SPRING is off to a good start for dairy farmers as a sudden confidence boost, stemmed from improved farm gate prices, decent seasonal conditions and a lower Australian dollar, sees majority of the industry being optimistic about the future.
Confidence levels among the nation's dairy farmers has improved significantly with 73 per cent of farmers surveyed for Dairy Australia's (DA) Situation and Outlook September update feeling positive about the future, compared to 44pc surveyed in February.
"When you look out in the paddock and see green grass, it makes you happier," Koroit, Victoria, dairy farmer David O'Connell said.
"The milk price lift, the $A came down and people have feed in the paddocks so they don't have to buy so much supplement feed, this all leads to improved attitudes."
The mood is a far cry from last season which was regarded as one of the most challenging in years as farmers battled low milk prices, high feed costs, fodder shortage and drought conditions across the major dairy regions - resulting in a 3pc national production shortfall.
Mr O'Connell summed up the seasonal backflip as "just farming".
"It is one of those deals that when you farm, you are playing with the weather, sometimes it works in your favour and sometimes it doesn't," he said.
"The low milk price didn't help on top of the weather."
Despite the 20-25pc lift in farm gate milk prices, lower $A and favourable seasonal conditions, which has seen the State's dairy farmers confidence rise, the report points out that many farmers will be focused on debt reduction and herd recovery rather than operational growth.
"It has been a tough year and while farmers attitudes have changed, they are still recovering from a dry start," Mr O'Connell said.
"The low milk price, no autumn break and high cost of feed made debt levels difficult.
"There was so much going out and not much coming in, I think most people will be trying to recover the cost for the next season."
While production was down by 3.5pc for the season's opening month, DA forecast a growth of 1-3pc to 9.3-9.5 billion litres.
International commodity prices have remained strong, although according to the report, downside risks continue.
The US anticipated supply growth, New Zealand production increase and Europe's mixed production, have the potential to impact markets.
Further global demand impact comes from economic instability and substitution concerns within emerging markets.
DA's industry update indicates the lower $A and increased firm international dairy commodity prices could benefit the country's industry returns.
China has remained a primary driver of global dairy markets, with an increase of 26pc on the first quarter last year, importing about 440,000 tonnes of dairy products. The majority of growth has been in whole milk powder and liquid milk.
Mr O'Connell called on the newly-elected Federal Government to prioritise free trade agreements (FTA) with Asian countries to further bolster the State's dairy exports.
"It will make us more competitive with the export market which will hopefully be passed back to farmers," he said.
"For as long as we keep pressure on the government to push through those FTAs quickly, we should be able to convince them it is good for the industry, good for the agriculture and local communities who voted them in."
Mr O'Connell hoped the lower $A would also influence great milk price returns for farmers.
He said improved attitudes would be impacted by the spring conditions which cut short last year, and hoped his region of south-west Victoria would receive decent rain until October.
"We just hope spring holds on as long as it can and everyone gets a bit of surplus this year that they can harvest," Mr O'Connell said.