Enhancing economic viability and livelihoods

We commit to creating a vibrant industry that rewards dairy workers and their families, their related dairying communities, business and investors

Our challenges and opportunities

Profitability of farm businesses is core to the success of the Australian dairy industry, enabling it to contribute strongly to rural and regional economies, for both employment and as an earner of export income.

Goal 1 - Increase competitiveness and profitability

Increasing competitiveness and profitability underpins the industry’s ability to be sustainable and continues to be a focus at the farm, manufacturer and industry levels.

How we performed in 2019:

  • 16% of farm business achieved earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) of $1.50 per kilogram of milk solids (kg/MS), against of target of more than 50%
  • Australian dairy's share of global trade remained steady at 6%
  • $47 million was spent in RD&E in the dairy sector
  • 88% of consumers agree that dairy products were meeting their needs, an increase of 3% from the previous year, and a 13% increase from 2017

This table shows our progress for Goal 1 against our baseline and 2030 targets:

Key Initiatives

These initiatives are driving change in industry competitiveness and profitability.

  • Policy Direction

    The focus of ADF's Farming Systems and Herd Improvement Policy Advisory Group is to drive sustainable farm profitability through support ADF's policy and advocacy work on a range of issues, including tariff reductions and increased market access.

  • Dairy Base

    Visit DairyBase

    A web-based tool that enables dairy farmers to measure and compare their farm business performance over time.

  • Taking stock

    One-on-one sessions which help farmers manage feed costs and limited fodder availability.

  • Feed planning

    Visit Feed Planning

    A website which has a range of dairy feed tools to assist farmers to plan and cost feed inputs.

  • Dairy feedbase

    Visit Dairy feedbase

    A program to improve pasture performance, animal nutrition and cost competitiveness of the feedbase. 

  • DataGene

    Visit DataGene

    An independent, industry-owned organisation to drive genetic gain and herd improvement in the Australian dairy industry. 
  • DairyBio

    Visit DairyBio

    An initiative that develops important breeding tools for pasture and cattle. DairyBio achieved 20% yield increase for perennial ryegrass trials. 
  • Our Farm, Our Plan

    Visit Our Farm, Our Plan

    A program designed to equip farmers to clarify their long-term goals, identify the actions needed, and manage uncertainty and risk. 

  • Forage Value Index

    Visit Forage Value Index

    A rating system that helps Australian dairy farmers make more informed decisions when selecting perenniel ryegrass cultivars, helping to increase pasture productivity and farm profitability. 

Case Study: Predicting research a game changer


Agriculture Victoria research scientists have developed a model that can predict how likely a dairy cow is to conceive at first insemination with up to 77% accuracy.

  • The world-first research combines infrared milk scanning technology with other on-farm data for 3,000 dairy cows from 19 herds across Australia.
  • Cow fertility is a key driver of profitability for Australia’s dairy industry but until now there has been little research towards enabling farmers to predict the outcome of insemination.
  • Agriculture Victoria research scientist and leader of this DairyBio initiative, Professor Jennie Pryce, said dairy farmers could use this research to optimise their breeding decisions, increasing farm productivity and profitability.

Goal 2 - Increase the resilience and prosperity of dairy communities

As Australia’s fourth largest rural industry, dairy makes an enormous contribution to the regions in which it operates. Our goal is to continue this contribution through resilient and prosperous dairy communities, with this contribution recognised and valued. Results for 2019 indicate dairy’s contribution remains strong.

How we performed in 2019:

  • Dairy farmers received payments of $4.4 billion in 2019, marking an increase of $105 million compared to 2018.
  • The number of jobs directly supported by dairy economic activity in dairy regions increased in 2019 to 46,200, from 42,600 in 2018
  • 90% of people surveyed in the Dairy Trust Tracker agree that dairy is an important part of their community.

This table shows our progress for Goal 2 against our baseline and 2030 targets:

Key Initiatives

These initiatives are helping to increase resilience and prosperity in dairy communities.

  • Young Dairy Network

    Dairy Australia plays an active role in engaging and building a network through the Young Dairy Network (YDN) to provide the opportunity for young dairy workers to develop skills to further their career in dairy. The YDN currently supports around 2,500 young farmers across Australia.

  • Australia’s Legendairy Women’s Network (ALWN)

    Australia’s Legendairy Women’s Network (ALWN) connects women who are involved in dairy from across the country. It aims to work alongside, support and connect its members, and provide them with the opportunities to improve their skills and capabilities, to continue to grow and add value to their dairy businesses and communities. 

Case Study: Community support makes a difference

Maffra and Leongatha football teams line up with Saputo employees before the ‘grudge match’ on Maffra ground.

Sponsorship of community events and sporting clubs by Saputo Dairy Australia makes a strong contribution to the communities where the business operates.

  • Through the Saputo Legacy Program, the company has donated $125,000 to local sport and health facilities to promote a healthier lifestyle for families and make a meaningful contribution within communities.
  • Facilities at Cobrum, Leongatha, Kiewa and Maffra have been upgraded.

Case Study: The milk of human kindness

Dairy companies Parmalat, Lion Dairy & Drinks, Fonterra and Saputo Dairy Australia – collectively received the 2019 Foodbank Award.

On 30 May 2019, Foodbank’s national milk program partners – Parmalat (Lactalis), Lion Dairy & Drinks, Fonterra and Saputo Dairy Australia – collectively received the 2019. Foodbank Award for their collaboration to fight hunger in Australia.

Foodbank praised its dairy partners for the extraordinary collaboration with regular contributions of fresh milk to help Foodbank provide relief to more than 710,000 Australians every month.

Announcing Foodbank’s highest accolade, Foodbank Australia CEO, Brianna Casey, said; "This prestigious award is presented to an AFGC member or members showing vision, innovation and leadership in partnering with Foodbank to deliver greater impact in providing food and groceries to vulnerable families across Australia." "This year, our dairy partners receive the award for what has proven to be an extraordinary eight-year collaboration providing one million litres of fresh milk a year. This industry sector program is unique to Australia and sets a benchmark for foodbank/ industry partnerships around the world."

Goal 3 - Provide a safe work environnement for all dairy workers

The physical and mental health of our dairy workers is a key priority for the industry and constant vigilance is required by everyone in the value chain to ensure people are safe. Industry is still considering how best to recognise the key issue of mental health.

How we performed in 2019:

  • Safe Work Australia has no reported fatalities on dairy farms or at dairy product manufacturers for 2018, which is the most recent data available. Figures for 2019 will be made available in 2020.
  • Data for several indicators will be collected through the 2020 Power of People on Australian Dairy Farms survey and will be reported by the Framework in 2020.

This table shows our progress for Goal 3 against our baseline and 2030 targets:

Key Initiatives

These initiatives are driving change in the provide safe work environments. Farmers taking action on Q fever.

  • Workplace safety inspectors

    The number of dairy farm inspections are increasing in a bid to improve farm safety. Dairy Australia has created resources to assist farmers through these inspections and to implement or improve their farm safety systems.

  • Milk Tanker Operator Program

    The Milk Tanker Operator (MTO) program is an industry led initiative to enable consistency of collection procedures and food safety and compliance requirements for all dairy farm milk collections. Through agreeing to an industry accredited standard, milk tanker operators follow the same protocols regardless of which company they deliver to with a three-year refreshed element to ensure ongoing best practice and compliance.

  • Power of People in Dairy (POP) Survey

    Conducted every three years, the POP Survey is a key source of benchmark, program and impact data about farmers’ attitudes and practices relating to a number of areas including farm safety. The next survey will be conducted in late 2020.

  • Farm Safety Starter Kit

    This toolkit provides practical, easy-to-use resources to assist dairy farmers in making sustainable improvements to the safety of farm owners, employees, families, contractors, services providers and visitors.

Case Study: Farmers taking action on Q fever

Male farmer stranding next to cows

Dairy farmers are protecting their teams from Q fever – a disease spread to humans from animals including dairy cows.

  • Fifth-generation dairy farmer Peter Middlebrook knows firsthand how even experienced farmers are at risk, after he contracted Q fever on his 450-cow farm near Finley, NSW. He now ensure his farm workers are tested regularly.
  • NSW district vet Dr Lyndell Stone said vaccination was the best protection against Q fever, and that anyone over 15 years old should be vaccinated if they're spending time on farm.
  • In Australia, it is an employer’s responsibility to ensure the safety of their staff, including from the risk of contracting bacterial infections. Dairy Australia’s Farm Safety Manual is a comprehensive guide for farmers to improve safety systems on their farm. 

Goal 4 - Provide a productive and rewarding work environment for all dairy workers

The dependency on skilled labour and attracting people to a career in dairy continues to be a priority, with an estimated additional 800 employees needed on Australian dairy farms by 2023.

Providing a productive and rewarding work environment for all dairy workers is a goal that was updated in 2018 with a new series of targets and indicators.

How we performed in 2019:

  • Some of these indicators are new, and thus further research is required to report on them.
  • Data for several indicators will be collected through the 2020 Power of People on Australian Dairy Farms survey and will be reported by the Framework in 2020.

This table shows our progress for Goal 4 against our baseline and 2030 targets:

Key Initiatives

These initiatives are driving change to develop a skilled and motivated dairy workforce.

  • Policy Direction

    The Australian Dairy Farmer has an advisory group for farm sector policy development. 

  • Industry extension and training programs

    Programs offered by Dairy Australia include Cool Cows, InCalf, Countdown and the People In Dairy. 

  • Rural Veterinary Resident Training Program

    An industry training program to attract, upskill and retain veterinarians in the Australian dairy industry.

  • DairyLearn Module

    This module connects training providers with industry-approved resources and tools.

Case Study: DairyPATH develops next generation

DairyPATH pilot program participants

A new Dairy Australia extension program is guiding the next generation of dairy leaders to forge long-term careers in the Australian dairy industry.

  • Eleven dairy enthusiasts from throughout Australia, aged between 18 and 35, took part in Dairy Australia’s 18-month DairyPATH pilot program.
  • The program aims to turn ambition into knowledge by providing early career farmers with a tangible career progression framework, giving them tools to map out career and personal development, and information about programs, workshops, conferences and events.

Case Study: How to build a team

The 2019 Tasmanian share farmers of the year are Damien and Brooke Cocker.

There’s no greater asset to a dairy business than a high performing team, say 2019 Tasmanian share farmers of the year Damien and Brooke Cocker.

Mr Cocker said it was important to share knowledge with people and recognise their valuable contribution. Leading by example is core to their management style.

The Cockers share-farm on Rushy Lagoon, one of the state’s largest dairy farms. The Cockers operate two of the four dairy farms and have recently purchased their own dairy farm.

They employ five full-time employees and have a staff-cow ratio of one full-time equivalent staff member (FTE) to 228 cows.

Key initiatives include:

  • Opportunities for additional training
  • Staff rosters drawn up well in advance, with a structure that reflects staff feeedback
  • Supporting communications with farm maps and a large whiteboard in the dairy
  • Holding daily team meetings, and meetings on special issues
  • Encouraging time off 


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