Dairy Australia’s staff numbers have surged almost 30 per cent in the past five years, despite national milk production slumping by almost a billion litres.
DA’s annual reports show it had the full time equivalent of 139.65 staff in 2016-17, with 91.3 FTEs at its Southbank headquarters, plus 48.35 FTEs spread across its eight regional development program sites.
The latest 2021-22 annual report shows that number has grown to 178 FTE staff, but gives no breakdown of how many work at Southbank versus the RDPs.
As DA’s staff numbers increase national milk production wanes, from 9 billion litres in 2016-17 to a forecast of just on 8 billion litres this season.
The wages bill reflects the hike in staff numbers, having grown from $14.9m in 2016-17 to $18.34m in 2021-22.
DA managing director David Nation said employee numbers “fluctuate over time based on the significant increase in the delivery of services to farmers and the industry and the reduced dependency on consultants to deliver these services.
Dairy Australia managing director David Nation responded to questions on increased staffing by stating he plans to enhance farmer engagement.
“There are also plans to enhance Dairy Australia services and engagement with farmers through our 8 regional locations. Which includes the bolstering of expertise and capacity to support farm businesses.”
The wages hike comes despite DA losing a bid earlier this year to gain a 20 per cent increase in the levies farmers contribute to its research, development and marketing efforts.
At the time the Australian Dairy Farmers Board urged the nation’s 5000 farmers not support any increase in the levy, given dairy processing giants – such as Fonterra, Bega and Saputo – refused to contribute, despite enjoying the benefits of the R&D body’s $10 million investment in post farmgate manufacturing research, market access and development.
Woolsthorpe dairy farmer Glenn Britnell said the question DA needed to answer was “What value have we got from employing more staff while producing less milk?”.
“I don’t mind if they step up their staffing, but are they creating value down the chain?”
Cohuna dairy farmer Steve Henty said DA had delivered value to his own operation over his lifetime, but could not attribute anything to its R&D that had helped him over the past five years.
However he said “when there’s an emergency they (DA) do really step up, calling to ask what we need, and when things are tight.
As for the decline in milk production Mr Henty said “everyone has to take a little bit of blame”, from those with big numbers of cows who “had not been able to find the right balance”, to “those of us of a certain age who are thinking of running beef”.