Both DA’s chair Jeff Odgers and managing director David Nation spoke at the organisation’s annual general meeting in Gippsland on Friday of the challenges facing the industry.
“There is no doubt that 2018-19 was one of the toughest seasons in recent memory,” Mr Odgers said.
“Persistent dry conditions across all regions significantly impacted the cost of key inputs and farm profitability.
“National milk production decreased 5.7 per cent to 8.8 billion litres, but this decline could have been even more pronounced.
“I think farmers characteristically showed their resilience in the face of these challenges.”
Dr Nation said the past five years had been genuinely challenging for the dairy industry globally and in Australia.
“After the pricing shocks of a few years ago, it has now been followed up by drought across eastern Australia that’s affected the whole country,” he said.
“I am inspired by the way so many farmers have fought against the odds knowing how important it is to keep cows milking and finding a way to get through.”
Both Mr Odgers and Dr Nation pointed to Dairy Australia programs – many run through its regional development program network – to help farmers meet the challenges of drought and business viability.
“DA focused on having boots on the grounds where needed,” Mr Odgers said.
“Nearly two thirds of farmers have participated in at least one regional event in the last six months.”
Dr Nation said the response had included specific drought, tough times and feed shortage programs.
Both also spoke of DA’s flagship programs, many in collaboration with other organisations, as having delivered major gains, and promising more.
These included investments at DairyBio to improve animal and pasture genetics, Datagene and Dairy Feedbase.
Mr Odgers also spoke of the changed approach to marketing – with an emphasis on building trust with a key group of consumers.
“Building community trust is now more important than product promotion,” Mr Odgers said.
“Trust is built by providing credible and transparent information on all aspects of the supply chain.
“Our Dairy Matters campaign launched in April this year aims to connect with socially conscious consumers.
“Based on market research this campaign is also hitting the mark.”