reduce the sediment and nutrient load entering the Great Barrier Reef.

 Tony has worked with some of Northern Australia’s larger beef and sheep producers while being based in Quilpie and Charleville. He has also worked with producers across key agricultural areas in South-West Queensland, Mackay and the Coalfields, Northern Slopes and Plains of NSW and the Falkland Islands aiding them to deal with issues related to marketing, production and finance.

 While new to dairy, Tony has spent 30 years working in the agricultural sector working with businesses to realise their development and investment strategies. With a thorough understanding of a range of agribusinesses, the keys to profitability and sustainability and the challenges they may face, Tony is expected to make a significant impact on our members farms.

 In his role, Tony will work alongside farmers to implement a suite of on-farm services, which may include farm consultancy services, all aspects of farm finance and investment, recovery and resilience, nutrition services, agronomy services, such as Soil & Nutrient Management Planning, grazing management assistance and financial incentives for water quality risk management.

 Brian Tessmann – QDO President.

The drought is not over. QDO calls to renew Coles boycott. 

Drought conditions on the Darling Downs

Drought conditions on the Darling Downs

Throughout 2018, shoppers petitioned the supermarkets to assist dairy farmers in drought by supporting the 10c/l Drought Levy. Woolworth’s already raising over $4.5million to date. While we do not reject the $4 million raised by Coles, everything Coles has said and done in response to the 10c/l Drought Levy has been opportunistic and tokenistic to say the very least.

Case in point:

  1. Coles waited until Woolworths announced its Drought Relief Milk range before it offered support;

  2. Coles put the Drought Levy on a single line, that is, their 3 L Coles brand;

  3. Coles refused to distribute the Levy back via Norco who supply their private label milk; instead of making it a convoluted and frustrating process for farmers;

  4. Coles held on to the funds (and any interest) raised between September and December 31 and only distributed in mid-January whereas Woolworths were giving the funds raised back to their Parmalat farmers monthly via their milk cheques;

  5. Farmers were forced to apply - read beg - for a slice of the funds, resulting in meagre $6,219 per farm being given to anyone that applied; and the final blow,

  6. Coles stopped its Dairy Drought Levy on 31 December whereas Woolworths have extended their commitment to the Drought Levy until at least June 30 this year – acknowledging that the drought is far from over.

Prior to the Drought Levy campaign, the three major processors operating in Queensland and NSW were paying farmers roughly the same base price. Now there is a significant discrepancy, particularly the price being paid to Norco farmers who supply for Coles private label which currently sits 6.5c/l below Parmalat and Lion.

Put bluntly, unless there is a price rise of at least 5c/L in the very near future many Norco farmers will stop dairying and given the seeming instability of the co-op, Norco will find it hard to replace those farms that leave.

If Coles doesn’t reinstate the Drought Levy and pay it to Norco farmers; they simply will not be able secure enough milk to fulfil contracts.

With the Murray Goulburn debacle, floods, cyclones and the ongoing drought, our industry has suffered enough without losing our remaining iconic Dairy Cooperative.

It is time once again to call on the Australian public to make a stand against the tyranny of Coles and yet again, boycott the supermarket giant until they reintroduce the Dairy Drought Levy and give the funds raised to the farmers who are supplying them through Norco.

94% of responders to our social media poll want a return of the boycott of Coles. It is Australian shoppers want to support us. We need to utilise their power to create lasting change.

The supermarkets’ response to drought are chalk and cheese.

No wonder everyone is confused about who is helping our drought-stricken farmers.

Just before the end of 2018, Woolworths’ announced that it would continue to run with its Drought Relief range until June 30, 2019. On the other hand, Coles has made no extension to the levy which closed on 31 December.

Given that we are still heavily in drought this demonstrates just how much value Coles has for our dairy farmers.

To date, Woolworth’s has paid out $4.5 million to 286 dairy farmers across Queensland, NSW and northern Victoria via Parmalat. As the supplier of Woolworth’s private label milk, payments via Parmalat was the fastest, most reliable channel to get every cent raised back to the farm gate. The amount given to each farm is being calculated based on volume.

Woolworths has been paying the levy to farmers monthly since they began in October. Coles only advised successful recipients last week which means that the money collected from customers has been sitting within Coles’ coffers for a spell, gaining a good wad of interest.

The $3,974,292.30 collected by Coles is to be divided between the 639 farmers that applied for the fund. That equates to $6,219.5 per farm. With the price of Lucerne hay being over $800 incl GST, the amount paid out by Coles to each farmer equates to around 7 tonnes – a pittance given the amount of feed a herd goes through.

While it is great that non-Norco farmers applied and received funding from Coles, it was an illogical way to administer the fund and for many it’s a case of too little too late.

While hard to do a clean comparison, there is little doubt that Coles treated the Drought Levy as a stunt. Due to public and media pressure, they had to capitulate but did so reluctantly and as minimally as possible.

Shoppers truly want to support our farmers and are happy to pay more for their milk to do so and are not affected by a 10-cent price rise. It is certainly time for change.

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

Australian Day celebrations marred by the anniversary of $1 litre milk.

On January 26 2011, dairy farmers across Australia woke to news that changed the face of the industry.

In truly un-Australian fashion, the then Coles' director of merchandise, John Durkan and CEO Ian McLeod felt $1 a litre private label milk had a nice ring to it and decided to announce milk price cuts - on Australia Day.

Under the pretence that the price cut helped the average Australian shopper, the strategy was in truth, designed to take market share from Woolworths and the up-and-coming new kids on the block, Aldi.

At the time, Coles were warned of the potential consequences to the dairy industry but insisted that keeping prices down for customers was more important. At the time they also argued that farmgate prices and price paid to processors were fair.

Fast forward to 2016 - the virtual collapse of Murray Goulburn due to mismanagement and the increased milk production in the EU, meant that the price paid back to farmers at the farmgate was significantly slashed.

And now here we are 2019 and our industry is still in crisis.

Australia Day should be cause for celebration. It is a timely reminder of the importance of mateship, fairness and the necessity to be as one in times of trouble.

We live in a land of highs and lows; of drought and flood. It has always been our perseverance and strength of character that has seen us through. Despite everything, most of us wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

We have seen the Australia spirit shine with the amount of public donations, business and community support right across the country to our farmers doing it tough in these drought conditions.

Even though the new head of Coles, Mr Steven Cain is another import from the UK, we ask that he embrace the Australian ethos and put an end to $1 litre milk.

Mr Brian Tessmann – President Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation.

Call for a united dairy industry.

In spite of the traditional State of Origin rivalry between Queensland and New South Wales, dairy farmers from both states have a strong bond. 

There are so many similarities in climate, pastures, temperature and biosecurity issues that it’s important to keep an eye on the situation for our southern counterparts.

Shane Hickey of You Tube fame and ironically, the face of QDO’s 10cent/litre Drought Levy campaign, lives in Kyogle – 32km from the Queensland border.

Shane is a regular (and welcome) correspondent with QDO and recently caught up with us to give us the gossip from down south.

Sadly, the predictions are not good. Without rain, up to half dozen farmers from northern NSW will leave the industry by April.

Given the latest Dairy Australia production and QDAS profitability figures released late last year this is disturbing but unsurprising to hear.

On our side of the border dairy farmers are struggling to survive the drought conditions, with many dairy regions seeing a tantalising glimpse of rain but without the windfall. 

Late in 2018, QDO said goodbye to several farmers, many located on the Darling Downs which has been badly hit by the ongoing drought.

Regardless of what state or region farms are located, our industry is in crisis. 

So it’s even more important than ever that we approach the value chain issues on a national scale.

The meeting of state dairy representatives chaired by the Australian Dairyfarmers Federation late last year was a significant step towards developing a unified national front. 

Having key politicians like Federal Agricultural Minister David Littleproud, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormac, LNP’s Shadow Minister for Agriculture Tony Perrett and MP Llew O’Brien publicly support a call for a Royal Commission into the predatory pricing of supermarkets gives a glimmer of hope that change may be possible.

Matthew Trace – Vice President

2019 another year of challenges for dairy industry.

2019 shapes up as another challenging year for dairy farmers and the dairy industry. As has been the case for the past eight years, retail pricing and the impact on dairy farmer and processor incomes is still by far the biggest challenge to overcome. Other key issues include the Australian dairy industry plan and biosecurity.
After many years of no change re retail milk prices, finally in 2018 some movement occurred largely as a result of a concerted campaign by QDO. This has led to an increase in prices received by Queensland dairy farmers. For some this increase was very short lived while for others it will lead to an increase in price of around 5 cents a litre for almost a year. 

The challenge in 2019 is to turn these temporary increases into a permanent long-term solution. This needs to occur for all dairy products, across all of Australia and lead to more sustainable prices for both dairy farmers and processors. For this outcome to be achieved we need to have a united industry and run a concerted campaign across Australia.

The dairy industry will develop a plan for the entire Australian dairy industry in 2019. It is very important that this process leads to a small number of clear priorities to help farmers significantly increase profits and manage risk. In addition, there needs to targets set, clear plans to achieve targets and responsibility with resources given to organisations best able to achieve these targets. We need to ensure that significant outcomes for farmers are achieved given the significant investment made by farmers in industry organisations.

In the first half of 2019, QDO will undertake free Johnes disease testing for QDO members. This needs to be undertaken by June 2019. It follows the considerable effort made by QDO, with the assistance of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, in providing education workshops on Johnes disease and helping farmers develop farm biosecurity plans

Eric Danzi - Executive Officer

E

New procurement commitment to Go Local a huge opportunity for the dairy industry.

On the 19 December, Minister Mick De Brenni announced the Queensland Government’s commitment to using local food and beverages at all Queensland Government facilities and sponsored or run events whenever possible. This means every effort must be made to have products in, for example, Queensland public hospitals, to be local.

As part of the Procurement Advisory Board, QDO had the opportunity to help develop the parameters around what constitutes local. According to the newly released guidelines, for dairy products, local means that a minimum of 85% of raw (fresh milk) product must be from Queensland and that 100% must be processed and manufactured in Queensland.

For the dairy industry, in particular, for the small and independent processors, this is a huge opportunity for growth. It may allow them to break into new markets and to consider alternate value-add product lines.

For some larger processors who are currently making many products like flavoured milk, cheese and yoghurts interstate, this policy may make them reconsider their current production arrangements.

Not only does it give our processors the opportunity to increase their volume sales, but also a chance to employ more people and potentially pick up additional farms currently supplying to one of the big three.

The procurement policy will cover everything from boardroom lunches, to banquets for visiting dignitaries, to sporting events and the arts. This is also a terrific way for our brands to gain exposure and be promoted to visitors to our state.

Sensibly, the Government is intending to take a softly-softly approach to the launch of this initiative, as there will be teething problems as caterers, restaurants and facilities operators come to grips with how to access local produce.

The government is cautious about making it difficult for the small-scale caterers to procure Queensland product when they more than likely purchase from supermarkets where, with the exception of milk, there is a glaring lack of locally produced dairy.

Contracts on sponsorships of stadiums and other major government-owned facilities will need to finish before the policy can be implemented in these places and these things will take time.

QDO has already begun the process of working with small processors so that they can take advantage of this opportunity. The independent dairy processor summit in late November was the first chance to discuss how they could potentially ramp up production and get their product into stores and locations across Queensland. Quality and quantity are key if we as an industry intend to differentiate our dairy products from other states.

Certainly, this announcement brings a level of optimism that hasn’t been seen in the Queensland dairy industry for a number of years, so we intend to take full advantage of it and ensure that our processors are in a position to meet demand with great Queensland products.

Queensland Dairyfarmers' Organisation Vice President: Matthew Trace.