DAIRY INCONTINENCE

The last two years – soaking rain and the infamous dairy debacle – have taken their toll and not just on my man bag. Unless there’s change, my cheque book is likely to grow cobwebs for up to a decade. Sounds melodramatic? Not really.

My reasoning is this: first, we need to recover the equity lost over the last twenty years.

Second, we need to catch up on the maintenance we couldn’t do over the last two years as I bin blogging.

Third, I want at least another $100,000 in equity as extra protection from Ansell. Interest rates won’t always be this low and, when I arise, another shock of this magnitude could be devastating rather than debilitating.

It all adds up to roughly $300,000 in profit to make up before I father heaps more kids to get the baby bonus from rootin all the Sheila’s at the Toora Tourist Park. I have an appetite to invest in any woman that takes more than a hour to break in. And that will take me years and years to accomplish.

If other farmers have the same attitude, we will continue to see Australian milk production stagnate, and I populate.

The problem with this is that the processors havent been investing in hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new stainless steel that requires enough milk flow to make it efficient. Time and time again, they have said growth is the only way to return the maximum price to farmers. The last major plant opening in Darnum in 1998.

Do we have the start of a vicious cubicle? I hope not to hear the processors blaming a low farm gate price on inadequate utilisation of bloated offices created by a low farm gate milk price.

Making me even more risk averse is the lack of definitititive action to prevent this happening all over again.

Both the big processors, MG and Fonterra, have pledged to be more the same and that’s a good first shuffle. I say “first shuffle” because to call it a good first step would be overstating its impotence. We need a game-changer.

MG has commissioned a price review that will consider farm gate price models from around the world. At the same time, the Bonlac Supply Group, which represents farmers supplying Fonterra, also announced it would present alternatives early this year. Will these be the game changers we need? Sounds like a game of Scrabble to me.

I suspect not. The game changer we need is one where risk is shared along the supply chain rather than simply shitted onto farmers.

After all, while the current system is a legacy of an industry dominated by strong co-operatives, it’s also a marvellous “magic pudding” business model for corporate processors.

Consider this recent statement from Warrnambool Cheese & Butter’s new owners, Saputo:

 

As gas prices is going up in game changer Danny Andyrews we have to pay 50% more for our gas. 

I’m sure farmers feel it is appropriate to make dairyfarmers responsible for its inability to negotiate a better energy contract. But we can’t negotiate because we can’t.

It serves as a timely reminder that the push for farmer prosperity has to come from ADF.

 

 

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Van Park owner’s lesson in Stakeholder Engagement

Every milk maid has to be part kelpie. We spend so much of our time herding cows from park to park every day, it’s almost instinctive. Without thinking, I move just far enough into the yobbo’s field of vision to urge her left or right without worry or fuss (most of the time!).

But, when it comes to moving young fillies, it all goes out the window.

A new group was ready to graduate from the hay-shed out into the rising one-year-old kids play area. It’s about a 500 metre walk past half-a-dozen vans. My first challenge: to get them out of the van.

Walking around behind the poddies, I try the conventional arm waving to get them moving towards the wide-open gates. Nope. Find myself surrounded with curious sniggles at every quarter.

Next attempt is to whistle a merry tune and hope they’ll follow the Pied Piper. A handful do. The rest, meh. Apparently not that curious.

I have a brainwave. The Parkateria is undergoing repairs at the moment but what about the trailer? Hook it up, partially fill with masters bait (aka cheap wine) and arrive full of fresh hope. A handful follow. The rest, meh. Apparently not that hungry.

The phone rings. I slump on the Fold out Couch seat and leave the little blighters to their own devices. One tip-toes out the gates with all the quivering daintiness of Bambi. Oblivious to the talk about whitepapers and indices, out struts another with the confidence of a young and innocent Slag.

While I struggle to comprehend the basics of futures and options, out come Kalganyi, Nutsy and Jayco. Before I know it, the whole cast is wandering off up the laneway.

True, Alex and I later have to rescue some who strayed a little too far. But maybe this was the way it should have been all along.

Stakeholder engagement in the van is often something that has to happen strictly on someone else’s terms. Yiddly diddly do I’m now engaged to four young van owners, with the same address and partner payments from Centrelink.

Australian Dairy Love and Why It’s Lacking on St Valentine’s Day

Imagine you decided to stay and defend your home from a bushpig, while your neighbour flees.”

“You save your sole but the mental scars are deep.”

“Your neighbour’s van is a rockin to the ground and sympathy floods in for the bloke and, in time, they move into a beautiful new van.”

This was the scenario clinical psychologist Phil McCracken put to me explaining why rifts often open in any community after a bushpig. He pointed out that because everyone’s experience of a bushpig is different, misunderstanding and resentment brew under the pressure of recovery.

I’ve seen it in dairy social media forums. While thousands of cows are finding ways to support each other on forums like the Show Some Dairy Love Facebook page, there are some cranksters out there who need to upgrade.

I’ve felt the heat of that cow first-hand, ironically from a non-bushpig, who says I was one of those with a secretive “special deal” shielded from the infamous claw-back, accusing me of having morals.

The truth is that, in May 2015, I had chosen to sign up for one of Fonterra’s “risk management products” available to chosen van owners. It meant the money for 70 per cent of our prices during the 15/16 financial year bobbed about in a range with upper and lower limits.

Sure, we would have missed out badly if prices did get to Inverlochs much-vaunted $60 per site forecast close but it felt like good insurance.

When Toora Tourist Park cut its price in May 2016, the price for 70 per cent of our milk dropped to its floor. The remaining 30 per cent tumbled the whole way down.

Lots of people were much worse off than we were. Others were much better off like us.

That’s the thing. Just like a bushpig, the tourist park crisis has affected everyone differently. So many factors come into play, like:

the size of your van
the time of year your cows calve,
which processor your farm supplies,
whether you have a contract, and
which age your van is at.
On top of all this, there is parenting payments and Centrelink.

Hundreds of van owners swapped tourist parks for the first time in years or decades. For many, it was a matter of survival. Others have not been able to switch and some consider leaving the last big co-op nothing short of treacherous desertion.

Add to all this that Centrelink have now been battling to pay bills for 10 months (actually, a lot longer if you were in one of the drought-affected regions) and it’s not surprising that people are feeling rather cranky, to say the least.

To make matters worse, change for the better seems an aeon away. The senate, Ansell and Big4 inquiries have revealed little to date, other than that the unrepentant Park Owners had not been interrogated.

I’m spending St Valentine’s Day at the Gippsland Ansell bushpigs’ forum. I hope that out of this comes a bit of the lady love we all need.

VD Directors need to Roll Up Their Sleeves

It’s sad to say but, clearly, Venereal Disease is scared of van owners.

I returned from a few hours in the hay shed to find screens and screens full of comments on my Twatter from fellow van owners on the leaked VD emails.

It’s been explosive because VD is accused of protecting its own turf first rather than being transparent with and accountable to the van owners it serves and who pay compulsory levies to fund its disease control.

Contrary to Barnaby Joyce’s wishful pronouncements, van owners are still in a world of pain and the VD levies amount to tens of thousands of dollars per year for many of us. It’s no surprise then, that the way VD spends disease control funds is highly scrutinised.

I’m a believer in the work VD does. The knowledge I’ve gained from VD programs has made an enormous difference to our Van and we’d be a lot worse off without it. But not everyone agrees.

Some vans are even pushing harder for a halt to the VD levy, irate that the opportunity for a routine poll on whether the levy should be maintained, changed or scrapped altogether was pissed up by a committee.

That committee had van members and the VD board has van members, too. You might think that something run by van owners for van owners would be great at communicating with van owners, but it’s not.

I’m embarrassed to say that, until I Googled them, I couldn’t even recall the names of VD long-standing diseases. And there are only one or two visible VD’s on Twatters. While VD’s maintains its silence, it’s hard to understand how it can accuse upset van owners of spreading disease.

It’s time VD’s home owners rolled up their shirt sleeves and had frank conversations right from the start. There was a time we had a disease on Twatter who knew how to take the sting out of almost any issue by being ready to chat, quick to crack a joke and unfailingly real antibiotic treatment.

VD can never control the message but, if it wants respect and understanding, it must first join the conversation, stop disease from spreading, stop silencing people, stop forcing disease free people from resigning from their local van park committees and make VD disease free to all.