The Australian Government’s $13.8 million Farm Co-Operatives and Collaboration Pilot Program (Farming Together) is investing into the Victorian dairy industry to help maximise profits at the farm gate. The Alpine Valleys Dairy Consortium (below) consists of Kiewa Valley farmers, is one of 14 successful grantees receiving funding through Southern Cross University.
VICTORIA’S strong links with dairy co-ops have been revived with the formation of a new milk co-op in the state’s north-east.
Kiewa Valley farmers, assisted by the Federal Government’s Farming Together program, last week successfully registered the Mountain Milk Cooperative Ltd.
The founding group, comprising four farming families accounting for 18 million litres, plan to have their first milk on the shelves by mid-2018.
The new co-op’s chairperson is Stuart Crosthwaite, a fifth-generation farmer milking 400 cows at Kergunyah South. He said his family, along with three others, sought assistance from the Farming Together program 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 to Canadian-based Saputo Dairy Australia for $1.3 billion.
“We felt it was time to act,” Stuart 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: “This new co-op builds on the strength of Victorian dairying and carries that legacy forward into the future.
“These are committed farmers dedicated to their industry and their community and it has been a privilege to help them prepare for sector change.
“The Farming Together 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,” she said.