The Australian Dairy Industry is a mature, modern industry, a world leader in Milk product preparation and one of the world’s most efficient producers of quality dairy products. It operates as an integrated industry across the whole dairy supply chain from primary production through manufacturing to retail and export sales.
In the 2008/2009 financial year, Australian dairy farms will produce in excess of 9.2 billion litres of high quality, safe milk.
The Australian Dairy Industry employs over 40,000 people directly on farms, and a further 60,000 people in manufacturing and various associated roles across Australia.
New Zealand and Australia dominate the world market in milk by contributing nearly 50% of all internationally traded dairy products.
The Dairy Industry is the largest processed food exporter in Australia, exporting around 900,000 tonnes of processed dairy products worth over $3billion in export revenue to over 100 countries around the world.
Governments in many countries have now realized and are coming to terms with the importance of Food Security. A number of countries have made short-term policy decisions aimed at addressing potential effects of reduced food supplies and rising food prices. Food security will have a major impact on existing and all future trade relationships.
Integrity of Milk Production
The Australian Dairy Industry is vigilant in its concern for the integrity of milk production.
The United States currently allows the use of a synthetic growth hormone known as “rBST” to achieve better yields in milk production. It is estimated that over 30% of US dairy herds have this growth stimulant (rBST). This issue has developed into a significant matter affecting the integrity of milk products and will become a major point of difference in the international trade of dairy products.
This hormone (rBST) is banned in Australia and New Zealand due to concerns relating to milk contamination.
Australian Quarantine and Biosecurity
Australia is relatively free from exotic diseases and pests. Our Quarantine and Biosecurity systems are focused on taking all reasonable steps to ensure that the Australian Dairy Industry is protected from exotic diseases and pests which may affect animals and feed.
Australian manufacturers produce a range of milk powders. New technology used in the production and use of powders has seen the range of specifications available from Australian manufacturers expand in line with customers’ needs.
The major export markets for Australian milk powders are concentrated in Asia, with 77% of SMP export volumes and 72% of WMP destined for the region in 2007/08.
It is estimated that over $9 billion is invested directly into dairy manufacturing and processing facilities in regional Australia with Australian dairy producers regarded amongst the most efficient in the world.
In terms of quality, safety and functionality dairy products from Australian and New Zealand origin are considered to be amongst the best in the world, and consequently command a premium.
Has one of the world’s few dairy industries which operates in a free and open market, where world market prices, that is export returns, determine the farmgate price paid for milk to every Australian dairy farmer.
Is the world’s third biggest dairy exporter with 13% share of overall world trade.
Sells about half its annual milk production to world markets.
Exports 85-90% of annual production of milk powders.
This international success is predicated on the worldwide recognition and acceptance of Australian Food Safety Assurance Standards and Certifications Systems.
Global dairy trade has been and is heavily distorted. Historically, foreign governments have paid subsidies to inefficient farm sectors resulting in seriously disrupted normal market mechanisms which cause massive fluctuations in prices and stress on consumer demand.
Australia’s dairy industry has continually increased its productivity and export competitiveness over a number of years. Yet, many overseas markets remain effectively closed to our products. Trade in international dairy products is one of the most distorted sectors of all agriculture. Less than 7% of total world dairy production is traded freely around the world. Countries like the US, EU, and Japan block access completely or impose huge tariffs such as Japan’s butter tariffs which exceed 400%.
Australian dairy farmers operate in a deregulated and open market; the only government involvement being in the administration of food standards and food safety assurance systems. The efficient Australian dairy industry has been consistently short-changed in world trade opportunities, fundamental reform of the international trade in dairy products is required.
A Brief History of Dairy Cattle in Australia
When the first colony of settlers was established at Port Jackson in 1788 it had one bull, four cows and one calf. It was intended that these animals would supply milk to the whole colony and serve as the foundation stock for future herds. In the ensuing four months, due to lack of feed and care this foundation herd wandered off and was lost.
Seven years later a herd of cattle was found some 60 kilometres away, along the Nepean River numbering 40 cows and 2 bulls. By 1796, the colonies’ herd had grown to over 200 cows and by 1800 to 1044 cattle. From that point cattle numbers grew rapidly and in 1825 there were 34,500 head.
During the first 150 years of dairying in Australia, the Jersey proved to be the most popular breed, particularly in Victoria. However during the latter half of the 20th century, British breeds with their higher than average fat and protein production levels were beginning to be replaced with new Australian breeds and Holstein Friesians, as the emphasis moved away from butter production and more towards increasing milk production levels per cow. Today, the Holstein Friesian comprises roughly two-thirds of the total milking dairy cattle population and is widely spread across all dairying areas of Australia.
Since the beginning of the Australian dairy industry, Australian dairy breeds have been undergoing constant improvement and refinement, using the very best of Australian and overseas genetics.
Today the Australian Dairy herd numbers over 2.2million head. The dairy industry is a large scale and intensive operation utilising the latest state of the art technology to produce whole milk. Cattle are milked on small farms where the national average herd size in year 2008 was 247 head, to large dairies which can milk up to 800 cows per hour, with some operating 24 hour per day with three equally spaced milkings every 24 hours.
More than 85% of dairy farmers use artificial insemination and access some of the best genetic material in the world. The genetic evaluation of dairy cattle is conducted by the Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Service (ADHIS), using one of the most sophisticated evaluation systems available. Improvements in herd genetics, pasture management practices and supplementary feeding regimes have seen the average yield per cow increase from 2,850 litres a year to around 5,250 litres over the past 25 years. Combining this increase in yield per cow with the increase in average herd size, the average annual milk production per farm has increased from 47,000 litres to 1,160,000 litres over the same period.