Earlier the farmer owner could make an income without having to milk cows every day and the young farmer could make a good income and save the surplus. After about 10 years, the sharemilker was in a position to buy a small farm.
Today, just to get onto the sharemilking ladder requires 200 per cent more capital than it did before. It appears the farm owner is no longer one farmer and their family, but a syndicate of investors or a corporate owner of some description. These owners have more debt than before, which means they need to retain more of the milk cheque to be viable. The end result is a young farmer starting today will likely never be able to work their way up to farm ownership.
A dairy farmer milks cows using a typical cowshed, they farm in the typical manner and they sell 100 per cent of their milk to a dairy company. The dairy company does all the processing, marketing and customer service. The farmer has no connection to the customer.
A few years ago, I decided to look for an alternative dairy farming model. The farmer of the future needs to farm with exceptionally high levels of animal welfare and have a very low environmental impact. Farmers can’t farm profitably and meet these two critical outcomes without a change in the business model.
Farmers need to take control of the entire value chain in order to make their businesses viable. Simply put, we need to bring back the local dairy farmer supplying their local market. It sounds simple, but it’s actually quite difficult. There are actually three businesses there – farmer, processor and distribution company.
I’ve started down the path to build a better, cleaner dairy farm model and then help others do it too.
To escape the costs (and debt) of property ownership, we’ve created mobile milking and bottling facilities. We lease the land for our 80 cows, milk once a day and deliver direct to markets, cafes and supermarkets.
Our vision is to provide an alternative dairy farming model that is designed to flourish in our modern world. And then provide support and knowledge for others to follow this pathway.