Mountain Milk Cooperative revives farming co-op in Murray Goulburn's Kiewa heartland

MOUNTAIN MILK: Directors of the new North East Victoriadairy co-op directors (from left) Scott McKillop, Ian Holloway, Alice Holloway, Stuart Crosthwaite and Pat Glass.
MOUNTAIN MILK: Directors of the new North East Victoriadairy co-op directors (from left) Scott McKillop, Ian Holloway, Alice Holloway, Stuart Crosthwaite and Pat Glass.

Just weeks after the demise of Murray Goulburn, North East Victoria’s strong links with dairy co-ops have been revived with the formation of Mountain Milk Cooperative.

Kiewa Valley farmers, assisted by the Federal Government’s Farming Together program, have registered the Mountain Milk Cooperative Ltd, which plans to have its milk on shelves by mid-2018.

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,” the new co-op’s chairperson Stuart Crosthwaite said.

“As farmers we want to have more control of our future, and not be directed by outside interests.”

Mr Crosthwaite is 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. 

The founding group comprises Stuart and Sarah Crosthwaite, Patrick and Kerrie Glass, Scott and Belinda McKillop and Ian and Alice Holloway.

Together the farming families produce about 18 million litres of milk.

“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,” Mr Crosthwaite 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.”

The Farm Co-operative and Collaboration Program has launched a free online co-op builder for other groups considering forming themselves into these tax-effective structures.

The simple, DIY template is available at www.farmingtogether.com.au

“This new co-op builds on the strength of Victorian dairying and carries that legacy forward into the future,” Farming Together program director Lorraine Gordon said.

“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.”

Potential processing partners should contact Patten Bridge, BridgeLogic Consulting on 0418 308 414.