Still the biggest and best

June 21, 2017

Murray Dairy chair Rick Cross addresses the Murray Dairy planning meeting.

The northern Victoria and southern Riverina area has maintained its reputation as the biggest milk producing region in Australia, even after a recent history of droughts and floods, a Shepparton seminar was told.

Dairy Australia senior analyst John Droppert said most major milk processors had invested heavily in the region, and all the high value milk products come from factories in the region.

‘‘It’s important from a size, investment and geographic perspective, with access to major markets in Melbourne and Sydney,’’ Mr Droppert said.

‘‘Internationally it’s the place that people come to. The diversity of farming systems opens their eyes. Everything from grain-fed to intensively housed systems.

‘‘It’s a result of 15 to 20 years of lessons hard learnt in tough times. This is a region where people are used to learning things and putting them into practice on-farm.

‘‘There is an openness to adaptation and learning.’’

Mr Droppert was speaking at a summit for dairy industry stakeholders, organised by Murray Dairy to help develop a strategic plan for the region.

Murray Dairy chief executive officer Jenny Wilson said there were almost 8000 people employed in the dairy industry in the region.

‘‘For every $1million of dairy production, there are over six full-time equivalent jobs generated,’’ Ms Wilson said.

‘‘We must also highlight the social component in our communities. Dairy farming families make up our schools, our sporting clubs, our local service groups.’’

Asked about the challenges for dairying in view of the milk price drop and higher water prices, Ms Wilson said the environment had changed around what water was available and her hope was that no more water left the system.

‘‘The next dry year will not be far away as it happens in cycles. Having enough water to support the industry will be a critical factor.’’

But management also had an impact on farm performance, she said. How risk is managed, strategic planning, forage use and water use efficiency are all factors that need to be considered.

Ms Wilson acknowledged there was a lot of volatility at the moment.

‘‘We need to somehow balance that out around water and introduction of new ways of farm businesses operating.’’

Murray Dairy finds itself providing services to a diverse industry with different operating models.

‘‘The trend has been to get bigger and structure their business around having lots of support, so they will bring in expertise where they need it,’’ Ms Wilson said.

‘‘To be a successful farmer, you almost need to be something like a CEO, to bring in expertise to support your business.’’

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