Wrapping up an Aussie product

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Brad Power (left) and Dominic Adams visiting Agri Novatex’s new silage film factory in Melbourne. The machinery is straight from Italy and was assembled during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been functional since early 2022. Photo by Agri Novatex

For Agri Novatex, silage is about more than wrapping up grass — it’s a piece of Australian history.

The business manufactures the iconic SilaWRAP product, created in 1984 by two Gippsland farmers and one Tasmanian.

The three farmers invented what is now recognised as silage film after observing ensiling practices overseas.

Agri Novatex Australia country manager Brad Power said the difference between Agri Novatex and other silage players was its commitment to local manufacturing.

“Because of the factory in Melbourne, we make the film here which is pretty important because for silage it can go from nothing to everything in a few weeks,” Brad said.

“If you were expecting one cut and it turns into three, it’s a long time to wait for a ship to come over.”

The business is bracing for the upcoming spring cuts.

Brad said farmers across the country would be looking to replenish their feed reserves.

“With storage reserves at an all-time low ... I can see there being a large swing towards getting every bit of grass tucked away,” he said.

“It will depend on the growing temperatures in most places but there will hopefully be a second cut and there is talk of a third cut in Gippsland.”

Agri Novatex took over the manufacturing and distribution of SilaWRAP in 2020 and doesn’t take the responsibility lightly.

“It (SilaWRAP) is the single biggest brand in the Australian silage market, the correct term is ‘number one selling wrap’,” Brad said.

“It’s got strong brand recognition and there is a long established trust in it.”

He said Agri Novatex was very lucky to have on-shore manufacturing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and international shipping delays.

“We don’t rely on international shipping freight so there is no issue getting containers into Australia. That is our strength.”

When it comes to pit versus bale silage, the Agri Novatex hasn’t seen any big change in trends.

Brad said the main change was larger on-farm storage, regardless of ensiling method.

“So if they were using pits they do more pits, and if they are doing bales they do more bales.”

Agri Novatex also sells baling twine, silage pit covers, grain bags, net wraps and inoculates.

“Another key point is that our products are well supported by the team we have,” Brad said.

“We sell to stores and they sell to farmers, but we also have area managers who help those farmers and stores understand why silage is important and how that impacts milk in the vat.”

Ben Beattie is the area manager for southern NSW and northern Victoria.

“Ben spent yesterday with a farmer just driving around his paddock learning what the pain points are in his operation,” Brad said.

Ben centres himself around the Albury area but travels long distances for the job and said his area could be a mixed bag.

“It’s predominantly dairy product based but we have a large number of grain bag customers, too,” he said.

“An area like Deniliquin is really mixed because they do the broadacre and the dairy.”

Ben said he was getting a lot of questions about plastic recycling and reusing from customers, which is something Agri Novatex is listening closely to.

“There is a bit more emphasis on the origin of a product and what manufacturers are doing to limit their use of virgin plastic material,’’ he said.

“People are certainly mindful of the manufacturing process and they want to support local manufacturing.”

Ben said the recycling of silage film was in its “infancy” and customers asking questions was an important first step.

Rising on-farm costs have also been changing the way dairy farmers use silage — choosing to invest in their own grass and prioritise a quality product.

“As with everything around the rising input costs, we are seeing a focus on maximising on-farm feed and becoming less reliant on buying feed in,” Brad said.

“The cheapest feed is your own feed.

“People are focusing on quality over quantity and that works well for us.“