Drought preparedness schemes are no substitute for assistance now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eric Danzi – QDO Executive Officer

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

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

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

Marburg Workshop1.jpg

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.

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