Genetics Australia move welcomed by former directors

Genetics Australia's plan to move its whole operation to a new base at Camperdown, in western Victoria, has been welcomed by a number of former directors who have a long history with the co-operative.

Genetics Australia will take over the Total Livestock Genetics operation and name from January 4, and GA’s bull management, semen management and semen collection and production services will be transferred from Bacchus Marsh to the TLG site in Camperdown.

Genetics Australia said the $5.8 million purchase would create efficiencies in the semen production system that would reduce GA’s cost of production per year, allowing the co-operative to substantially build its business turnover.

The move is the latest step in the 60-year history of the farmer run co-operative.

On July 17, 1958, a meeting at the State Research Farm at Werribee marked the start of what was to become the Victorian Artificial Breeders Co-operative Society and ultimately Genetics Australia.

Deloraine farmer Simon Bennett served on the board between 2004 and 2014, during a time when there was a lot of merging and consolidation in the industry.

“I guess it was pretty challenging when the co-operative was trying to position itself in the market,” Mr Bennett said.

He recalls some discussion about mergers when GA was trying to transform into a major player in the face of strong national competition.

“At the end of the day we were always trying to consider what is best for GA and the industry.”

He sees the move as a natural change when urban encroachment was extending from Melbourne to Bacchus Marsh, and said the move should give GA more scale.

Mr Bennett was running a family farm before becoming aggregation manager with Australian Dairy Pastures.

Former Timmering farmer, Bruce Lloyd, was on the board of a Rochester herd improvement co-operative when he was invited onto the board of GA in 1968.

He was recruited by chairman Sir John Reid, who served as chair for more than 15 years.

Mr Lloyd said Sir John wanted to engage more young farmers, who would appreciate the new technology being developed in artificial breeding.

He appreciated the factors influencing the decision to move to Camperdown.

NSW farmer Rob McIntosh was a director of Genetics Australia when the organisation was looking to achieve a national reach in 1994.

Mr McIntosh, from Berry on the Shoalhaven coast, said the Victorian Artificial Breeders, as it was then known, joined discussions with the NSW Government to see if they could merge with Graham Park Breeding Services where Mr McIntosh was involved. He eventually joined the VAB board as a NSW representative.

“I was a regular visitor to Bacchus Marsh and even in those days you could see it was becoming encroached by urban development,” he said.

“And there were not a lot of dairy farms down there. Heading to Camperdown makes a lot of sense.”

Despite the difficulties milk processing co-operatives have had in recent years, he sees a future for co-operatives in the wider dairy industry.

Former Langwarry north farmer, Colin Gardiner was a member of the GA board between 1997 to 2010 and a chair for three years.

He said the original decision to place the new genetics body at Bacchus Marsh had proven to be a wise one as the business was centrally located and the passage of time had proven the investment was a good one.

Now the company was able capitalise on the value of the property in its move to new premises in the Western District.

“There were dairy farms in the original area and it was in an irrigation area and there was sufficient space for the bull farm.

“I think we need to give credit to the original board for their wisdom in that choice.”Mr Gardiner, now retired, worked with prominent dairy industry leader John Harlock, whom he said made a major contribution to the co-operative, and Gordon French from Queensland who had a great belief in the futur of Australian genetics. He also held a high regard for former chair and director, Peter Stewart, from Stratford, Gippsland, who was his mentor in artificial breeding in his early days on the board in the 1990s.