The theme was Doing More With Lessand there was a focus on broader industry issues as well as topics such as people management and herd reproduction technology.
United Dairy Farmers of Victoria president and industry advocate Adam Jenkins told the conference the demise of Murray Goulburn did not mean the industry could not work together.
“Just because we don’t have a large co-op operating anymore doesn’t mean the industry can’t come together.
“We’re probably the most fragmented we’ve been ever and we need to find a way to come together and co-operate, that’s research and development and sharing knowledge.”
Mr Jenkins said part of the industry’s success would also hinge on engaging successfully with governments.
“We do need some fundamental changes in government policy,” he said. “It is boring and it’s not sexy, but I’ve always said if we don’t have farmers sitting at the table then you can’t complain when something gets rolled over or changed against you.”
From 2011 until 2016 Mr Jenkins said market volatility was a dominant factor.
While lower prices in early 2016 and clawbacks by processors were a blow to many businesses, he said the industry needed to push forward.
“We’ve got to move on, we can be as grumpy as hell about it, but we need to move on.”
Mr Jenkins said there were many factors outside farmers’ control, such as global markets and politics, so they must focus on their own operations.
He said supporting in leading roles in the industry was vital and farmers needed to prepare for tighter controls on effluent management and nitrogen use as well as pressure around animal welfare.
A shortage of labour across the dairy sector is an ongoing problem. Sarah Watson from the People MAD business in New Zealand said while farmers were sometimes quick to blame employees when things went wrong, often the issue was on-farm processes,
Setting employees up for success may mean changing some of the processes used on farm while teaching employees to use their initiative is vital.
“One of the things I find with farm managers or owners is they’re not very good at delegating, because no one can solve problems like they can.
“The trouble with that is every time someone comes to you with a problem and you solve it, you’re teaching them not to use their initiative.”
By: KAROLIN MACGREGOR
Source: The Weekly Times