Questions from the floor at the meeting had a strong theme of profitability while both the chairman Geoff Aker’s and managing director Ian Halliday’s addresses emphasised the value delivered to farmers from DA’s programs.
South-west Victorian dairyfarmer Karinjeet Singh-Mahil asked did DA need to take a different approach to increasing farm business management skills with many farmers indicating they could not survive on the average farmgate price of the past five years.
Managing director Ian Halliday said lifting the farm business management skills of dairy farmers was a “real challenge”.
Farm complexity had increased, with 70 per cent of farms now employing staff outside the farm family, compared with 40 per cent 10 years ago.
Price and climate volatility had increased.
DA had increased its investment in this area with new tools and new programs, such as Tactics for Tight Times, Taking Stock and DairyBase.
It was seeing some growth in this area - a recent survey found 52 per cent of farmers did a budget compared with 48 per cent 18 months ago.
DA had also accelerated farm business management through its Regional Development Programs, but more time was needed, Mr Halliday said.
“For us as an industry this is a cultural issue we have to address,” he said.
Westbury, Vic, dairy farmer Chris Griffin said there was no doubt farmers faced more volatility but it was incumbent on farmers to take look at their own business.
“How many farmers have participated in Taking Stock, have put their data on Dairybase and have full understanding of their cost structure,” he said.
Drouin, Vic, dairy farmer Lawrie Mobbs asked why he should continue to pay a levy when he was not getting a return.
“It is a lot of money, thousands of dollars I spent, from ‘65 onwards,” he said.
“By the time a feed bill in a drought and by the time I pay double time and time and half, I can’t make anything.”
Outgoing chair of Dairy Australia Geoff Akers said there had been a fair discussion about business opportunities for farmers and “we are happy to send out someone to talk to you about your business and what you can do”.
Mr Akers earlier told the meeting his four years in the job were a rollercoaster, with many highs and lows.
The industry had faced drought, floods, supermarket price wars and changing consumer perception of the industry during .
Mr Akers was thanked by managing director Ian Halliday, who acknowledged his 12 years on the board - a record he said was unlikely to be passed.
Mr Akers said the key challenge facing Dairy Australia was how to support increased demand for production by processors in Australia.
DA had developed a number of initiatives to support this growth, Mr Akers said.
These included a big investment in DairyBio, which was improving feedbase and animal performance through advanced breeding and genetics technology, DataGene, and a new dairy feedbase project.
DA managing director Ian Halliday said the organisation had changed its focus in consumer campaigns from promoting consumption to maintaining the public’s trust in the industry.