The milk that dairy cows produce is processed into a range of consumer products, including fresh milk, cheese, custard and yogurt as well as long life products such as powdered milk.
Dairy farming is also one of Australia’s leading rural industries in terms of adding value through downstream processing. As a major regional employer, the industry value-adds through the processing of milk to produce fresh products such as butter, cream, cheese and yogurt. Much of this processing occurs close to farming areas, thereby generating economic activity in country regions.
In Australia, dairy cows are generally farmed to coastal areas with a mild climate and sufficient rainfall or access to irrigation to produce nutritious pasture. Victoria is the most prominent dairy farming state in Australia followed by Tasmania and New South Wales. About half of Australian dairy production is exported making the farm gate price closely linked to the export price. Australian dairy exports accounted for 6% of world dairy trade.
The Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) is the peak national representative of Australia’s dairy industry. Dairy Australia is the national services body for dairy farmers and the wider industry, investing in research and development to assist the industry adapt to achieve the most profitable returns possible. The Dairy Australia website provides extensive information about the industry and dairy farming, and is referred to extensively in the information provided here.
Facts and figures
- Australia’s national dairy herd stood at 1.51 million cows on 5,700 registered dairy farms across Australia
- Australia produces around 9 million litres of milk annually of which 37% is exported to countries such as Japan, China, Indonesia and Malaysia
- Dairy is Australia’s third largest rural industry
- The average size of a dairy farm herd has increased from 85 cows in 1980 to 261 cows
There are currently working dairies located in all states and territories of Australia. Victoria is Australia’s largest producer, accounting for about 64% of national production, followed by New South Wales with around 12%, Tasmania approximately 9%, Queensland about 5%, South Australia approximately 5%, and Western Australia around 4%.
Some areas are especially strong productive dairy regions due to climate, reliable water supplies and their proximity to fodder and grain growing regions. The Murray dairy region (an area spanning parts of southern New South Wales and northern Victoria) is an example of one such area where the farms are generally smaller, but carry more cows and produce more milk than the national average.
Australia’s sub-tropical dairy region, however, has a variety of environmental, climatic and production conditions which pose some unique challenges to dairy farming.