Dairy Australia chairman Jeff Odgers has made an impassioned plea for the dairy industry to better work together to meet the challenges it faces.
Addressing the organisation's annual general meeting on Friday, Mr Odgers acknowledged that some farmers were questioning their future in the industry.
"Australia's dairy industry is going through an especially difficult period," Mr Odger said.
Increased market and climate volatility had impacted farm performance.
“Given these events, some are questioning their future and industry momentum,” he said.
But the industry still had great opportunity.
To achieve this, it was going to have to adapt to an increasingly rapidly changing world.
"We as an industry are facing a new era," he said.
The industry needed to understand and better navigate the opportunities and new environment in which it operated.
READ MORE: Open letter to Dairy Australia
Mr Odgers pointed to the proposed Dairy Plan, launched earlier in the day by Australian Dairy Industry Council chair Terry Richardson, as vital to the industry's future.
The Dairy Plan was bigger than any one industry body, he said.
The plan would provide an opportunity to develop a whole-of-industry overarching strategy.
It needed to represent views of everyone involved in the industry, and Dairy Australia was committed to ensuring farmers in all regions had input.
The plan would enable the industry to think through the issues that really mattered and then get aligned on who took responsibility for dealing with those issues.
“This industry needs to get closer together,“ he said.
Mr Odgers said he recognised the challenges.
"I can see why some of you are asking 'why stay'," he said.
"I know why I stay."
Mr Odgers said he loved owning his own business, working beside the next generation and being part of a vital regional community.
Australia also offered many advantages to dairy farmers.
"Where else would you want to be?" he said.
Australia had a temperate climate, cheap land relative to its productive capacity, a range of feed options, usually (though not this year) at a reasonable cost, and low cost of capital.
It also had a stable economy and an industry and farmers who supported one another.
In many regions, there were options around who to supply and real competition for milk, with processors now seeking an extra billion litres of milk.
But farmers needed to find ways to work with processors, Mr Odgers said.
Australia had a real opportunity to occupy the space in the world dairy industry between pure grazing dairy systems and fully housed total mixed ration systems.
Australia must deliver advantages in that space.
"That's our place," he said.
Mr Odgers said the dairy industry’s new Dairy Feedbase project would play a key part in achieving that goal by helping farmers to optimise home-grown feed and to learn how to integrate supplements to get real improved animal performance.