THESE words cause a variety of reactions among dairy farmers around the country. Many farmers have given up their valuable time to complete a Dairy Australia survey. This is greatly appreciated but many may have been left asking themselves one of these questions:
- Why does Dairy Australia do surveys?
- Why have they contacted me?
- What do they do with the data collected?
- How many surveys does Dairy Australia conduct each year?
There are two main reasons Dairy Australia conducts farmer surveys. First, they keep Dairy Australia accountable for their investment of farmer levies.
The surveys provide objective data for reporting back to government and the industry on the effectiveness of levy investments and whether the outcomes laid out in the five-year strategic plan are being achieved. Every program has specific metrics, which are reported against and each question helps Dairy Australia to gather unbiased data so progress can be consistently measured over time.
Second, the data provides useful trends to better understand the industry, how on-farm practices are changing and to identify opportunities for research, development and extension (RD&E). Surveys also give respondents the chance to have a voice on how levies are invested and where Dairy Australia can improve its services or resources.
All Dairy Australia’s surveys are conducted by independent third parties to ensure the data collected is unbiased and completely anonymous. Every dairy farmer has the chance of being contacted to do a survey as names are randomly selected from DA’s database using a computer program.
A set number of interviews are selected for each of the eight dairy regions to make sure the data is representative of the whole industry. The computer generates contact names until the required number of interviews have been conducted in each region. In some cases, farm businesses have multiple key contacts and any one of those contacts may be randomly selected by the computer program for the interview. A farmer can request that the interviewer interview a different contact, if preferred, but only one person from each business can participate in the interview.
In some of the smaller regions where there are fewer farmers, it is possible to be contacted more frequently. If it is not convenient to do the interview when called, farmers have the option to make an appointment for another time or decline the survey.
All data is collated and aggregated to ensure that it is representative of the industry. A report of the national results is then produced for Dairy Australia and shared with the board, leadership team and key stakeholders to assess the results and decide on an appropriate course of action.
Survey results are also available through a variety of reports. These include Situation and Outlook, Dairy Australia’s annual operating plan and annual report and the Australian Dairy Sustainability Framework. Research summaries, prepared by subject matter technical leads, are also provided on the Dairy Australia website for some surveys.
Dairy Australia limits farmer surveys to four per year as it is aware of the time commitment required. This includes two annual surveys, where Dairy Australia tracks industry trends and its performance against its strategic plan, and two surveys that relate to specific topics and provide input and measurement into specific RD&E programs. These topic-specific surveys are conducted every three years and cover, for example, feedbase, animal husbandry or farm business management.
Every time a farmer completes a Dairy Australia survey, they are playing an important role in providing valuable information. Without this input, there would be no other way of gathering objective, industry-wide data. This data is used in a variety of ways to report on progress, consider gaps and opportunities for future programs or investments or to help Dairy Australia understand key trends in the industry.