We are on farmers’ side

By Country News

Murray Dairy and Dairy Australia have worked hard to support farmers in the current difficult circumstances, Dairy Australia chair Jeff Odgers said last week.

He outlined the programs and services the dairy industry body had been engaged with.

He and Dairy Australia managing director Dr David Nation were asked about the responsiveness to the tough conditions.

‘‘The Eastern seaboard drought started to unfold in June 2018,’’ Mr Odgers said.

‘‘Dairy australia recognised that early on, and set up a feed shortage campaign across Eastern Australia with a $2million spend to work with farmers and optimise spring.

‘‘I think we moved pretty quickly through Murray Dairy in the region.

‘‘I know Murray Dairy have done about 300 taking stocks with businesses, and that’s very much about forward planning for feed and finances.

‘‘I’m from this region and I feel it every day.

‘‘We have worked pretty hard to be there for farmers. If any farmer wants service from Murray Dairy or needs some help to find someone, then we are ready to do it, every day of the week. We are there for farmers.

‘‘We understand how tough this is: feed prices have essentially doubled and other inputs have risen.’’

Dairy Australia managing director David Nation said there was a comprehensive network of support for farmers through spring, summer and autumn and it was still available now.

‘‘Any farmer, from any time from June-July onwards last year can contact Murray Dairy, can join discussion groups to talk about the season, go to special events or do the one-on-one consultations called Taking Stock.

‘‘We do know that not all farmers reach out.

‘‘We do know this has been a really serious year.

‘‘As Murray Dairy does and DA does, we reach out actively to farmers, as well. We try hard to not leave anyone behind.’’

Country News suggested to Mr Nation that Dairy Australia could have been more proactive in dairy innovation, including the recently announced milk price comparison program that a private company was now offering to suppliers.

‘‘What they are doing is admirable,’’ Dr Nation said.

‘‘They are using unofficial prices that they have obtained. Our challenge is in getting prices from the companies.

‘‘People with initiative have made it available with the disclaimer that they are not necessarily official prices.

‘‘We know farmers are commending Milk to Market for that.

‘‘But Dairy Australia needs to only do things that no-one else does. If the private sector can do these things, organisations like Milk to Market have a capacity to do it.’’

Asked if the relationship between Dairy Australia and processors was too close to do a similar project, Dr Nation denied this.

‘‘I can categorically say that is not part of our thinking. We have investigated doing this before, we have talked to the UDV about doing this before, but we have not been able to achieve it with authoritive figures.’’

A private Queensland company has recently announced it had developed a process which enabled it to extend milk shelf life to 60 days.

Dr Nation was asked if Dairy Australia should have been more proactive in developing similar work.

‘‘We have staff at Dairy Australia actively investing in post-farm-gate research.

‘‘There are many products in the marketplace that are a consequence of R and D in food technology.

‘‘This is an example of a private, entrepreneurial group inventing something quite different. This is an example of a start-up organisation coming up with something different.

‘‘If this turns out to be successful it is a great example of disruptive innovation that is taking a different approach to what has been a traditional bedrock of the industry — pasteurisation to ensure food safety.’’