WAFarmers Dairy Conference 2022

July 28, 2022

Hosted last week in Busselton were two annual events on the dairy calendar: the Western Dairy Business Breakfast and the WAFarmers’ Dairy Conference. Both events appeared to be quite the sell outs, with barely a free seat in the room.

During the Business Breakfast the crowd heard from John Droppert, Dairy Australia Industry Insights and Analysis Manager, on global and domestic markets.  This was followed by Graeme McConnell, Planfarm Managing Director, who spoke on the importance of benchmarking for business risk.  Local dairy farmer, Scott Hamilton, then shared his journey involving share-farming, and moving from New Zealand to Western Australia.

The WAFarmers’ Dairy Conference had a jam-packed program, and Milne Feeds was proud to be a major sponsor of this key event for dairy producers.

There was an excellent presentation from Prof Richard Eckard, from the University of Melbourne, on Carbon farming, centred around the challenges and opportunities for producers. One of his key messages to producers, in relation to carbon credits, was to ensure they weren’t selling credits that could potentially be needed for their own farm.  The take-home tip was to complete the carbon accounting for your own farm before selling, so you know where any areas of improvement are. There has also been a change, at an international level, in terms of methane emissions.  These are no longer required to be completely reduced on farms to a net zero level. The focus has shifted to a reduction in emissions overall.  However net zero carbon emissions are still front and centre, and all industries need to work on this.

Melissa Cameron, Human Health and Nutrition Policy Manager at Dairy Australia, also gave an engaging presentation. Her session focused around the health benefits of dairy milk vs plant-based alternatives. Melissa highlighted the differences between the two drinks, including the main additives and processing that go into creating plant beverage alternatives, as well as the price consumers pay. One just has to compare the ingredient list on a plant-based beverage, as opposed to milk, and the level of processing and artificial additives present in them is clear. Dairy milk is approximately $0.38 per serve, as opposed to $0.68 per serve for an oat-based milk, that has a lower energy and protein content.

The audience also heard from NSW dairy farmer, Colin Thompson, who runs a 320 high-producing dairy herd that is fully housed in a barn-style system. Colin talked about his family’s journey, from a small family farm in Narooma, to their current property in Cowra.  He discussed the infrastructure they have in place, with various barns for calves, heifers and the milking herd.

Also on the program, was a panel session covering the new dairy five-year plan, with Brad Weir, WA Dairy Industry Working Group (WADIWG) Consultant. The WADIWG is comprised of members from WA Farmers, Brownes Dairy, Lactalis, Bega, DPIRD, Western Dairy and Dairy Australia. The five-year plan has six key goals:

1.       Increase the profitability of the WA dairy industry to retain critical mass within the industry

2.       Engage across the entire supply chain in order to remain aware of industry needs; respond to current and emerging consumer trends; and promote dairy with one voice that reinforces the virtues and value of the WA dairy industry

3.       Establish new markets for diversified dairy products and grow the WA milk supply to meet those demand opportunities

4.       Create viable pathways for entry, growth and succession in the WA dairy industry and ensure that the industry can attract and retain the workforce and service providers it requires

5.       Optimise our supply chain by considering and using alterative dairy farming methods, adopting best practice technology and being data-enabled

6.       Capture the opportunities presented by the emerging low carbon economy and continue to strive for best practice systems that will reduce our footprint across our supply chain.

The final speaker of the day was well known dairy business consultant, Steve Hossen, who was tasked with discussing the current fuel, fertiliser, feed and milk prices farmers are dealing with. Steve’s presentation highlighted that while the price per litre of milk had risen for both producers and consumers, the margin that producers are being paid for their milk has not changed; as the rising cost of fertiliser, fuel and feed has also risen significantly. He stressed that while the processors may believe the increase in milk price may lead to an increase in milk production on farm, that this wasn’t the case. His prediction for the 2022 season was that these rising on-farm prices wouldn’t be coming down significantly, and processors would have to re-explore their pricing if they were trying to increase milk production in WA.

Finishing off the day, Western Dairy and WAFarmers hosted an information session on Foot and Mouth Disease, with speakers from DPIRD, local vets and consultants, and National Farmers’ Federation representatives. There was a full house with many producers wanting to understand the severity of the FMD risk to their businesses. Producers are encouraged to speak to their local vets and ensure they have up-to-date biosecurity plans in place.

More information on farm biosecurity can be read here.