The Southern Downs and Lockyer Valley finally fully drought declared.

After months of speculation and hardship for many Queensland farmers, the Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries, Mark Furner has taken on board the local drought committee recommendations and included the Southern Downs and Lockyer Valley in the most recent review of Queensland’s drought conditions.

Mr Furner acknowledged that “the last twelve months has also been very dry for the Southern Downs and Lockyer Regional Council areas.

“There are significant concerns about stock, irrigation and rural domestic water supplies, and I have therefore accepted the local drought committee’s recommendations to drought declare these council areas.”

This latest drought review sees a reduced number of areas drought declared considering good summer rain at the beginning of the year but sees the inclusion of these two regions.

Mr Furner said, “During the last 12 months much of southern, central and western Queensland continued to receive below to well-below average rainfall.

A lack of useful spring and summer rainfall over the last four to five years, combined with above average temperatures, continues to have a major impact in most of pastoral Queensland.”

This comes as no surprise to the Queensland Dairyfarmers Organisation who have been receiving numerous calls for assistance from members in areas that had not been declared in the last two reviews.

“As an industry organisation, it has been frustrating for us not to be able to provide any real level of assistance to members in these two key dairy farming regions” said QDO Executive Officer Eric Danzi. “We will be on the phone to our members in the newly declared areas to let them know the news and how to access funding. I’m know it will come as a welcome relief to those who have been doing it tough.”

While members across Queensland outside of drought declared regions could access funding by applying for an Individual Droughted Property (IDP), it is acknowledged that this is by far a more arduous process with significantly more paperwork for submissions.


Queensland Government Loan encourages a new breed of dairy farmers.

In an industry where every cent counts there are a number of funding opportunities available to farmers through State and Federal government grants that should be taken advantage of.

A sign of the State Government’s long-term commitment to our primary industries, is the Fresh Start Loan offered by the Queensland Government’s Rural Industry Development Authority. Launched by the government almost 2 years ago, the Loan can provide finance of up to $2 million to help young farmers to branch out on their own or to support leasing or share farming arrangement.

QDO is hosting its first workshop for dairy farmers on a range of topics including farm leasing, share-farming and farm diversification on Tuesday 15 May in Beaudesert and a second workshop on Tuesday 12 June in Marburg.

 “We’ve been engaging with a lot of members about succession planning and ways to diversify in recent months. It’s hard for a lot of families to find a solution that fits everyone. I think it’s timely we remind young dairy farmers that there are means available to them to set up on their own. The Queensland dairy industry needs the next generation of farmers to see a way forward that is financially viable.” said QDO President Brian Tessman.

On the Office of Small Business mentor panel that QDO met with last week, were advisors specialising in providing advice and guidance with negotiating the paperwork and assessing the viability of loan and grant applications. Scott Dixon of Scott Dixon & Associates said “Particularly if you have never undertaken a grant or loan process, it may appear a daunting experience. Sorting out what information you need to have and whether you meet the application criteria is the first step and there are people at QRIDA who can help.”

The loans have low interest rates fixed for up to 5 years which allows farmers time to adjust when starting up. They can also be used for:

  • diversification into other on-farm enterprises.
  • improving infrastructure such as fences, water storages, grain and feed storage and irrigation
  • upgrading plant and equipment
  • purchasing livestock in specific circumstances
  • improving energy efficiency by uptake of current and renewable technologies

 “I would encourage all young dairy farmers to look into this loan or revisit it. Two years can make a big difference to circumstances. They may be surprised just how helpful the Department is about assisting the future dairy farmers of Queensland” said Tessman.  For more information about the loan visit: or for information regarding eligibility criteria Freecall 1800 623 946.


A fresh start for dairy.

There are big changes happening in the Australian dairy industry and QDO is optimistic that they will be for the better.  After gaining ACCC conditional approval and shareholder support, the price setter for much of our industry will come under new ownership as Canadian owned Saputo will purchase the largest dairy co-op in Australia Murray Goulburn.  While some within the industry are upset at a foreign purchase of a farmer owned business, this will clear the air for the future.  We can now leave behind the dark cloud of the southern state price collapse and the demise of the largest co-op and focus on our future.  

Since almost no Queensland raw milk leaves the state, why does this matter to QLD Dairyfarmers? It’s often said that it’s not the best price available to farmers that matters the most but rather the worst.  Low price and poor performance of a significant processor can place downward pressure on farm gate price as other processors figure they can get away with dropping the price to farmers.  It is often described as a race to the bottom. It was the poor performance of Murray Goulburn in 2016 which starkly highlighted this for the industry. 

Now that the sale is going ahead what impact can we expect from Saputo on the Australian dairy industry and subsequently QLD milk price?  Given QLD reliance on the drinking milk market and the devastating effect of discount private label milk pricing and poor contracts, comments from Saputo Dairy Company boss Lino Saputo Jnr can give us confidence that change is coming.  “We don't give our products away" and “when you can get water at $3-a-litre and perhaps soda at $5-a-litre, for all the energy and effort that farmers are putting into producing milk, I'm not sure that it is the right value" said Mr Saputo Jnr. 

  Lino Saputo Jnr

Lino Saputo Jnr

This is perhaps the first time we have heard a processor indicate that they are unwilling to have the price dictated to by the retailers without fair and respectful consultation with others within the supply chain. This is the common sense approach needed as processors can play an important role in changing the market place to see true supply and demand signals and a better return for QLD dairy farmers.  

Matthew Trace – QDO Vice President

Government and industry need to work together to address the power imbalance in the Australian dairy industry.


In the ACCC final report into the Australian dairy industry it is the imbalance between farmers, processors and the supermarket trade that is seen as the major factor crippling the industry and impacting the future of Australian dairy. The most recognisable example of the imbalance is the $1 per litre price that the major retailers have set which puts intolerable pressure on the farm-gate price for raw milk paid to dairy farmers. 

“We all know that $1 per litre is unsustainable. It’s hurting the whole dairy industry and will ultimately hurt consumers’ back pockets. The retailers are using it as a loss-leader to attract shoppers; but at the rate of farm closures in Queensland there will be no fresh milk production by 2028 given the current rate of decline. 

Markets in Far North Queensland would have no option but to use UHT and consumers in the south east would no longer be able to purchase local milk and would wear the cost of having it freighted up from southern states.” said Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) president, Brian Tessman. 

The predicted social and economic impacts throughout Queensland will be significant. More than 3,000 Queensland jobs would be put at risk. The economic loss to Queensland would amount to approximately $250 million per year at farm-gate, approximately $400 million at factory-gate.

“We’ve come a long way since the first investigation into unfair trading practices in the dairy industry, but we still have a lot work to do, All parties need to take responsibility and ownership for repairing the damage. If the Australian dairy industry is to survive, politicians from all parties in Federal and State Government need to work with us to address the power imbalance” said Tessman.

To go some way to address the fair farm-gate price issue in Queensland, QDO is working with the Queensland Government under the Sustainable Queensland Dairy Production (Fair Milk Price Logos) Bill 2016 to set up a certification mark which will be released in market late 2018. “This will help consumers make an informed decision to support the brands that support our farmers with a fair farm-gate price.” said Tessman.

Queensland dairy processors will be invited to work with QDO to negotiate a minimum farm-gate price for fresh milk that will help ensure a Queensland dairy industry now and in the future.

Succession planning. The farming industry's dirty secret.


How many farmers have a five or even ten-year plan for their farm? It is something extremely hard to gauge in the dairy industry but based on statistics it is assumed that very few have considered their long-term future.

Farmers are proactive in implementation and demonstrate expert knowledge about animal health, husbandry, nutrition and production but there is a serious lack when you start asking questions around financial preparedness – in particular retirement and succession. It’s a problem that has been studied by several leading Australian universities.

With 60% of all Australian farms being family owned farms and with an ageing farming population it is an ongoing concern that needs to be addressed.

“Passing on the management of farming assets to the next generation is often a complicated and emotional process but the Queensland dairy industry can’t afford to lose any more. We’ve lost over three hundred farms in the last ten years and we run the risk of extinction if we don’t start talking about the future. We can’t afford to lose farms due to not having a skilled successor selected or because of a family property dispute.” said Recovery and Resilience program project officer, Torie Harrison.

 “We’d all like to think we can manage on the farm forever, but you really need to have a plan in place for when the unexpected happens. As much as you store feed and water for any severe weather events that may occur our farmers need to plan for the five D’s : disability, debt, divorce, disagreement and death” said Ms Harrison.

There is no one-fits-all solution and the legal and financial jargon can be overwhelming. With the help of financial experts in the field, QDO has developed a program to assist farmers explore the options and find one that suites their individual farm and family. Securing the future for the industry starts with securing the future of the individuals within. The first workshops are being held in Beaudesert (15 May) and Marburg (12 June). Bookings can be made through the QDO office on 3236 2955 or by email to or

JD time extended

The process of keeping Queensland Dairy Farmers at a low risk of infection from Bovine Johnes Disease has been a tedious and frustrating process but one Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation will keep fighting for the best outcome for its members.

Over the past year, QDO has run many very informative and well attended workshops. The workshops were delivered in partnership with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF). At the workshops farmers developed accredited farm Biosecurity plans for their farm which allows farmers to maintain their Bovine Johnes Disease (BJD) free status. Many of the attendees at early workshops had their plans signed by the government vets in attendance.

Previously, Queensland dairy farmers had until end of June 2018 to be tested to maintain a 7 or 8 in the new JDAS scoring system. This deadline has been extended until the end of June 2019. This at least gives all parties including farmers a little more time to get a testing system in place and get all QDO members who wish to remain a score 6 or higher, tested.

This previous deadline had caused considerable concern and confusion particularly when combined with some of the inaccurate advice coming from some advisory sectors including their apparent confusion with the beef JBAS system.

Going forward farmers need to lock down their biosecurity plans to get a slurry test done by the end of June 2019 to hold either a 7 or an 8 JDAS score for their dairy cattle. QDO plans to undertake a testing program for QDO members late in 2018 and early 2019. QDO will be contacting our members regarding this testing later in the year. QDO will continue working to sort out remaining issues in protecting the biosecurity of Queensland dairy farms.
By QDO President Brian Tessmann

Industry recovery and resilience project update


From adversity opportunity can arise as is the case for dairy farmers in the Scenic Rim/Lockyer Valley region.  With funding secured post Cyclone Debbie from the QLD government by QFF and QDO, the resources are now available to assist dairy farmers in the worst affected area.  Industry Development Officers Torie Harrison & Damien Ferguson have been working closely with a steering committee of QLD dairy farmers on the Industry Recovery & Resilience Project.  As the name suggests this project has the scope to assist farmers in many aspects and across all stages of their business.  Improved skills in business management and how to gain finance are just a couple of ways this project aims to give in the pocket results for farmers as they continue to recover from last year’s Cyclone Debbie.

A series of industry recovery workshops have been planned with the first to be held in Beaudesert on 15 May from 10am to 2pm and another closer to the Lockyer Valley on the 12 June with location yet to be confirmed. The aim is to assist farmers to improve the financial viability and sustainability of their business, as well as developing options for younger farmers to enter and remain in the dairy industry.

Attendance and involvement in the program is highly encouraged as they cover big topics such as, protecting your assets from the 5 D’s (death, disability, debt, divorce and disagreement), accounting and legal tips and tricks, leasing, succession planning and retirement options. The workshops are followed up with one on one support  to assist farms, farmers and their families be better prepared for the future adversity. Keep an eye out for details as they become available.

Matthew Trace

Vice President QDO

Agricultural land essential for dairy to flourish

For more than two hundred years Australian farmers have been developing an understanding of how to successfully manage the many and varied environments in Australia. In particular they have each learned to manage the natural environment in which their farm is situated to make it both productive and sustainable. 

While Australia is a big country, highly productive agricultural land is far from plentiful. With urban encroachment continuing to take that land, the agricultural sector needs access to more suitable local land or must develop new areas in order to do high-ouput work that requires acres of space. Almost all farmers realise they need to farm in a way that allows future farmers to be more productive and our environment to flourish, first at a local level and then globally.

It seems the State Government’s proposed tree clearing laws not only fail to take these factors into account but are more about political expediency rather than a balanced scientific view. If the government does not allow high-value agriculture access in a balanced and sustainable way then regional communities will suffer an unfair and disproportionate amount – particularly farmers who may own land but not be allowed to develop on it.  Would the community stand for the removal of the right to build houses in a housing development once say, 70% of allotments were built?

For more than a decade there has been a lack of basic justice. The government only recently agreed to abandon the reverse onus of proof that required farmers to prove themselves innocent rather than be proven guilty, which I thought was a basic part of justice.

All major agricultural advocacy groups including QDO have jointly voiced their disapproval of this legislation and are looking for a more just and scientific process to replace it.  

QDO training the next generation of industry leaders

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

Last week QDO held a very successful combined districts meeting and councillor training event with a room full of experienced and newly engaged dairy farmers across two days. The training focused on helping our industry to get a better understanding of how to conduct proper governance and successfully run successful and productive meetings going forward.

Mike Smith and Stephen Robertson of Ethical Consulting used their considerable experience in corporate governance and the importance of compliance. Queensland Farmers’ Federation’s (QFF) Communications Officer Mark Neville also shared his experience and advice on media strategy aimed at getting the most from public interactions.

The State Council dinner saw a number of local farmers join the councillors in hearing from former politician Stephen Robertson who spoke about his time in politics and some effective lobbying tactics. Australian Dairy Farmers’ National President Terry Richardson also shared stories dairying across the ditch, his move to Victoria and his subsequent time on processor boards including Warrnambool Cheese and Butter.

Sixteen state and district councillors attended the two-day programme with five of those being under 30-years-old, and another three under 40-years-old. QDO will be arranging some targeted training in the coming months for those councillors looking to take the next step.

All in all, the entire event was a great learning and networking experience that saw many young councillors connect with fellow, more-experienced councillors for the first time. In addition, it gave QDO the opportunity to get feedback on its past endeavours and input into what issues need more attention in the future.

Building up QDO’s human resources and capability is and will continue to be the organisation’s priority into the future. Overall, the event was a great way to kick off the new QDO election cycle alongside the many new district councillors.

ACCC dry on milk

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

Last week Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) travelled to Sydney and Melbourne to address important issues regarding the ACCC’s flawed interpretation of functions in the domestic milk market.

QDO Executive Officer Eric Danzi and I, along with other state dairy farm leaders, attended a meeting in Melbourne between Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) and Australian Dairy Products Federation (ADPF) – the peak body for our nation’s milk processors. The milk processing industry opposed any proposal for a mandatory code of conduct between farmers and processors. The farmers in attendance said processors needed to be more committed to the existing voluntary code to ensure it is more binding, transparent and inclusive, if it has any chance of being a viable alternative. 

Most farmers have heard processors claim the reason they cannot pay farmers more is because of the reduced revenue per unit at the retail end of the value chain (e.g. $1 litre milk and $6 cheese). But they (processors) had made no such submission to the ACCC and QDO wanted to know why they had left the farm sector to carry the load on this issue. Their only excuse was a disappointing claim of commercial and contractual limitations. 

While in Sydney, QDO met with Mick Keogh and other ACCC staff to explain our disagreements with the ACCC interim report. We expressed our disappointment in ACCC’s lack of reasoning on the issue of retailers selling products below cost over the majority of Australia as being predatory conduct between different milk brands. The ACCC had only considered this when comparing retail store against store, but admitted it was predatory to use it at a brand level also. Strangely however, the ACCC reasoned it had not caused damage because milk was still on the shelf. This strange reasoning ignores the massive decrease in state and national milk production reflected in decreases in dairy exports since $1 per litre milk began.

These issues further highlight the need for politicians to step up and take action to ensure the domestic milk market functions properly and gives farmers the fair go they deserve.

New on-farm support for Queensland dairy farmers

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

The Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) has welcomed Damien Ferguson and Torie Harrison to the team in supporting the Queensland dairy industry as it continues to recover from the impacts of last year’s Cyclone Debbie.

Torie and Damien’s positions are funded through the Queensland Government’s Natural Disaster Industry Recovery and Resilience program and will be working closely with affected farmers within the Scenic Rim and Lockyer Valley dairying regions.

Damien Ferguson brings to QDO over six years of experience as Project Leader with AgForce assisting graziers and grain growers as well as many decades of financial planning experience. In particular, Damien’s passion for addressing succession planning within the agriculture sector will be of great use within the Queensland dairy industry.

It is no secret that succession planning is an important and current issue within our industry. Helping the existing and next generations of dairy farmers in developing a clear path forward will go a long way towards building resilience and longevity.

As Industry Development Officer, Torie Harrison brings expertise in animal health and agricultural science to the role as well as a background in working on her family’s dairy property in Mt. Kilcoy.

Getting natural disaster recovery right is extremely important. In agriculture, some things hold true: with the right preparation and planning, things often work out for the better. The same can be said for natural disasters. If farmers recover properly; they improve their reliance and turn-around during the next natural disaster occurrence. This is why recovery is all about making considered decisions before the event to ensure future impacts are lessened.

Torie and Damien will be contacting dairy farmers within the Scenic Rim and Lockyer Valley over the coming months so I encourage all farmers to make the most of their expertise. I also encourage dairy farmers to attend the QDO workshop series on industry recovery in the coming weeks of which details will be released shortly.

Dairy water efficiency program delivering for farmers

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

Water management and security is crucial for the long term sustainability of dairy farms. With an ever increasing variability in climatic conditions having the right tools, knowledge and infrastructure for irrigation systems has become so much more important.

However the cost of doing these changes are difficult for farms to implement because of issues associated with available capital and cash flow from increasing costs such as electricity. The Dairy and Fodder Water for Profit (DFWP) program has been able to open up the discussion with farmers about environmental, sustainable and productive outcomes that come about from adopting improved irrigation practices. 

This is why the State Government funded DFWP and Rural Water Use Efficiency Initiative (RWUEI) has been able to achieve a greater than five per cent water-use efficiency saving. For every $1 of government funding, the program has generated a return of $2.85 ever since the program’s inception in 1999. Furthermore, the DFWP program has seen an accumulated water savings of 85,964 ml over this period, with a substantial amount of savings coming through system upgrades. The recently completed round of the program (2013-2017) measured a 47 per cent reduction in energy use due to implemented on-farm efficiency measures.

The program has been such a success that the DFWP’s RWUEI 2017/18 project attracted a substantial amount of interest from both the fodder and dairy industries, which resulted in an oversubscription of applications for assistance for system assessment and financial assistance to implement change.

Improving water use efficiency is a high priority for the industry and government given the social, environmental and economic benefits it can have. Governments must accept and acknowledge the role irrigated agriculture, including dairy, plays in supplying food and the income it generates, particularly in regional communities post 2017/18.

There is considerable concern over funding uncertainty for RWUEI post-2017/18 and farmers continue to be subject to increasing water-use challenges from climate change. For an efficient and viable dairy industry in Queensland to operate and grow, it needs to be supported through a continuation of policy and projects like RWUEI long into the future.

Electricity failures pose big threat on dairy farms

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

Power outages from severe winds and lightning strikes this summer storm season have caused considerable stress among the state’s affected dairy farmers. Dairy businesses rely on electricity supply for the acute and vital jobs of milking their cows and often keeping thousands of litres in vats on farm cool.

Many acute dairy farm activities rely on electricity such as milking and milk cooling. These procedures are essential and there is a constant necessity that cows be milked every twelve hours with that milk being cooled immediately. Milk processors quite rightly have very high standards for milk quality which includes milk temperature at farm pickup. So when the power goes out on-farm, these standards become quickly compromised and emergency milk pickups are rare for many given the sparsity and spread out nature of Queensland’s dairies.

Several times already this year dairy farms have had to wait long periods of time, sometimes more than 24 hours, to regain their electricity supply after a thunderstorm. This has directly resulted in financial losses of stored milk as well as animal health issues by associated diseases cows can develop when they are unable to be milked.

QDO knows that in the case of major natural disasters, such as Cyclone Larry and the 2011 floods, power supply can be interrupted for days. During these events QDO has worked alongside governments and Emergency Services to get alternative power sources such as generators for affected farmers. Unfortunately, some proactive farmers who had already installed generators on their farms also suffered the consequences with their equipment failing to start when the power outage occurred.

Installing a reliable on-farm generator should be seriously considered by all Queensland dairy farmers. Milk processor Norco has been operating a generous interest free scheme for their suppliers to purchase and install a generator with payments made out of their milk cheques. But most importantly we need Ergon Energy and Energex to give their every effort and resource into prioritising the reconnection of dairy power supply, as well as keeping affected farmers updated on the restoration progress.

New direction for ACCC needed if going to help Queensland dairy farmers

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Interim Report into the dairy industry, released in November last year, powerfully detailed how the dairy market has failed by highlighting many of the problems in the industry, however it failed to offer sufficient solutions to solve these problems.

As the market currently stands, Queensland dairy farmers lack suitable power when it comes to negotiating prices and terms dictated to them by processors in response to retailer pressures. In turn, processors too have had their returns slashed as a result of $1/litre milk and the market power imbalance.


In its Interim Report, the ACCC correctly identified the solution was not as simple as merely increasing retail prices because they won’t be passed onto farmers and increasing profits will only benefit retailers and/or processors. However the report failed to offer any other remedy.

To date, voluntary codes and other solutions have failed to rectify this market failure. These codes need to be made mandatory or strengthened at the very minimum. Introducing a mandatory code of conduct for retailers with clear anti-competitive and farm gate pricing provisions will go a long way in addressing the current market failure.

The final report must include recommendations so dairy farmers can be confident the flawed market can and will be fixed. Anything less guarantees the continuation of farm failures and emboldens the misguided campaign for industry re-regulation.

QDO is calling on the ACCC to use its powers and mandate to strengthen the final report by committing to a code with teeth for the whole supply chain. The government too has a responsibility to ensure the ACCC delivers upon the political and practical issues within the dairy industry that led to this investigation in the first place.

Fair milk price campaign delivering results

By QDO Vice-President Matthew Trace

Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) continues to fight on many fronts in the long term battle for an increase to farm gate milk prices. As well as being the number one issue and priority for our membership, it continues to be our industry’s most difficult to deliver upon. 

The need for a competitive yet fair market that accurately and proportionately values our milk is key to realising a better deal for our farmer members. The hard fought campaign against retailers dictating the value of milk has been difficult but not ineffective as some may suggest. QDO has tirelessly lobbied consumers, processors, retailers and government to gain recognition of our members’ plight.  While we are not done, we are making progress. 

A few years back Queensland Woolworths took the step of contracting direct supply for their own brand ‘Farmers Own’. By all accounts these direct suppliers to Woolworths are receiving a fair price for their product. Yes, the criticism was that initially only one farmer received a better price for their milk, but this has now increased to four farmers.  Imagine the benefits if this was able to be grown to twenty, thirty farmers or more?

After the social media storm backing branded products there was a surge in support for branded milk and also for smaller processors and their local suppliers. The additional sales resulted in Maleny Dairies taking on an additional supplier to meet demand.  We are proud of the contribution smaller processors are making to our industry and just want them to keep on growing.  Maleny Dairies, Maleny Cheese, Scenic Rim 4Real Milk, Mungalli Creek Dairy, Barambah Organics, Cooloola Milk, Kenilworth Dairies and now Central Queensland /Whitsunday Dairy Fresh are just some of those helping to driving an increase of competition for Queensland milk.

Increased competition is good for our members and overtime will improve farm gate milk price.  Without the continuation of this sustained lobbying effort by QDO I don’t believe we would have gained the community support so far that has driven these positive changes to our industry.

Feed costs add to farm pressures

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

As Australian dairy farmers struggle to get an improved and fairer farm gate milk price from the failing domestic milk market, we must endeavour to ensure markets work to keep input costs down also. While QDO battles to keep electricity, water and red tape costs down, we should not forget feed costs are usually the major dairy input.

In times of drought, when the first loads of grain come in from South Australia, the price of grain in Queensland skyrockets to meet a very high-landed price. In better times however, when fodder such as hay in the south is plentiful, landed prices can be cheaper than prices many pay locally. As the old saying goes, you have to ‘shop around’. While there is information and monthly reports available to help inform farmers of market levels, if they are not shopping around then this information is falling on deaf ears. The effect of high and low grain and fodder prices on dairy profit can be dramatic and sometimes hurts more than an actual lack of fodder due to drought.

But it is not only in drought when feed costs have an impact. When Lion Dairy and Drinks gave first priority to its milk suppliers in obtaining brewers’ grain and subsequent reduction in price (amounting to around $25 per tonne), it was a significant saving for suppliers who were within an hour or so of travelling distance from the brewery. Farmers in the area, who were able to change processors, shifted in order to take advantage of savings that were worth several cents per litre. Cows can be fussy eaters sometimes and farmers may tend to stick to a known commodity but they should remember to check the competition. Currently southern hay prices may be worth checking out, but whatever the season it’s always wise to shop around.

Queensland’s dairy industry needs a shakeup

By QDO Vice-President Matthew Trace

Let’s be clear from the start, I believe the Queensland dairy industry needs a shakeup.  Not change just for the sake of it, but rather through a calculated approach with clear aims, actions and results.  Queensland dairy farmers are calling for Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) to advocate and implement programs and pursue a policy agenda that has direct hip pocket outcomes for farmers.  As the newly elected QDO Vice-President I intend to bring enthusiasm and resolve to deliver the results that directly improve our members’ bottom lines.

A critical issue the dairy industry faces is farm finance and succession planning.  My own recent experience in seeking finance to purchase a farm as well as my involvement as a QDO representative in the Young Dairy Network has shown me these issues are not isolated, but rather sector-wide. The financial obstacles faced by those wanting to enter or grow a dairy business in Queensland are currently insurmountable for our industry’s next generation. 

The problem is three fold: young farmers are unable to establish their own business; those looking to exit the industry have limited options to sell and lease; and expansion is tough enough without unaffordable finance issues.

Recently QDO has secured funding to run a program that will start to address this issue. The Queensland Government has provided QDO with funding based on a need to build greater resilience in our industry post-Cyclone Debbie.  Resilience on farm will be improved through better financial planning, farm succession and improved infrastructure to mitigate the risk of losses from severe weather events.   

For our members, this will mean a pilot program with an extension officer starting in Scenic Rim and Lockyer Valley regions, followed by a wider rollout after testing is complete and funding is secured. The program will mean direct action and on-the-ground support for dairy farmers to gain better access to finance that will help our industry grow sustainably into the future.

New look QDO

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

Last week the Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) saw a change in its leadership team with the election of Sunshine Coast Hinterland farmer Matthew Trace as Vice-President, joining me as our re-elected President. The elections took place at the first State Council meeting of 2018 which included a new smaller five-person Board that was implemented after an extensive membership restructure.

On behalf of QDO’s members, I welcome Matthew Trace to the important position of Vice-President. Matt brings a wealth of industry knowledge and passion to the role of QDO State Councillor, representing dairy farmers in Moreton & Gympie regions.

Matt was first elected to the QDO board in 2015. He has been an active State Councillor throughout his first term and is the youngest QDO Vice-President in many decades.

This change in leadership has and will continue to necessitate much-needed membership-driven change. With fresh faces on a number of the industry’s committees, we can expect new and innovative ideas, programs and activities to come to fruition.

On behalf of our membership and industry, I want to thank outgoing Vice-President Ross McInnes for his service to date to furthering dairy in Queensland. While Ross will remain a valuable QDO State Councillor, representing Scenic Rim and Lockyer Valley farmers, it is important to recognise his incredible contribution as our former Vice-President. The eight and half years since 2009 have been some of the most turbulent and difficult in the industry’s history and we are in a better place because of Ross’ contribution and leadership.

The new Board will strive to continue delivering effective industry advocacy and services for our members that all farmers deserve and expect. The Board has a clear objective to increase skills and industry awareness among both our district councillors and any younger members who have a desire to represent the dairy industry on the State Council in the future.

Vale Lady Florence

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

Last Thursday, the 4th of January, Queensland remembered the passing of Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen by celebrating the life of a great advocate for both Queensland and rural Australia. The crowd at her funeral spilled out of the Kingaroy Town Hall into the forecourt and all the way to the footpath. Throughout the ceremony and afterwards people were remembering and sharing the positive, uplifting and humorous stories about the woman they called ‘Lady Flo’.

I shared a number of these stories myself, but to me her name was always Florence not Flo as that was what my Mother and Father always called her. My recollections of her started from when I was a child in the late 1960s with Florence occasionally coming over from her North-West-facing farm over to our side of the hill to watch news reports about her husband on a Brisbane station she couldn’t pick up at her place. Since then I, like many in the South Burnett, have lost count of how many important occasions, opening ceremonies and award presentations she would have addressed. Along the way she presented high-school junior/grade 10 certificates to two generations of my family and always remembered the high achievements of the region’s students. It did seem Florence was everywhere from being a part of the Lutheran church and local community, to being with Joh at State events, and to her very significant role as a senator at a national level.

While she did not grow up on a farm she spent most of her life on one and understood the struggles Queensland farmers faced. It was this understanding and appreciation of what farmers did and their way of life that made her such a fierce and effective advocate for our industry. While Queensland is poorer for her passing, we stop and take time to consider how blessed we all have been for having her as part of our state’s great story.

Old year out, in with the new

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

With 2018 now upon us the Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) has taken the time to take stock of the year that was 2017 and how it will affect the 12 months ahead.

Last year began with the national dairy industry still reeling from farm gate milk price drops in the southern dairy regions. Domestic and international milk prices left dairy goliath Murray Goulburn facing well-publicised financial difficulties which hurt the entire industry. Since then however, international dairy prices have improved. The price increases in butter fat in particular have led an upward trend in the southern farm gate price.

With Murray Goulburn’s troubles playing out throughout 2017, Canadian dairy giant Saputo, who already owns Warrnambool Cheese & Butter, received the regulator’s final tick of approval to purchase Australia’s largest milk processor. If nothing else, this will positively change the current market dynamic, offering renewed management and competition.

QDO continued to battle on behalf of members surrounding ongoing inequities affecting the Australian domestic market. It was disappointing to see the Fair Milk Mark Bill proposed by the Katter’s Australia Party defeated in State Parliament but the State Labor Government’s promise to help and resource QDO to build such a Logo was warmly welcomed.

Thanks to some additional pressure from people such as Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, we finally saw some national changes including the establishment of an ACCC inquiry into issues in the Australian dairy market. Unfortunately, the preliminary report was disappointing since while it acknowledged that farmers lacked bargaining power and carried the majority of risk, it failed to offer any recommendations for farmers to address the existing power imbalances. So far the ACCC process has shown that politicians need to intervene to ensure the inquiry delivers upon the political aspirations they outlined when they first established it.

The ACCC dairy inquiry as well as many other issues affecting the Queensland dairy industry will be top priorities for the newly elected five-member QDO Board that commence their work in mid-January.