News

Mountain Milk wants milk on shelves next year

By Dairy News

VICTORIA’S NEWEST dairy co-op is seeking a processor and plans to have its first milk on the shelves by mid-2018.

The new Mountain Milk Cooperative comprises four farming families from the Kiewa Valley, who produce 18 million litres of milk annually.

The new co-op’s chair is Stuart Crosthwaite, a fifth-generation farmer milking 400 cows at Kergunyah South.

Mr Crosthwaite said his family, along with three others, received a grant from the $13.8 million Federal Government program, Farming Together, because they wanted to create a more positive outlook for the local industry.

Late last month Murray Goulburn announced plans to sell the co-op’s assets, including the local plant at Kiewa, to Canadian-based Saputo Dairy Australia for $1.3 billion. The Kiewa Country Milk brand was also sold.

“We felt it was time to act,” Mr Crosthwaite said. “As farmers we want to have more control of our future, and not be directed by outside interests.”

The founding group comprises Stuart and Sarah Crosthwaite, Patrick and Kerrie Glass, Scott and Belinda McKillop and Ian and Alice Holloway.

“We are the children and grandchildren of the people who began Kiewa Milk, and who established a proud tradition of co-operative-based dairy farming in the Alpine Valleys region,” Stuart said.

“We want to revive that tradition. We are planning to introduce a range of initiatives over the next six months which will build an even stronger link between our farms and our consumers, so people can trust their milk is coming from some of the best dairies in Australia.”

He said the co-op planned to start small. “We will be looking to grow by taking on new members, but we need time to organise the business, create partnerships and to build a solid foundation to grow from.”

The Farming Together program appointed dairy consultant Patten Bridge to assist the group.

“Our vision is to create a new generation dairy co-operative which will provide ongoing benefit and jobs to the communities of north-east Victoria,” he said.

“We are currently looking to establish partnerships with milk processors who understand our vision and who are prepared to work alongside us in making this happen.

“Once this is consolidated, we will be exploring options for growth and expanding our footprint in the region.”

Farming Together program director Lorraine Gordon said the program aims to help farmers claim better margins and more say in their supply chain as well as building a stronger stake in the long-term sustainability of their enterprises.

The program has launched a free online co-op builder for other groups considering forming themselves into these tax-effective structures. The simple, DIY template is available at
www.farmingtogether.com.au