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

Labor summit a good sign for the Australian dairy industry.

Last week Shadow Minister for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon; Senator for Queensland, Chris Ketter and Senator for Victoria, Kim Carr invited the various state and national dairy farming organisations as well as representatives from Coles and Woolworths to meet with them in Brisbane to discuss the crisis within the dairy industry.

The consensus from all organisations except for the retailers naturally, was that the mandatory code of conduct recommended by the ACCC report into the dairy industry, needed to be extended across the value chain and not be confined to the relationship between processors and farmers. The imbalance of power that has been so often quoted from the report, exists at all levels and needs to be addressed.

Representatives from the major processors were frank. As much as they want to support our farmers with a price increase, unless the real issue of current retail pricing is fixed they also see no future for their businesses.

When you have representatives from multinational corporations acknowledging their own frailty due to retail pricing, you see just how dire the situation has become.

While there is speculation as to when the next federal election is called, fixing the Australian dairy crisis needs to become a key election promise for all parties.

No government wants the collapse of an industry on their conscience. As we’ve seen from the petitioning that QDO has undertaken over the last 5 weeks, this issue is something that the Australia public believe in and are passionate about.

It was good to see Labor taking the initiative with calling the summit, but if we wait much longer or have to wait for the election to bring about change, we won’t have a dairy industry to defend.

To date, no federal government has taken real action to fix the retail pricing issues of the dairy industry. We continue to hear words of support, but words are not enough.

QDO President Brian Tessmann

Recovery and Resilience programs needed for the Downs.

It seems such a short time ago that QDO provided its first report on its Industry Recovery and Resilience Project (IRRP) funded by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in response to Cyclone Debbie.  

How quickly our need for an IRRP can change from cyclone damage to drought.

Funding for this program was earmarked for dairy farmers in the Scenic Rim/Lockyer Valley region. As the name suggests these projects have 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 that an IRRP aims to give in the pocket results for farmers as they face an almost never-ending cycle of weather-related disasters – not only cyclones and flooding but drought and feed shortages.

Through the workshops run in Beaudesert, Marburg and at the QDO AGM and Forum, QDO spoke with 86 farmers affected by Cyclone Debbie.

QDO project officers Torie Harrison and Damien Ferguson followed up the workshops with phone calls and one-on-one on farm session, so that almost 95% of all dairy farmers in the region were contacted and offered assistance.

A follow up survey showed that farmers needed ongoing financial analysis of their businesses; assistance with developing a business action plan to help improve the financial position of the farm and improve their resilience and preparedness for future weather or market risk.

While the Scenic Rim/Lockyer Valley have been hit with a double whammy of the cyclone followed by the drought, it is other regions, namely the Darling Downs where we need to extend this project.

QDO is seeking funding to extend the project so that those facing severe financial hardship caused by the high cost of feed and the ongoing drought conditions in regions like the Downs can also have a chance to recover.

QDO President Brian Tessmann

Why the National Farmers’ Federation should not be involved in the 10 cent / litre Drought Levy.

It is as clear as the skies above drought-stricken Australia, that Coles’ publicity stunt to put the 10-cent levy on a single line of their private label milk is a slap in the face to our farmers. Because they have not put the levy on all brands and all sizes, the amount that would come back would be a fraction of a cent.

That’s bad enough, but what makes it worse is their announcement that they would deliver the pittance that would be collected back through the NFF as opposed to using the correct protocol which would be to pay it directly to their suppliers Norco and Saputo who would then be able to simply pass it on to its members by way of their milk cheque.

The NFF have not made any public statement as to why they agreed to be Coles’ lackey but as the national advocacy body that’s supposed to represent all farmers, it makes you wonder exactly who is in control and where all our primary industry sector is heading.

This week, I was on a young QDO member’s family farm just south of Toowoomba to launch the new campaign Queensland’s dairy farmers. The Cream of Australia. We had a half dozen additional young farmers join the launch to allow the media to ask what they think of their futures in dairy.

I hate to say it, but the interviews were bleak. Not one of them could honestly say whether they would be operational in 2 years or even 12 months’ time because of the drought and the unsustainable price paid for milk. These weren’t the old farmers who are ready to hang up their boots, these were farmers in their twenties and thirties who are giving up hope.

You can talk about the responsibilities of the processors in the situation we are faced with we need to remember they are just the middleman getting equally bullied by the supermarkets.

As farmers and as consumers who shop, we need to stand up to the bullies. We need to say to Coles that we’ve had enough. 

QDO President Brian Tessmann


We are not amused. Customers feeling duped by the PR stunt by major supermarkets on the 10 cent/litre Dought Levy.

On Thursday last week,  Australian dairy farmers were buoyed by the announcement that Woolworths intended to introduce the 10 cent/litre Drought Levy with Coles scurrying to follow suit a few hours later.

That was until both Coles and Woolworths said that the levy would only apply to a single line. That line was their own brand 3L which is the product bought most frequently by larger struggling Aussie families across the country.

To give our dairy farmers a chance of survival, this levy that the Australian public support with over 105,000 signatures, needs to be on all sizes, all brands and applied nationally. 

It does not take a finance or marketing genius to realise that the duopoly's intention was to make the issue go away quickly; simply by announcing that at the end of the year the Drought Levy would end due to a lack of customer support. Putting the onus of this levy on those least able to support it shows how calculating our supermarkets can be. 

Coles spokesperson Martine Alpins states that "$1L milk has been an incredibly important part of reducing the cost of living for Australians"; that at the expense of an entire agricultural industry.

Fortunately, Australians are smarter than our supermarkets think. Over the weekend, Queensland Dairyfarmers' Organisation has been contacted by hundreds of shoppers incensed at the marketing ploy. 

This issue will not go away until we get the Drought Levy applied to all milks, all sizes and in all states and we urge shoppers to use their own bargaining power to choose branded milk and other supermarkets prepared to support our farmers. 

For more information, please contact Sarah on 0424 416 317.


$10 billion loss to the Australian dairy industry courtesy of Coles.

The Australian dairy industry is in crisis. While we do not like to scaremonger, the reality is that Queensland, much of New South Wales and probably the Western Australian dairy industries won’t be around in a few years if things stay as they are.

When Coles introduced $1-litre milk in 2011, the minimum price of milk was $1.30. For the other supermarkets to stay competitive, they followed suit and now all supermarkets stock a $1-litre line. Not only did this introduction knock 30 cents off the minimum price, the processors were forced to reduce the cost of their branded milk to stay competitive.

Factor in inflation over the last 7 years, we are talking about a 60 cent discrepancy on 2011 prices.

Based on an average volume of sold per annum of 2.55 billion litres over 7 years, this equates to a $10 billion-plus loss to the dairy industry.

It is a staggering sum and goes a long way to explain why our dairy industry is hurting so much.

QDO’s campaign for a 10 cent/litre Drought Levy has had a terrific response from the public with now over 100,000 signatures on the petition on as well as the support via our social media channels. We have been receiving phone calls and emails from everyday mums and dads wanting to know what more they can do to get this 10 cent increase through. It has been truly heartening to see so many people wanting to support our industry.

We particularly want to thank the media who have continued to run the story and continue to support this week’s message: If Coles won’t support the levy, we’re asking the public not to support Coles.

The value of the media’s support cannot be understated. They have helped make something that could have been a flash-in-the-pan story into something that continues to gain momentum, two weeks in.

When QDO initiated the campaign, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that he would support the levy, if Coles were on board.

That our newly appointed leader would say such a thing, truly demonstrates just how much power we have allowed the supermarkets to acquire.

3GB host Ben Fordham went out on a limb last week, when he interviewed QDO member Jo Bradley. For 8 ½ minutes, Ben and Jo berated supermarket giant Coles regarding their continued disinclination to support this levy.

The media will have no doubt been receiving pressure if not outright threats since Coles is one of the biggest advertisers in Australia; so we are truly appreciative of their ongoing support.

QDO President: Brian Tessmann

Coles, we are not going to back down.

QDO’s campaign for a 10 cent/litre Drought Levy has gained spectacular support from not only from the everyday Australian, but politicians and the media as well.

A few people have asked why we did not aim higher with, say, a 20 cent/litre for the Drought Levy or to petition for the permanent end to $1 litre discounted milk.

The rationale is quite simple. Since $1 litre was first introduced by Coles in 2011, the dairy industry has been scrambling to get back on its feet. Through organisations such as ours, we have been in ongoing talks with the retailers and processors to change the market situation, to no avail. As much as it pains us, we have been expecting too much from corporate fat cats who saw no reason to reevaluate a poor decision that could only lead to the demise of the Australian dairy industry.

Until this point the industry has been focussed changing things only through the processor and retailer. We had forgotten the most powerful player in the game – the consumer. The consumer is the everyday Australian who through their purchasing power, has the influence to change our industry – to make it once again sustainable.

The peition started on Monday last week, and today, the signature count reached over 72,000. The online support on social media is heartening to see but we still have Coles holding out – sighting that it is not in the best interests of their customers.

This is not just about Queensland and New South Wales; it is a nationwide campaign to alleviate the financial burden on all dairy farmers due to our ongoing drought.

It was terrific to have Parmalat (Pauls brands) and Norco step up and support the campaign. With 2 of the major procession players on board, it is now a matter of getting the supermarkets to agree.

Woolworths have said that they will take on the 10cent/litre levy if all other retailers come on board. While it is disappointing that they were unprepared to take the full leadership position it is better than its competitor Coles who firstly hid behind the ACCC report and is now hiding behind their aid campaign.QDO has no intention of letting this Drought Levy slide into the abyss. We’ve had fantastic support from our friends in the media – giving us national coverage which we thank them for.

We have a battle plan in place and we are only 7 days into that plan. If the supermarkets think that they can hide until this goes away, they’ll be hiding for a very long time.

The petition can be found on by searching 10 cent Drought Levy or via this link:

QDO Vice President: Matthew Trace

Dairy farmers ask the Australian public to petition retailers for a 10 cent/litre Drought Levy.

Last month, Australians realised the extent of the drought crisis faced by Queensland and New South Wales farmers. While there is no doubt that all agricultural industries are hurting, the dairy industry faces a tougher challenge than most.

To produce milk, dairy cows need to be in peak health and their food quality and quantity maintained. Whereas beef cattle can be fed lower quantity and quality feed to see them through the drought.

So, the increasing scarcity and the price of freighting in fodder has hit the New South Wales and Queensland dairy industries hardest. While public support via donations to organisations such as Buy a Bale have helped many who are at their lowest, these organisations have also had a detremental effect, since those able to afford to buy it, cannot find any feed to buy for love nor money.

Also public support via donations is short lived and unsustainable.

So QDO has decided to do something about it by appealing to every day Aussies to help put pressure on the supermarkets.

The national campaign launched by QDO this weeks asks consumers to sign an online petition for supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths in particular, to increase the price on all milk by 10 cents/litre and for processors to guarantee that the full 10 cents will go back to the famers.

We ask that this increase apply not only to branded milk but also to the current $1/litre products sold.

QDO reached out to Kyogle Dairy farmer Shane Hickey whose post on being paid $2.46 per hour went viral with over 4 million views and countless shares to help drive awareness  for the campaign. While Shane is not a Queenslander, he shares our sense of injustice and our drive to turn around the dairy industry and make things happen.

For too long, we’ve hoped for the processors and supermarkets to do the right thing. Nothing has changed. So we are calling on our fellow Australians to drive change by signing and sharing the petition.

We’ve seen an outpouring of support on social media sites like Facebook where everyday Australians are rallying behind our farmers so we know we have their support, it is just finding the right way to harness it.

When we see millions of Australians supporting a 10 cent/litre Drought Levy and asking the supermarkets and processors to implement it, we will see the full power of the everyday Australian’s power and influence.

The petition can be found on by searching 10 cent Drought Levy or via this link:

QDO President: Brian Tessmann

The wrap up on this year’s QDO AGM and Forum.

There was a good roll up of farmers and dairy industry people at this year Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation’s AGM and Forum held last Wednesday at the Woodford Memorial Hall. The line-up of speakers was diverse and designed to challenge how each attendee saw the Queensland dairy industry and their own future direction in it. With Lion Dairy and Drinks the only member of the big three processors in attendance, the focus was more on how each individual farmer personally handled the tough times and when they could make real progress for their farming business and find new opportunities to expand or diversify.

There were great presentations from Kevin Stephenson from Beyond Blue who spoke from personal experience of the challenges that can face almost anyone in the mental health arena. The National Small Business Association chair Anne Nadler spoke on opportunities to diversify our market opportunities and both the processor and farmer level.  QDO EO Eric Danzi and I spoke on current industry issues including the current debate around the Voluntary vs Mandatory Code question.  We also outlined our progress and difficulties we have found in getting a market response in farm gate milk price to the huge recent increases in production costs caused by the wide spread drought. “Make it Cheaper” Relationship Manager Lucy Block explained how their organisation can save members in contestable power areas serious money on their power bills including one QDO member who has reduced their power bill by $16500 annually. There was also interesting sessions by Damien Ferguson on Financial Planning and Brett Hart on the legal issues and pit falls around farm succession planning. 

There is a lot for our members to be thinking about at the moment but it is obvious that we need to tackle the issues head on rather than hope that they will disappear. QDO would like to thank our sponsors and all those who made this forum such a great day.  

QDO President: Brian Tessmann

The Queensland dairy industry a winner at this year’s EKKA.


This year saw the dairy exhibitors in their new home on the ground floor of the CRT pavilion at this year’s EKKA. Set between sideshow alley and the show bag pavilion, it is not surprising that visitors found their way inside to see the cows and meet the dairy farmers.

Thousands of people, largely families with small children, went through the exhibit; and did so with a purpose in mind. On Monday last week, QDO launched the consumer campaign called Queensland Dairy Farmers. The Cream of Australia. Highlighting the quality of Queensland dairy brands, the value of supporting local Queensland farmers and the tireless work done by our farmers to bring consumers the great products they know and love, the campaign is upbeat and shows the pride we have in our dairy industry.

Using the EKKA as the springboard for the campaign gave us high visibility; so with that in mind, QDO launched The Cream of Australia cutest cow of Show competition which ran from Monday to Friday.  It was a great way to invite the public to talk to the farmers, ask questions and to hear their stories directly.

Designed as an awareness driver for the campaign, this ‘people’s choice award’ also gave mum and dads a much-appreciated focus for their kids as they walked through the exhibit.

An additional bonus was that the competition gave exhibitors a chance to have some friendly rivalry and fun whilst they prepared for Friday’s judging. With unofficial voting booths being set up by several farmers it was clear that the exhibitors were enjoying the distraction as much as the public.

By the final count over 1,300 votes had been cast. But there could only be one winner which was Withawye Beauty Queen owned by the Dunne family. Minister Fentiman who officially launched the campaign last Monday was also on hand to crown Beauty Queen the winner in the main arena.

The new home of the dairy exhibitors may need to have a few kinks ironed out for next year’s EKKA but it was clear by the shear volume of people who visited and the amount of interaction the public had with farmers and cows alike, that Queensland dairy was a roaring success at this year’s EKKA.

Congratulations also to the officially judged winners at the show.

QDO Vice President: Matthew Trace

QDO's future focus to be highlighted at this year's AGM and Forum.

Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation will be holding its AGM and Forum at the Woodford Memorial Hall on Wednesday the 22nd August starting at 9am. This is a good opportunity for our members to see what QDO has done in the past 12 months but also to hear what the future focus for the organisation is.

There have been significant changes to the way in which QDO’s purpose is defined which gives the organisation a clearer business structure to all current and planned programs and projects.

Some speakers are set to challenge the longstanding commitment of the Queensland dairy industry to supplying fresh milk to the Queensland market. With farm gate prices remain below a sustainable level, our members as individuals or as a coordinated whole, need to be open to other possibilities if things don’t change.

Our members would by now be aware that we took an unprecedented decision to employ a marketing and communications manager early this year. The decision was not made lightly but in response to the stark reality that advocacy alone would not influence the farm gate price given to our farmers. Other than helping QDO have greater clarity and communication with members, Sarah’s core role is to look at changing customer buying behaviors so that the retailers and processors see in their profit margins that the public wants to support our industry. Sarah will give some key background information on the campaigns that are planned.

Members who were unable to attend the Growth, Transition & Farm Progression workshops due to on farm commitments or distance will have the opportunity to hear an abridged version at the Forum. For members with multiple generations working on the farm, it is an invaluable talk about the opportunities available with farm progression, a guide to getting finance from the bank and protecting your assets against the unknown.

We would like to see as many members as possible. Please RSVP to Kerrie at the QDO office.

QDO President: Brian Tessman

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, 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.

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.

Enhancing Tropical Pasture


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.