Dairy farm­ers set up new Co- Op

North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - NEWS -

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.

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