Dairy farmers set up new Co- Op
FOUR Kiewa Valley famers hope to have their own brand of milk on supermarket shelves by next year.
To be known as the Mountain Milk Cooperative, together the families account for some 18 million litres of milk each year.
Although it is still early days, the group have been in casual discussions for the past two years - disenchanted with their relationship with processor, Murray Goulburn.
“We aren’t going to be dictated to, like we have in the past,” the new co-op’s chairperson, Stuart Crosthwaite, said.
“We know we do a good job - we care about our product and our animals - we are good farmers, and we have something of value we want to share.”
Mr Crosthwaite is a fifthgeneration farmer, milking 400 cows at Kergunyah South.
He said his family, along with the three others involved in Mountain Milk, successfully sought assistance from the Federal Government’s Farming Together program because they wanted to create a more positive outlook for the local industry.
“We felt it was time to act,” Stuart said.
Late last month Murray Goulburn announced plans to sell the co-op’s assets to Canadian-based Saputo Dairy Australia for $1.3 billion - sending further shock waves through the dairy industry after 24 months of uncertainty.
“The last two years have been incredibly stressful - and that’s been largely because of Murray Goulburn’s self-destruction - but this isn’t a Murray Goulburn thing, none of the other companies are better.
“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.
“As farmers we want to have more control of our future, and not be directed by outside interests.”
The founding group comprises Stuart and Sarah Crosthwaite, Patrick and Kerrie Glass, Scott and Belinda McKillop, and Ian and Alice Holloway.
The Farming Together program has appointed dairy consultant Patten Bridge to assist the group.
“Our vision is to create a new generation dairy cooperative which will provide ongoing benefit and jobs to the communities of North East Victoria,” Mr Crosthwaite 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.”
Farming Together program director, Lorraine Gordon, said the new co-op builds on the strength of Victorian dairying and carries that legacy forward into the future.
“These are committed farmers dedicated to their industry and their community and it has been a privilege to help them prepare for sector change,” she said.
“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 longterm sustainability of their enterprises.”
The Farm Co-operative and Collaboration Program have launched a free online co-op builder for other groups considering forming themselves into these taxeffective structures.
Potential processing partners should contact Patten Bridge, Bridge-Logic Consulting on 0418 308 414.
NEW MARKET PLAYER: The four farming families and their advisor (from left) Sarah and Stuart Crosthwaite, Kerrie and Patrick Glass, Belinda and Scott McKillop, Alice and Ian Holloway, and Farming Together consultant Patten Bridge.