Is farming different over the ditch?

By Ann Thompson, Federated Farmers Dairy Industry Policy advisor

Depending on where you go in Australia, farming can be a remarkably different experience to farming here. However, some things such as public perception, water, milk price, animal welfare and bureaucratic red tape are remarkably similar.

In April, members of the Federated Farmers Dairy Executive team travelled to Adelaide to meet up with their Australian counterparts, the Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF). This joint sharing of dairy industry knowledge has been an annual occurrence for some years. With it we have seen operations in southwest Queensland and Tasmania and they have travelled to New Zealand, where we showed them dairy farming on the West Coast and in Canterbury.

Because of our seasonal dairy industry, we are geared to deal with bobby calves en masse. Many Australian farms calve all year round. As a consequence of our annual influx, New Zealand has good systems in place for dealing with the welfare of bobby calves which the ADF is keen to learn about. The ADF, like Federated Farmers, helps inform government policy so the Federation's New Zealand experience is invaluable.

New Zealand and Australia also deal with carbon emissions differently. New Zealand faces the prospect of our animal-sourced carbon emissions being taxed in the near future, while the Australian Government has elected to exclude them.

We both, however, pay emission taxes on electricity and transport costs. Emissions trading is a great subject for debate.

The trip to South Australia, financed by DairyNZ in recognition of the integral part we play in the Strategy for New  Zealand Dairy Farming, was to the Fleurieu Peninsula south of Adelaide. This base allowed us to easily visit the mouth

of the Murray River. The Murray and its supporting Darling River is the third-largest river system in the world and affects 90 per cent of Australia's population.

It is no wonder everyone has an opinion on what should be done to improve the health of this river. Our host, who gave a talk on the most important outcomes for South Australia, which of course also wouldbe very beneficial for the other

states, had several. As expected, some members of the participating group had different ideas.

The Darling River starts in Queensland, goes through New South Wales and merges with the Murray on the border of Victoria and NSW to finally end up in South Australia. At present there are serious negotiations going on between the different states and the Federal Government about the health of the river system. There is no solution in the short term as the financial interest is huge for the individual parties. The recent deluge has eased the environmental pressure substantially, but it also eased the pressure to find a solution.

The wildlife in the delta is amazing, particularly bird life. There has been a huge increase in the seal population in the past couple of years and now they are wondering why the penguin numbers are dwindling.

While Adelaide is associated with the Barossa Valley and wines, we were treated to visits to a couple of the local Fleurieu Peninsula vineyards, a goat farm, several dairy farms and the local fresh milk factory.

- Hamilton News

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