$9.20 for Organic Milk?

What are we to make of the latest pay promise of $9.20/kg ms for organic milk? $9.20 is a 60% is a rise from the current organic payout and a staggering 235% higher than the payout for conventional milk!

What does that mean?

It means, for one thing, that there has been a massive worldwide shift in the mindset of dairy product consumers. The fact that they're willing to pay a lot more for organic milk is a sure sign they're no longer comfortble ingesting the chemicals found in typical milk products.

They're saying NO to our penicillans and weed sprays and parasite pour-ons and saying YES to clean organic milk.

Here's what else it means. Farmers will need to take greater responsibility for adding value to the products coming off their farms. With recent low commodity prices, we've been critical towards dairy companies for not producing and marketing value-added products from the milk sent to them. We've expected the factory to add the value and increase our return.

Fair enough. I think that's a critical part of Fonterra's job.

But what if some of the onus is on us to supply Fonterra with a better value-added product to begin with? Products like organic milk. Wouldn't that put Fonterra in a stronger position to maximise our payout in a global market that clearly wants chemical-free products?

A small group of farmers are discovering that it does. These farmers (either certified organic or close to going organic) were brave enough to significantly alter their management practices some time ago. $9.20/kg ms will be the reward for their foresight.

Good for them. But where does that leave conventional farmers? What changes are we going to have to make in the way we run our dairy farms?

The most important change has nothing to do with Milk Solids, but everything to do with Grey Matter. We need a shift in our thinking.

When you read "changes in the way we run our dairy farms", what was your reaction? Running my farm organically will mean a drastic drop in production. It's impossible to run a farm without penicillin and weed sprays and pour-ons.

If that was your response, I completely understand.

I thought exactly that when I first contemplated the idea 19 years ago. I was so used to managing my farm with chemicals, the idea of dropping these synthetic practices seemed ludicrous! Like cutting off the branch I was sitting on!

But I made a start and discovered some crucial things.

First, I learned that I'd become brainwashed over the years. Where did the belief come from that all these chemicals were necessary for high production and good payouts? ANSWER: From the companies that made the chemicals! These corporate giants with their big marketing budgets were constantly promoting a version of science that lead to one inevitable conclusion: I needed the chemicals they were selling.

So I bought from them.

At some point, however, I focused on proving that good production was not determined by a high usage of nitrogen. At that time, the farm was growing 14 ton of dry matter per hectare while using 150 units of nitrogen per hectare. After adjusting my management, the farm grew 19 ton dm/ha from applying only 30 units of nitrogen per hectare. Same production with 80% less artificial nitrogen!

Over 10 years, I challenged and successfully changed a lot of conventional practices. Others went even further than I did. They're the ones that will collect $9.20/kg ms next year.

If you're thinking of joining the trend to move away from a heavy dependence on chemicals, can I suggest you take this first step: sack your conventional thinking consultant. He can't possibly think outside the chemical square because it's the chemical system itself that gives him an income.

Second, talk to a biological adviser who has been there and done that. They understand from experience how hard it is to think and act in news ways. They also know what to do and how to do it.

Third, be bold. Someone once said that fortune favours the brave. At $9.20/kg ms for organic milk, they're absolutely right!

David Law
Forward Farming Consultancy


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