Why JD Testing is important to the Queensland Dairy Industry.

Last week, QDO hit the impressive milestone of 200 Johnes Disease (JD) tests completed as part of our biosecurity commitment to mitigate on farm risks to our members. According to the project team, this equates to 100kg of faecal samples collected over the last 3 months, which just goes to show QDO’s dedication to herd health!

Many non-member dairy farmers questioned why QDO had undertaken the JD testing scheme in the first place when Johnes is not known to be present in any significant level in Queensland.

Much is unknown about Johnes Disease including the health risks it may carry to humans who consume product from JD positive livestock however many countries limit the import of stock and also milk products from JD infected farms.

To be clear, our intention to test for JD is not to cause undue concern or hysteria about a disease that has been in the Australian market for decades. Indeed, according to the USDA, JD is found in all countries around the world.

QDO’s decision to commit to the program was made back in 2016 based on our mandate to mitigate potential risks that may be caused by biosecurity hazards. Good herd health is vital for productivity and remains a priority for our members. Future economic ramifications for farmers with herds carrying JD should also be to be a consideration.

The Johne’s Beef Assurance Score and the Dairy Score that farmers are given following testing allows for the assessment of the risk of a herd for JD. Depending on the outcome of testing, a farmer may wish to amend their biosecurity plan for the property. Although the scoring systems are a voluntary tool in most states, they are part of the WA and NT entry requirements. It makes sense therefore for any farm that may consider de-stocking or selling breeding stock intrastate or interstate to ensure they maintain a good score.

QDO has been in contact with all its members to offer JD testing before the 30 June cut-off date. Time is certainly running out for non-members wishing to be tested by QDO at no additional cost. To join and be tested, contact QDO on 3236 2955 today.

 QDO President – Brian Tessmann

Unity is paramount for the Australian dairy industry.

Coles’ announcement last week that they intend to start direct negotiations with dairy farmers in Victoria and New South Wales again highlighted the need for unity within the industry.

 The announcement brought a barrage of opinions from individuals and service organisations as to whether the proposed arrangement would benefit farmers. Cautious optimism seemed to be the prevailing opinion, but this was measured by a hefty dose of cynicism as to the motivations for the supermarket chain to enter direct relationships with dairy farms.

The biggest concern is the lack of negotiating power individual farmers may have when negotiating with Coles. Certainly, if Coles pays an additional 10 cents/litre or $1.30 per kg for milk solids then farmers will be in a better position than they are currently.

 Over the last year, farmer are talking more opening about the farm gate prices being paid by their various processors for fresh milk. In some instances, this has been in defiance of confidentiality clauses. Be that as it may, the ability to compare farmgate prices and the bonuses being offered have helped provide a clearer picture of the industry nationally.

 What is now abundantly clear is that the dairy industry needs to be unified. The divisions that have existed based on state borders need to be removed and farmers should be looking at collective bargaining arrangements rather than having to fend for themselves.

By getting together, farmers may have a better opportunity to have input into negotiations than if they stay on their own. It’s clear that the current ‘every man for himself’ mentality is a major barrier to the long-term success of the dairy industry. This mentality currently applies not only to the individual farmers but also to the states and the industry bodies.

QDO is currently working on a number of projects with the other state based dairy bodies where our interests are the same. What we are finding is that there is more common ground than there are differences and we can be more efficient when we pool our resources.

By combining knowledge and experience we can create a stronger and more resilient dairy industry.

QDO Vice President – Matt Trace

QDO now reaches over 75% of all Queensland dairy farms.

 While the Queensland dairy industry represents only a small percentage of the total volume of all milk produced in Australia, it does remain a vital industry for our rural communities and for consumers.

 Over the past 12 months, QDO has transformed its core agenda from traditional advocacy to action. We have gone from being a relatively small voice, to be a leader within the in the Australian dairy industry.

 This does not mean that QDO is no longer an advocacy body since by definition advocacy is public support for a particular cause or policy. We do, however, recognise that pursuing traditional advocacy avenues is essentially the definition of insanity i.e. doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Consumers are now our main target for advocacy. In an age of instant and open communication, we recognise the importance of speaking and connecting with the 20-million Australians that consume dairy.

 The success of the campaign to end $1/L milk demonstrates our commitment to helping members be profitable whilst improving the integrity of farm practices.

 Over the last two years, we have been encouraging Queensland dairy farmers to take advantage of QDO membership to have their herds tested for Johnes Disease (JD). While JD testing is voluntary, a good JD score is expected to have considerable market-value in future when farmers want to sell stock.

 By the 30 June deadline, over two-thirds of Queensland dairies will have had their herds JD tested and scored which shows that again that the Queensland dairy industry is leading Australian best practice.

 As the number of dairy farms across Australia decrease, our accountability as an organisations that services the industry needs to increase. We need to accept and embrace scrutiny if we are to continue to be necessary to farmers.

 We are delighted that our membership numbers have reached 75% of all Queensland dairies. Since membership is voluntary, we rely on improving our service offering and encourage everyone to provide feedback on how we are doing.

 Brian Tessman – QDO President

Dairy farmers must take responsibility for their future.

It is very disappointing to see the RSVP numbers back for this week’s Dairy Plan meetings planned for Lismore (22 May); Toowoomba (23 May) and Gympie (24 May) and Malanda (24 June). Based on the lists provided, there are less than ten farmers RSVP’d to each of the consultation sessions.

QDO receives dozens of calls each week and not a call goes by without farmers giving their opinion on the state of the industry and what they believe needs to be done to remedy the situation. For example, we know that farmers are:

  • sick of not getting services they want and expect,

  • sick of not knowing where their money is being spent,

  • sick of lead organisations not actively fighting for a fair farm gate price.

The list of complaints is extensive, but without voicing them in the right forums, they won’t count towards the creation of an actionable plan.

In social media forums farmers are saying that it is the responsibility of the lead organisations to come up with the solutions, and we don’t disagree.

It is helpful that farmers provide clear feedback by complaining about the state of the industry to organisations including QDO. However, farmers also must provide clear input to the dairy plan as to what needs to be done to change.

There are three key questions being asked at Dairy Plan meetings will help inform the level of reform required within the industry and what that reform looks like:

1.    How much change is required to get the dairy industry to a 'better place'? Minor tweaking? Major transformation? 

2.    What needs to change?

3.    If the Australian Dairy Plan is a success, what will people say about Australian dairy in 2025?

Through discussions with members and our board, we have identified the following key points that need consideration:

  • farmers and processors need to lead the industry together - industry wide profitability needs to be every organisation’s primary purpose

  • government funding and levies must go to peak industry bodies to allocate to the highest priorities and most capable organisations

  • a rationalisation of all farmer service delivery organisations so that there is a focus on the profitability of the industry, that organisations have a defined purpose and role within the industry’s structure and that there should be no duplication, overlap or competition for membership or funding between organisations.

As one of the service delivery organisations, QDO is not immune to scrutiny. There may well be some hard truths we learn as a result of the consultations. If that is the case, QDO is prepared to change or be restructured as is necessary to benefit the long-term future of our industry.

We all have a role and a responsibility to create a sustainable industry for the future and we must use these forums either online or in person to have our say.

Please go to: https://www.dairyplan.com.au/get-involved or submit your responses via the online portal at: https://adp.oursay.org/home

If you are not internet savvy, please contact QDO pm 07 3236 2955 and QDO can register for you.

QDO President – Brian Tessmann

Vegan demonstrations backfire.

For the past two weeks, Aussie Farms and other animal activist groups had been threatening to hold widespread protests and demonstrations and yesterday made good on that threat. In Queensland, an abattoir and one dairy farm was visited by the group.

The demonstrators’ signs said that these were peaceful protests. That they may not have resorted to active violence is neither here nor there. Their very presence in such numbers was enough to cause concern.

These groups swarm over properties, ignore requests of being asked to leave, terrify the livestock in the yards and harass farmers, their family and staff.

The calmness and restraint shown by those who were attacked should be praised. Farmers across Australia spent an anxious weekend on high alert expecting to be targeted by the groups.

Like most Australians, we believe that everyone has the right to their opinion and to follow their beliefs and that people also have the right to peacefully protest so long as they obey the law. What we cannot agree with or tolerate, are persons who believe that only their opinions and beliefs are valid and who are prepared to undertake illegal and often dangerous activities to make their point. And we were not alone.

The demonstrations were designed to gain public sympathy for the vegan movement and to supposedly show inhumane practices of intensive farming. From the footage shown yesterday, the demonstrations did anything but what they were intended.

Any initial sympathy and support by the average Australian soon turned to annoyance and outrage as the demonstrators overstepped their mark.

Not only did the demonstrators trespass and damage property, they also disrupted peak hour in the middle of Melbourne’s CBD. Using a high traffic area may have given the activists the public attention they craved, but their actions backfired when emergency services had to be re-routed due to the demonstrator’s vehicles blocking access points and commuters were made late.

The Queensland state government last week, started the process of toughening up trespass laws to protect farmers and businesses. While the rules that have were announced are a start, they need to ensure that privacy and property is protected without farmers having to wait until after the damage is done and they need to ensure that farmers can protect themselves without having to wait for authorities to intercede.

Yesterday’s public reaction to these demonstrations does not mean that vegans don’t have a place in our society or a right to voice their beliefs; but it does mean that people will not accept being bullied or shamed into changing their ideas.

QDO Vice President Matt Trace

The Dairy Industry’s Mandatory Code of Conduct may be one step closer, but we need an end to $1/L milk now.

Late last week, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud announced that the federal Cabinet had endorsed the dairy industry’s Mandatory Code of Conduct.

Cabinet endorsement clears the way for the Committee to submit the draft wording for the regulations in the Code. Given the careful but laborious processes involved in the development of such a Code, Minister Littleproud and the Government are to be commended for the progress it has made to date.

There are 5 major issues that the Code of Conduct addresses and QDO supports these reforms and believes they will assist in redressing the balance of power between processors and farmers.

However, the Code does not address the urgent issue killing the Queensland dairy industry which is $1/L milk. All political parties, retailers and processors have a social responsibility to remove this cancer that has slowly killed the dairy industry not only in Queensland but in many other states including NSW.

If certain retailers with no social conscience continue to ignore the extreme and negative economic and mental health impacts of their policies, they need to be held accountable by all political parties. Or are profits of big business and bonuses for staff more important than the viability and mental health of farmers and the regional communities that depend on them?

The Code of Conduct is welcome but what the Queensland dairy industry need now is a permanent end to $1/L milk. For many dairy farmers in Queensland, and indeed, across Australia, the reforms that will come from the introduction of the Code will bring too little change. We need all parties in the value chain to take responsibility to ensure the survival of the Queensland dairy industry.

Eric Danzi. QDO Executive Officer

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Royal Commission needed into supermarket pricing.

Last week, Wide Bay MP Llew O’Brien called for a Royal Commission into the predatory pricing practices of the supermarkets.

As one example of their unconscionable behaviour, O’Brien called out the recent way that Coles and Woolworths have handled QDO’s efforts to have a 10 cent/litre Drought Levy imposed on all milk.

O’Brien was quoted as saying that “Coles and Woolworths have completely bastardised” the proposal. His call was backed several other politicians, who have called the Drought Levy PR stunts pulled by Coles and Woolworths among other things a “farce”.

Currently, Coles has put the levy only on their 3L private label which has simply led shoppers to by a 1L and 2L to save them the 30 cents; that way Coles can say that consumers do not want to support the levy since sales won’t reflect this.

We can’t help but question why it took less than 72 hours for Coles and Woolworths to back down on the plastic bag ban and yet the campaign for a Drought Levy across all brands that was started seven weeks ago by QDO is still not producing a fair outcome for farmers. Customer outrage towards the duopoly’s grab for profit in the bag saga seems to outweigh any interest in developing sustainable relationships with its suppliers and their primary producers.

The major dairy processors have said they want to support our farmers with a price increase and are open to audit, but they are hamstrung in a poor game of piggy-in-the-middle. Lion Dairy and Drink has announced a 6 cents/litre increase and Norco a 5 cents/litre increase to help assist with Drought. It’s good news but even they admit that it can only be temporary unless the retail price is increased permanently to meet rising production costs.

And still there is the unanswered as to why Coles insists on paying the levy through an application process rather than distributing back through Norco who supply their private label milk.

QDO is certainly delighted that O’Brien, Littleproud and others are looking at ways to deliver practical outcomes. We need them to continue to hound the supermarkets, to vote through a Royal Commission so that it can expose the supermarkets' predatory practices towards its suppliers.

Queensland Dairyfarmers' Organisation
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

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.

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.