2007 President's Report
John R Williams
The shake-out in the Australian Dairy Industry continues, with this ever changing scenario, the requirement for economically efficient cows, has never been greater.
Deregulation has been the major catalyst for change in the industry. This change has continued unabated due to drought and irrigation availability. The result of these influences on industry demographics, means traditional dairy areas are no longer suitable for low cost milk production. This trend of relocation to more suitable dairy areas, along with an influx of New Zealand farmers with different ideas and alternative views on cattle breeding, has seen less tolerance for dairy breeds which exhibit health and management problems. For example, calving issues, and fertility which impact on profitability. These New Zealand farmers, come from a culture of successful cross-breeding to produce cows which thrive in the New Zealand dairy environment. Although farm debt increased nationally in 2007, and the predicted milk volume of 9.57 billion litres was down 5% on predicted levels, in the last few months, there have been signs of significant opportunity, as dairy prices have risen sharpley and look to remain strong. As a consequence, the demands for efficient, economic cows has persisted and our breed, with a focus on desirable dairy characteristics, must capitalise on this and meet market demand.
With the water crisis in the Murray Darling Basin, change in Government policy and economic viability, many irrigation farms have been forced to close or relocate to more favourable locations. None could be more dramatic than within the Meningie area in South Australia. Historically a vibrant irrigation area with reliable water quality from the Murray River, and Lake system of Albert and Alexandrina, combination of years of drought and poor flows into the catchment areas, has impacted most significantly in the past twelve months. The water is now too saline for crop production and animal consumption. In 2004, there were 47 dairies operating in the Meningie region, and there are now only 12, all except 2 are dryland dairies. The other dairies have either closed down, or relocated to the South East of South Australia, or areas of Western Victoria, where farms have access to water not reliant on the Murray system. It is in these regions that the demand for Aussie Red semen is increasing, presents us with opportunities, because of the critical mass and exposure.
In general the Australian dairy farmer is resilient and optimistic. At no other time in recent years, has there been such a demand for milk products, both nationally and internationally. The increased optimism of the past few months has seen the sale of semen to commercial dairy enterprises continue to grow. The performance of animals in herds and the positive exposure through on-farm field days has increased the awarness of the breed and contributed to the demand for ARDB genetics.
I had the opportunity to attend the field-day held at "Merebin Park", the property of Steve and Eileen Snowdon, held as part of Professor Les Hansen's visit to Australia in October, 2007. This series of field-days was well attended by both commercial dairy farmers and business industry representatives, and show-cased the characteristics we have striven to develop and promote in our breed over the past 20 years. Professor Hansen promoted the advantages of cross-breeding and provided updates from the large herd trials in California.
I was impressed with the fine herd at "Merebin Park", as well as the "Louvic" Herd of the Waltham family. They can both be well proud of their achievements. Feed back from Professor Hansen, and members of the Aussie Red Breed, who attended the field-days was equally positive. These are seed-stock herds of significance, which will produce more successful sires, with the depth of cow families now evident.
2007 saw the IRCC conference held in Denmark and Sweden. Unfortunately I was unable to attend due to family circumstances, however, a comprehensive report will be tabled from those who attended.
The ARDB continues to operate a strong Progeny Test program in conjuction with Genetics Australia. The resounding success of graduating bulls reflects the depth of female lines now available in seed stock herds. This selection process along with the transparent breeding process and the skill of breeders, come together to produce teams of high genetic merit bulls.
In conclusion it remains for me to thank those involved in the continuing function of the Aussie Red Breed. Also it would be remiss of me not to mention the passing of John Williams senior. He was part of the group who recognised the possibilities presented by the introduction of Scandinavian Red Dairy Genetics into the Australian Industry. Despit strong criticism, and active obfuscation, he lived to see the positive results of those early decisions and actions. It has been said by many of those who knew him, he was a man ahead of his time.
Indeed he epitomises the ARDB, a breed ahead of its time.