Looking at changing industry

By Dairy News

A SHIFT towards partial and total mixed ration farming systems has been the trend since 2006, especially as the landscape of the dairy industry continues to change.

At the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences Regional Outlook conference in Shepparton last month, Murray Dairy’s Jenny Wilson spoke about how the industry had changed since deregulation.

“Since deregulation in the late 1990s we’ve seen the industry challenged on several fronts. This includes the millennium drought, changes in water policy and the opening up of competitive water markets,” Mrs Wilson said.

“(In the Murray Dairy region) We’ve seen a big shift away from low input pasture-based systems to partial mixed ration systems and total mixed ration systems.

“PMR systems that we see in this region are quite variable; and often what we see in a year of improved water availability and price, people often slip back into a high water use scenario — so it’s not a stable system or stable environment.”

Mrs Wilson also explained the characteristics of farmers who were doing well during what is a difficult period for the industry.

“What we see is those that are planning and have their risk management in place, have water portfolio options available to them, have equity and are seeking that advice from across the industry — they’re the ones doing well,” she said.

Wyuna dairy farmer Russell Pell also spoke at the conference.

From the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to the uncoupling of land and water rights, Mr Pell said water had never been more important to farmers.

“Securing water for your future is really important … we’re constantly challenged with what we can grow for a megalitre of water,” he said.

“I’d hate to think about what would have happened now if we hadn’t modernised our system.”

As water became more scarce, Mr Pell said he placed more emphasis on getting the most out of his water and had turned to producing maize, along with a number of other crops.

With his maize getting close to four tonnes of dry matter per megalitre, Mr Pell said he also saw his best annual pastures achieve similar results. But he said it hadn’t been easy.

“It’s very hard for the average guy to do all this. As an area we really are reliant on dairy,” he said.

With every million litres of milk employing six people across northern Victoria, Mr Pell said a prosperous dairy industry was a win for all.

With unpredictable conditions increasingly being experienced across the country, Mr Pell said the changing weather and climate change were increasingly taking a hold.

“In a short span of time it’s changed so much and we’re going to have to live with it.”