Getting Started targets succession planning in the North East dairy industry

Stuart Crosthwaite
Stuart Crosthwaite

SUCCESSION planning has long plagued agriculture with few industries willing to take the bull by the horns.  

Collective approaches such as workshops have largely failed because by nature they can’t individually address diverse farm and family operations. 

Kergunyah dairy farmer Stuart Crosthwaite said the age-old problem of succession planning was a priority for the industry in the North East.

He said 62 per cent of dairy farmers were aged over 50 in this region.

“Two-thirds of our farmers are over 50 and in a lot of cases much older than that,” he said.

“As an industry that’s a model that’s not working.”

The Alpine Valleys Dairy Pathways Project began in 2011 to target succession planning among its priorities.

Mr Crosthwaite said the Pathways Project led to a Getting Started pilot two years ago to address generational change in farm ownership.

He said they now had funding to extend the program for another two years.

“We quickly realised in order to help young people into the industry, we had to help older people out,” Mr Crosthwaite said.

“Getting Started focused on the older generation because they owned and controlled the assets.

“The second phase will open it up to the younger people coming through; it’s one-on-one help for about 30 young people.”

Mr Crosthwaite said there was a poor perception of agriculture including dairy in recent years.

“I don’t think the community realises the business case for running a dairy operation,” he said.

“The top end of our farmers are making a 10 to 20 per cent return on assets. That’s in light of some pretty poor milk prices.”

Mr Crosthwaite said education was also key for the future of the industry.

He said dairy modules had been incorporated into the science program at Tallangatta Secondary College. 

“They started with five or six kids four years ago and have about 50 doing it this year,” he said.

For more information about Getting Started phone Stuart Crosthwaite on 0428 289 515 or Patten Bridge on 0418 308 414 or patten@bridgelogic.com.au.