New co-op outlines positive vision for a strong, viable North East dairy industry

Mountain Milk Co-op founders this week began the public campaign to secure its future as a viable option for North East dairy farmers with its first community meeting at Dederang.

More than 50 dairy farmers on Wednesday listened to Mountain Milk chair Stuart Crosthwaite, consultant Patten Bridge and fellow founders Patrick Glass, Alice Holloway and Scott McKillop and peppered them with questions ranging from milk contracts and pricing to product range, funding and more.

“This is about the future of dairy farming in North East Victoria,” Mr Glass said.

Mr Glass, who chaired the meeting, closed by encouraging people to come forward with ideas or questions they had about the co-op. 

“We’re open to all ideas,” he said. 

“Our phone lines, our doors, are always open. If someone comes up with a gem of an idea that will make this more sustainable and dairy farming in the Alpine Valleys with Mountain milk a better prospect we’re open to all ideas.”

The co-op has been approached by key processors keen to secure its milk, but would not be drawn into a debate about Murray Goulburn’s dwindling milk pool or its buyout by Saputo.

“It’s great there’s interest … but we’ll take it one step at a time,” Mr Bridge told the meeting.

“It may well be that down the track that Saputo is a very good partner for Mountain Milk Co-op.

“We’re not wanting to rule anything out and we’re not trying to rule anything in. What we’re trying to do is have an open discussion with the processing sector about our options.”

The new co-op would consider supplying a portfolio of milk across multiple processors to spread risk.

Mountain Milk said it would pay the same price for milk solids regardless of whether farmers milked 100 or a 1000 cows, saying current supplier payments reflected processors’ business and not on-farm business.

“If we can get a longer-term more sustainable price, perhaps we don’t get the absolute highs, but if we don’t get the lows it makes our production systems far more sustainable over a period of time,” Mr McKillop said.

“It’s not just about the price, it’s about the margin we get as farmers.”