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The Murray region’s diverse geography and climate is matched by Murray dairy farmers’ diverse farming systems and processes. Learn more about the region here.

Region and industry trends

Murray Dairy is one of the largest dairy regions in Australia, producing 23 percent of our nation's milk, with all major milk processors operating in the region. Most of the region's milk production is associated with the Goulburn and Murray River systems via irrigation schemes.

The region's diverse geographical landscape that encompasses the vast irrigation area, the Murray and Goulburn Rivers, and includes high rainfall areas to the east including Corryong, and to the west, the Mallee landscape.

Download our Dairy drives regional prosperity factsheet for locations of the farms and manufacturers in our region.

Diversity in farming

The region’s diverse geography and climate is matched by Murray dairy farmers’ diverse farming systems.

In response to changing climate, policy and market driven influences, our region’s dairy farmers have worked to create highly adaptable, resilient dairy farming businesses. Here, farm business models range from low cost, entry-level systems to high production large-scale operations, with every business model in-between also represented.

Regional facts and figures

  Murray Dairy  National 
Number of farms  1490   6128  
Average herd size  291*   289  
Milk production 2015-16  2,268 million litres   9,731 million litres  
Dairy exports value (000 tonnes)  236  817  
Share of National exports - value  28%   100% 
Direct employment   8,000+  39,000 

Feed production: A competitive advantage

The region’s base for feed production is driven by irrigated agriculture. This production is supported by close proximity to cropping regions giving better and easy access to concentrate (grains) and fibre sources (hay, straw, silages) - boosting Murray’s competitive advantage.

Regional industry trends

The region’s industry continues to recover after a decade of dry conditions, seeing milk production drop in 2001 – 2002 from 3.0 billion litres down to 1.7 billion in 2009 – 2010.
2014 – 2015 saw a rise to 2.36 billion, however, dry conditions throughout 2015 - 2016 resulted in milk production dropping to 2.26 billion litres.

The current market and retail pressure on reducing milk prices is anticipated to further impact milk production over the coming period.

Reducing farm businesses is a continuing trend in the industry, with over 3,000 dairy farms in 2001, down to approximately 1500 today.

According to stakeholder tracking data May 2015, there was a trend towards planning for growth, however, according to stakeholder tracking data (February 2016), farmer confidence has dropped by 30%, and the likelihood for growth is expected to be lower over the next two to three years.

The response to continual changes in environment, the market and policy-making has, at a farm level seen the emergence of a range of dairy farming systems with a greater ability to adapt decision making in response to either seasonal, policy and/or market pressures or opportunities. Most noticeably has been an increasing shift away from perennial pasture based farming systems, which has historically been the preferred low cost input system whilst irrigation water availability and cost were stable.

Farming systems across the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District and Southern NSW regions are now mixed in forage type and incorporate a degree of flexibility in forage source which includes either home grown, contracted or brought in depending on the associated assessed risks. Decisions are predominately being driven by the fluctuation in water availability and price. The exception being the North East region which remains predominately a rain fed, low cost input system and has seen continued growth in milk production over a number of years.

The need for farm system change is emerging as the key issue and priority across the region. Ultimately the ability for the industry to remain profitable and sustainable will depend on the capacity for change and the skills and capability of both farmers and the service sector to drive adaptation in farm businesses, across the region.


Our Farm, Our Plan

Our Farm, Our Plan is a new program designed to equip farmers to clarify their long term goals, identify the actions needed and to manage uncertainty and risk.

Hay and grain reports

The hay and grain report is commissioned by Dairy Australia to provide an independent and timely assessment of hay and grain markets in each dairying region. The report is updated 40 weeks per year.

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