Report Synopsis

Lifting Farmer Engagement Within the Australian Dairy Industry

Shannon Notter

Profitability is critical to creating sustainable dairy farm businesses. Business operating environments are constantly changing and facing challenges, whether these be social, political, economic, environmental, or technological. To stay abreast of these challenges and maintain profitability, dairy farmers need to continually embrace educational opportunities to manage changes that affect their business. The key objective of this report is to provide industry leaders with examples of what other countries are doing well to successfully engage farmers in activities that ultimately upskill their business and lift capability of farm business management. In turn this will demonstrate what the dairy industry in Australia can do to encourage its farmers to engage with industry bodies and adopt the latest research and development that will aid in maintaining profitability within their businesses.

A main challenge identified for increasing engagement is that personal factors such as risk appetite, attitude and motivation, financial pressure and differences in long-term goals differ greatly between farm businesses and are ultimately major drivers for whether decision makers have a strong focus on financial performance. The state of the industry also has a major effect on the outlook of dairy farmers and whether they see available opportunities or large challenges ahead.  Consistently, top performing farmers around the world are looking to upskill or adopt new research that may have an impact on their business. They also share common characteristics such as setting a budget, knowing cost of production, having a fertile herd, being proactive, being an employer of choice and setting goals. To get more farmers to engage and focus on these factors, that create consistently profitable businesses, encouraging them in a time of stress will have the greatest impact. Recently the Australian dairy industry has faced many challenges. Many businesses are under financial pressure which could allow the industry to increase farmer engagement.

Recommendations for increasing farmer engagement include:

  1. Focusing on key decision makers, with emphasis on upskilling and lifting capabilities of women in dairy businesses.
  2. Promoting the role of key influencers, particularly by developing more farm advisors who have trusted knowledge and experience along with involving opinion leaders, who are high performers in their region and well regarded by peers.
  3. Creating an information rich environment by disseminating information in multiple forms. Acknowledgement that people have become time poor needs to be made, and videos, podcasts and other media are becoming a focus for information delivery to farmers.
  4. Developing a long-term strategy for the Australian dairy industry to enable farmers the confidence to reinvest in farm businesses and continue to see opportunities in the sector.

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