Crowdfunding is not going to save farmers.

It is a particularly frustrating not having a pool of money to raid to assist individual QDO members as they struggle with the financial burdens caused by this drought. Every week QDO staff are on the phone to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and QRIDA to see whether more assistance can be given. Every week the answer is the same, so we understand why some farmers are just simply giving up.

The new Regional Investment Loans for Drought and Farm Investments launched on 1 July by the Federal Government will provide more low interest loan options. But given current conditions and increased costs for feed and fuel, a lot of dairy farmers can’t afford to even pay the interest on a loan. 

So, it’s not surprising that some more social media minded farmers are looking for other ways to raise capital. A farmer in Albion Park, NSW has gone on to social media to raise funds to help get him through the drought. Using the crowd funding platform gofundme.com, he has managed to raise over $250K in the last week. He’s is looking to raise $300,000 but intends to keep only a portion of this for himself. It’s a modest amount just to keep his cows fed and not unreasonable. This follows on from another NSW farmer who took to the media asking members of the public to ‘Adopt a Cow’ a few months ago.

There are well over 100 crowd funding pleas on that platform alone that relate to the plight of Australian farmers doing it tough due to drought conditions. While these two crowd funding campaigns have been modestly successful, there is no a guarantee it will work for every farmer in need. 

The sentiment from the people who have got behind the crowd funded farmer demonstrates what QDO’s recent market research into consumer buying behavior is telling us - Australians want to help support our farmers but they don’t really know how. One supporter wrote, “if you can’t get decent gates prices because of greedy retailers, this is one way we can support you.”
While crowd funding can provide a quick injection of cash to a farm, it is not a long-term solution. The only way we can have a sustainable dairy industry is by getting a fair farm gate price. 

The facts are clear. We have 386 registered dairies in Queensland and per farm, we have an average milk production of around 1.1 million litres p.a. If our farmers got 10 cents more per litre that would give them on average $100,000 back per annum. Not just a one off, but a sustained cashflow.

Currently, QDO is working with the Office of Small Business on a campaign to ask customers to support local dairy brands. This campaign is set to launch at this year’s EKKA. 
However, it is the fair farm gate price logo project that can really have a long-term impact on the Queensland dairy industry. 

This logo will be displayed on all dairy products that can demonstrate that they are truly supporting our industry by giving their farmers a fair farm gate price. On pack it will provide Queensland consumers with a very simple way of determining which brands are doing the right thing. 

QDO Vice President: Matthew Trace
 

Farm safety week a timely reminder.

Last week was Farm Safety Awareness week and this year’s theme was “Innovative, Safe and Healthy”. With all the management and financial pressures, we have these days, we need to remember that our first priority should be to make sure our families and workers are safe and healthy.

In 2016 there were 63 accidental deaths on Australian farms. That figure is a significant improvement on previous years, but still way too high. The leading causes resulting in death and serious injury were motorbikes, Quads bikes, tractors, horse riding, animals including cattle and horses and machinery especially augers and PTO shafts.

Of particular concern is the number of child deaths on farms. Around 20 children under the age of 15 die from accidents in rural Queensland and 30% of those deaths on farm are visitors. One of the biggest things we need to always keep in mind is that the farm is not just your home but also an industrial workplace. Growing up on a farm, our own children are taught the do’s and don’ts from an early age and we are always mindful of where they are, but we all need to be super vigilant when young visitors come on to the farm. The leading causes of child deaths are farm vehicles including Quads trucks and tractors and farm infrastructure such as water tanks.

At last year’s QDO AGM and Forum in Toowoomba, former Broncos and State of Origin star Shane Webcke, spoke about rural workplace issues and the incidents he had encountered growing up. Shane’s father, Tom Webcke died in a production line accident when a poorly maintained hydraulic line gave way and he was crushed. Shane said that his father’s attitude towards personal safety and care at work was also a likely contributing factor to the tragedy.

Impulsive actions have wrecked many Australian farming businesses and families when it would have only taken a few extra seconds extra to have handled the task safely.

So while we are hammered by droughts, unfair markets and low farm gate prices, let’s not make things infinitely worse by allowing our family or workforce be injured going about our work.

QDO President: Brian Tessmann

Lion to adjust its fat to protein ratio in new payment model.

Lion Dairy and Drinks announced last week that they are giving 12 months’ notice to its suppliers of a new payment model in South East Queensland and New South Wales. 

The system is to come into effect for the 2019/2020 milk season which will increase suppliers reward for butterfat and cap the reward paid on protein. This model will take effect from FY2019/2020. This would mean the fat to protein ratio goes from 1.5:1 to 1:1 in relation to its bonus system. 

Whether the adjustment is good, bad or neutral will depend on several factors, the main one being available diet. To increase the butterfat component farmers may need to adjust the type of feed they use and any changes to the make-up of feed or to the make-up of the dairy herd are expensive and often unprofitable in the short term.

South East Queensland dairy farmers are already doing it tough. While the new payment model does not come into effect till 2019, the financial flow through effect from the current drought conditions in both Queensland and New South Wales, will make it difficult for farmers to achieve current bonus levels in the short term when they are having to import basics such as silage and hay at exorbitant costs. 

Even if we had significant rain in the next six months so that we were no longer drought-declared, it will still take about 12 to 18 months to get back on track.

Without full transparency on the payment model used by all the major processors, it is difficult to evaluate this announcement fully. If Lion is simply responding to market demand for higher fat and not making it more difficult for its suppliers to get their current (or better) farm gate price, then QDO accepts the change.

We understand that the payment model is not yet set in stone so we urge members to go to DFMC or direct supplier meetings over the coming months to have their voice heard. We would also urge those members to have their income estimations reviewed to see what the change will do to the bottom line.

QDO Vice President Matthew Trace
 

We need more than angry words to save the Queensland dairy industry.

Last week Llew O’Brien the Federal Member for Wide Bay and former Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce made a public declaration against Coles and Woolworths, with O’Brien stating, "Look after our dairy farmers, and if you don't we're coming after you."

The statement was made to put consumer outrage at Woolworths and Coles charging shoppers 15 cents for reusable shopping bags into perspective by comparing it to $1 milk. While it does seem ridiculous to pay 15 cents for a bit of plastic compared to $1-litre for a natural product such as milk, we need to ask what real meaningful plans are being pulled together by the parties to save our dairy industry.

Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation has been pushing both state and federal governments to take a stand against the duopoly since they first introduced $ 1-litre pricing back in 2011.

While we held out some hope when the ACCC inquiry into the dairy industry was first announced, we have found neither side of the political fence making a concerted effort to affect the situation since the final ACCC report claimed that farmers were in such a weak bargaining position in the supply chain, forcing the supermarkets to increase the price of their private label product would not necessarily see that flow back to farm gate.

So while we are right behind the sentiment in Llew O’Brian’s recent speech, what we need is for both sides of politics to work together on a real and tangible plan to make the domestic milk market function properly and get a real outcome for the dairy industry.

As one QDO member pointed out on Facebook when the story ran, it was nice to see that consumers want to support our farmers, but they don’t know how. This is a sentiment that we’ve seen in recent secret shopper research that QDO has been conducting.

So, QDO is also looking at ways that bi-pass the supply chain politics and use the might of the consumer to influence change. We have several campaigns in the pipeline to do this.

We are aware that no one tactic is going to be the silver bullet, but we are hopeful that consumers will tell our politicians and the supermarkets through their purchases that they truly support the local Queensland dairy industry and want to see it survive for future generations.

QDO President – Brian Tessmann

Will new management at Dairy Australia herald a new era for the Queensland dairy industry?

It was announced last week that current Dairy Australia Managing Director Ian Halliday will be stepping down from his role to take up government roles of Consul General and Senior Trade Commissioner to Dubai.

David Nation has been appointed as his replacement. David is a known figure to Dairy Australia, being a co-director of Dairy Bio and Dairy Feedbase and was also the former Dairy Futures CRC Chief Executive.

For Queensland dairy, it is hoped that the new appointment may be a catalyst to change the emphasis regarding research and development for the sub-tropical dairy region.

QDO has identified several areas that need addressing, namely more digestible perennial tropical pastures, long-term financial advice, managing and eradicating cattle ticks and combating acaricide resistance.

In recent decades the focus of RDE development to find better species with considerable productivity gains has been on temperate grass species only. This work has assisted farmers in temperate regions to increase production while reducing costs but has been without benefit to northern regions. The three quality pastures most important to Queensland dairying namely the Kikuyu, Seteria, and Panic grass species have been overlooked. It will be a watching brief to see what Dairy Australia plans in this area.

Similarly, a lot of work has been done in Queensland on ensuring that the dairy industry is resilient to climate and market forces. Recent workshops undertaken by QDO have highlighted that our farmers need improved financial analysis and planning advice. If we are to ensure that dairy farming in Queensland can be sustained long term, we need to continue to back these ventures. Funding to ensure we can continue these workshops will be high on our agenda with David at the first opportunity.   

Another, uniquely Queensland issue are cattle ticks. The tick infected zone comprises the coastal area east of the Great Dividing Range and north of the Great Northern Rail line in Queensland.

Ticks are well recognised as a major threat to the Queensland dairy industry, but currently, there are no national programs looking to address this. There are a considerable number of acaricides approved for use in the beef industry but are not registered for dairy particularly lactating dairy cows with few new ones in the pipeline.

The cattle tick is an economically serious external parasite. It is one of the most economically important diseases of cattle in northern Australia. If left unchecked, cattle tick can significantly reduce cattle live-weight gain and milk production.

It is hoped that a concerted effort is put into issues that are specific to dairying in the northern regions.

A better partnership with Dairy Australia will mean a brighter future for the dairy industry in Queensland.

QDO President – Brian Tessmann

The generations need to come together to talk about the future.

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Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation has had over 50 farmers attend the two workshops on succession planning held in Beaudesert and Marburg and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

There was certainly a lot of information on finance, retirement and succession planning covered in the 4-hour sessions and many farmers have asked for additional advice. With the ongoing funding assistance from the Queensland Government, QDO is now organising for one-on-one sessions to help start to get the family and farm finances in order.

Many attendees admitted that they were very good at talking to their family on the farm about feed, that this milker was doing poorly or any other number of practical day to day farm management topics, but that they struggled to even start a conversation about the future.

Even communications consultant Susanne Bransgrove from LiquidGold who specialises in helping families through tough discussions like succession said that when she approached her own family on the topic she felt that she was 12 years old again.

It’s hard for the older generation to let go of the management of the farm, let alone acknowledging and addressing the family landmines regarding who gets to run the farm and who gets what. But when the management of the farm as a business is not being passed on to the next generation until around the age of 35, it’s not surprising that the next generation is getting nervous about the long-term financial viability of the farm and what’s going to happen to the farm when mum or dad dies.

The best advice I can give any farmer, regardless of whether they are in dairy or another type of farming where there is a very valuable land asset that’s integral to the success of the business, is to start the conversation now. These issues are not going to go away without a conversation.

Given the success and feedback from attendees, it is hoped that further Queensland Government funding can be found to extend these workshops into other regions.

QDO Vice President – Matthew Trace.

Enhancing Tropical Pasture

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Having seen the cost of freighting feed into northern New South Wales and Queensland skyrocket in recent weeks highlights the need for improved pastures for the subtropics. Home grown feed and the percentage of it in the cow’s diet are key to reducing the farm costs of producing milk as it is normally the least costly feed source. Southern Australia is reliant on temperate species like perennial ryegrass which grows in abundance and is of quality in the spring. This then burns off as Australia’s dry Mediterranean style summer arrives.

However, in Queensland and Northern New South Wales, perennial temperate pasture is unsuited and dairying in the sub-tropics was successful only with perennial tropical grasses even though they lacked the high digestibility of the temperate species.

In recent decades temperate grass species have seen considerable research and development to find better species with considerable productivity gains. This work has assisted farmers in southern temperate regions to increase production while reducing costs.

Unfortunately, over the past 30 years, there has been very little effort put into improving the three quality pastures most important to Queensland dairying namely the Kikuyu, Seteria, and Panic grass species. Many industry advisors encouraged Queensland farmers to take up the Mixed Ration systems they admired in Florida and California and so tropical pasture was ignored.

This has seen the cost of producing milk in northern Australia increase at a higher rate than the southern regions. Clearly, Queensland and Northern NSW need more effort put into improving tropical species particularly the digestibility and feed quality. If the same effort was put into northern pasture research and development to levels seen for temperate species it would be reasonable to assume a 2% improvement year on year. Compounding over the past 30 years we should have seen an 81% improvement in those tropical species today. Such an improvement would be one of the game changers northern dairying critically needs. So it is vital that all sectors of the industry find funding and work together on tropical pasture to make up for the lost opportunity.     

QDO President – Brian Tessman.

Future focus for the Queensland dairy industry.

The Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation State Council meeting last week saw the QDO Directors confirm the focus of QDO’s efforts on behalf of members for the year and really the rest of this board’s term.

Put simply the board will focus and a range of measures that focus on increasing member’s profitability while reducing members risk. While many may believe that was always QDO’S focus it was clearly articulated at this meeting. That focus does not mean a shift away from issues such as the market issues we have battled with for more than a decade, but it means incorporating other focal points that are relevant to risk or profitability.

This includes areas that range from direct action in the dairy market by directly influencing consumer buying behavior, to working to see to it that research activities and pursuant extension to farmers are improved and increased.

Working to develop better market options including the QDO fair milk Logo project which includes enhancing small processor/manufacturers which has funding from the state government will be part of the plan.  The plan will also include work on issues ranging from biosecurity to developing better and more cost-effective dairy cattle feed particularly high quality perennial tropical pasture which has received little effort for decades now.

QDO will also focus on developing the skills particularly leadership skills of the next generation of Queensland’s dairy farmers.  To do all this, some of the current work will need to be modified particularly if it does not have a direct relevance to improving profits or reducing risk for members in a significant or tangible way.

This will not mean a lessening of efforts to work with Government following the flawed ACCC report into the imbalance in the supply chain. What it will mean is a continuation of the work to make QDO a more influential efficient and cost-effective advocacy organisation for Queensland dairy farmers.

QDO President – Brian Tessman.

 

Successfully navigating business and farm transitions.

Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation held the first of its Growth, Transition & Succession Options for Dairy Farmers workshops at the Scenic Rim Council Centre on Tuesday 15 May.  The workshop saw attendance from multiple generations of dairy farmers seeking advice on the myriad of options available to successfully transition the dairy business and the transition of property.

“There are several steps within a transition plan and it is not an overnight process” said Certified Financial Planner, Damien Ferguson.  “It is best to start talking about it early – the sooner the better. Transition plans start with the succession plan which leads to your retirement plan and finally your estate plan and there are additional steps within each of these.  Yes, it is complex because you are talking about not simply a business but people’s lifestyle, family and home.  It is not a fait accompli  that the business should or will pass down to the next generation; but that doesn’t have to mean that the current generation needs to leave the family home.”

John Cochrane of Kenilworth Dairies said he knew of many young, energetic people who were keen to get into dairying but did not have the available funds or enough knowledge to take it on without guidance.  “I know of so many young people who are wanting the dairy life.  Leasing and share farming options let them get their foot in the door and have a seasoned farmer there to guide them at the start.”

Many farmers that attended said that leaving the family home when they transitioned the business had been a major concern but were reassured by the number of alternatives available that would allow them to stay on once management of the business passed to someone else.

“Let’s face it, families can be fickle.  Traditional transitions, where farms were shared by the next generation of men in a family, is a thing of the past.  Over the generations, the size of each parcel of land became financially unviable so alternative solutions need to be considered.  Nowadays you need to be fair to all siblings and you also need to factor in what happens in the instance of divorce, death, disability or disagreements” said Ferguson.

Brett Hart from Cleary Hoare Solicitors said that it was common for estates to be contested by siblings and other family members in agribusinesses.  “There are options available that can insure that the intention of mum and dad is actually what ends up happening.  These include structuring via Bloodline™ Trusts and an Aegis® Will Packages that protects the assets during their lifetime and even for future generations. “

Craig Turner from QRIDA told attendees that there were number of grants available through the State Government that can assist the succession process including the First Start Loan which can help the younger generation branch out on their own or to support leasing or share farming arrangement.

QDO will host another workshop in Marburg on 12 June. One-on-one sessions with members that attended the Beaudesert workshop will begin next week. These sessions are designed to assist in developing a plan that is right for the individual circumstances of the family. Any member wishing to book in for Marburg or secure a one-one-one session should contact QDO on 3236 2955.

 

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.

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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: http://www.qrida.qld.gov.au/current-programs/Productivity-Loans/first-start-loan/First-Start-Loan-Primary-producer 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.

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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.

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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 torie@qdo.org.au or damien@qdo.org.au

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

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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.