Another blow to the dairy industry

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Another blow to the dairy industry

In our business, we deal with people.  A LOT. From bankers, accountants, industry service providers, staff, training organisations, government bodies, R&D groups, solicitors, vets, other farmers and the general public.  And many more.

In dealing with all these people and groups, the most important part for us is building relationships.  Some of people that work on our farm (both directly and indirectly) we have known for years.  Before our kids were born.  They have been with us in the ups and the downs of the dairy industry.  They have been our counsel, our friends and our greatest supporters.  Many have stuck by us in times of low incomes (such as now) providing services that we couldn’t pay for right away.  They knew we would be good for it.  They knew we would be in it for the long haul.  They knew that we knew what we were doing.

There are a handful of people that work for companies that we have developed personal relationships with.  I know that this is also the case for other dairy farmers too.  So when one of them gets screwed by the company they work for, I am also affected.

Last week, ABS Australia held meetings and announced to their staff that a great proportion of them will be made redundant – approximately 40%.  (see Weekly Times article)  The reason given (as I read it on the social media network) is that they were dropping the service part of their business such as AI, freeze branding and dehorning.  OK, I can accept that there are others out there in the marketplace that are doing these things.  But, some of the people that were given their marching orders didn’t do these jobs.  The particular ABS guy that we use didn’t do anything remotely in relation to these jobs.  He was to sell semen and carry out the company’s GMS program.  A program, that I am lead to believe, is something that ABS is wanting to further develop and deliver to all its farmer clients.

Their timing couldn’t be worse.  Really.

A great number of dairy farmers supply MG and Fonterra and have had the rug pulled out from underneath them.  They are only now coming to grips with the impact that the decision to cut milk price will have on their business.  Our business is struggling.  I am happy to be open about that.  Our business that is currently being farmed by a 4th generation (on the same property), that has invested heavily in technology and development, that has access to great minds in service delivery and nutrition, that has vibrant, young and eager staff on board, is struggling.  I can only image what it is like for others out there.

And now, we are faced with the loss of one of the key people we use for our breeding program.  To say that I am disappointed and shocked doesn’t really express my feelings.

Getting breeding programs right on dairy farms is crucial.  We don’t just milk any cow.  We milk cows that are fit for purpose on our farm.  And this is different to someone else’s farm.  For a cow to enter the dairy, the process starts with the selection of the semen that will used over a particular cow to give us a calf that will display traits that we desire.  To get this right, there is much information that we need too wade through.  We cannot do it by ourselves.  It is ridiculous to think that we can be all things to the business.  This is why we use specialists in a range of professions.

Over the years, I have worked hand in glove with two semen reps.  They have assisted in tweeking our breeding goals and have taken personal interest in making sure that we are constantly moving towards the achievement of them.  They know the cow side of our business inside out.  Their knowledge base of our particular herd is as good as mine.  But it is more than that.

We love them.  We respect them and their judgement.  They are used within our business for slightly different aspects, but together with us, they form the backbone of the breeding team.  And now one of them is gone.  Forced to leave.  And I don’t understand why (as an aside, neither does he).

Not that long ago, the other one also faced a job crisis.  The company he was with changed ownership and whilst his job was still available, the changed conditions and expectations did not match his own professional goals.  So he left and took up a position with another semen company.  And we went with him.  Our AI program this year featured 50% of semen from this new company and 0% from his old company.

On the back of what has been going on within the dairy industry and the lack of REAL support from milk companies and government, ABS has done itself – I believe – a great disservice.  For us, our AI program is almost finished for the year.  But there are some farmers still in the midst or just starting.  They will be affected greatly.  It is just another blow to the dairy industry.

ABS clearly has not recognised that it is not really about the product.  It is all about relationships.  We didn’t stick with ABS all these years because of their great semen choice.  Believe me, there were some years there, where we were really scratching around to find bulls that would fit our system.  But we stuck with them.  There are any number of semen companies out there.  So why did we stay?  Because of our great relationship with our semen rep.  And why would we go?  Because of our great relationship with our semen rep.

Fortunately for our business, we have time up our sleeve to see where the cards fall for our guy.  He is knowledgable, approachable, reliable and an all round great bloke.  He will be snapped up for sure.  And it will be your loss ABS.

I’m guessing that in a few months time, the logos we will be wearing on our promotional gear will not bear the letters “ABS”.