All types of dairy at processor summit.

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Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation with the assistance of the Queensland Government Office of Small Business, held the first summit of independent dairy processors at Portside in Brisbane on Tuesday last week.

While traditionally, QDO has represented only dairy cattle farmers, the invitation to attend the summit and mentoring workshop was extended to farmers of buffalo, goat, sheep and camel dairy farmers.

The issues that face our traditional membership base including fodder prices, freight, irrigation, biosecurity and animal welfare are also faced by these farmers. Currently there are less than a dozen farmers specialising in non-dairy cattle farming and processing in Queensland, so it made sense to extend the invitation so that they too can benefit from the assistance that QDO offers its members.

Most of these farmers, including the Thompsons from Maleny Buffalo, are former bovine dairy farmers who, at the time of deregulation, decided to look at alternative herds in order to remain profitable and to continue farming. While the market for these products is quite young in Queensland, the appetite for alternative artisan cheeses, milk and yoghurts is growing.

Peter Gross from Black Pearl Epicure, Wendy Downes from The Cheeseboard, Dr Jonathon Staggs from the University of Queensland led the morning session with the discussion largely around the importance of developing and marketing Queensland cheeses and other value add dairy products and building a strong national reputation for quality.

The afternoon’s session had Office of Small Business, Mentoring for Growth mentors Darren Walsh and Joe Barnewall provide strategic advice on business development and expansion. It was interesting but not surprising to hear that the same key issues including maintaining supply of product, finding appropriate staff, the cost of compliance and frustrations around finance were raised by most attendees. 

Feedback from attendees has been overwhelmingly positive. There were some pivotal introductions made and a commitment from the Office of Small Business of ongoing assistance to processors. A huge thank you to all the speakers and mentors and to the processors who took a day out of their busy schedules to attend the workshop and summit.

Queensland Dairyfarmers' Organisation Marketing Manager, Sarah Ferguson