Archive for Crazy Cow In Print

Pat “Cowboy” Conroy – Shooting straight and straight shooting

Pat Conroy’s piercing blue eyes are as recognizable as his distinctive Minnesotan-born drawl – punctuated by the spit from some tobacco chew tucked securely inside his bottom lip.

Pat has earned his stripes in the industry at every level. And he’s at the top of his game.

Pat and Jeannie Conroy have two children, Kaiden and Zailey. The family call Angola, Indiana, USA, home.

When Pat’s not picking Champions, he’s usually leading them and/or owning them. He has fought for his position in the industry from nothing, using determination and competitiveness. Yet he carries himself nowadays with a quiet confidence and a certainty about where he fits in the industry. He is respected for his ability, honesty, and straight-shooting personality.

While he says he never wanted to judge – nor liked it initially – Pat allowed himself to be drawn into it for a reason. In August, he judged the Western New York Regional Show on the 18th, before flying to Brazil to judge at Agroleite five days later. Two days after that he landed in Australia to oversee the New South Wales State Holstein Show on August 25 and 26. His three days in Nowra was a long way from home, and his own preparations for WDE and The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, Canada.

Pat Conroy about to accept Grand Champion from WDE 2015 Holstein judge Nathan Thomas on behalf of Lovhill Goldwyn Katrysha. Pat led Katrysha for her owners MilkSource Genetics of Kaukauna, Wisconsin. That year Pat also judged WDE’s Red & White Holstein show. Photo: The Bullvine.

His 2016 judging résumé alone notably included the Holsteins at WDE, the Swiss Expo Holstein Show and the European National Show. In 2015 he judged WDE’s Red & White Holstein Show, and he was the 2013 WDE’s Junior Holstein Show judge.

Pat has also judged the 2014 All-American Jersey Show in Harrisburg, and the 2015 Brown Swiss Expo in Switzerland.

Boxed and loaded

Pat says when he left home, he had a box of Holstein World magazines, his clothes and little else.

He began cattle fitting aged 16, and by the time he was 19 was working every day of the year in his chosen profession. Pat’s career came at a time when there were a lot of talented fitters available in a busy industry, and he had to be hungry to succeed – let alone to just survive. For the next 16 years, preparing cattle for shows and sales ruled Pat’s life. It took him coast-to-coast in the USA, and into Canada, Mexico, Columbia, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Australia.

The competition and his passion kept him sharp.

“Fitting was something I always wanted to do. I always wanted to be around good cattle, and to have the opportunity to work with them. There was a good competition between us all at that time, and from the start, I always wanted to outdo the next guy.”

Pat owns 50 head of show cattle across North America and Europe. Pictured is one of them, Hallow Atwood Twizzle EX93-Max, the 2016 Grand Champion at Cremona, Italy. Pat owns her with All Nure and Gary Jones. Photo: The Bullvine.

Box cut

He pauses, before adding: “Wanting to win made you think. If you don’t have some competitiveness, you stay in neutral. Young guys today – and some won’t like hearing this, but it is true – all they want to do is clip, and that’s it.

“I’m finding that many young people don’t maybe know what a good one is supposed to look like, and so they cut them all in the same.

“Our industry has promoted a lot of bulls over the years that sired a lot of high-pinned heifers. Yet, I’ve seen a lot of fitters still leave big hair on those heifers’ chines – which just makes it worse. They don’t see that the logical thing is to mow her chine off to make her look a little more balanced.”

Skills clipped

“And, I’ll be honest with you – and probably the generation above me said this about us – hardly any of the current crop of fitters would have survived in our era. They don’t know how to work, and a lot of them aren’t good cow people. So, if a cow is sick, they don’t know what to do – they disappear like a flock of birds when the going gets tough. They’re just clippers, that’s it.

“They’ve been spoiled and spoon-fed because there’s a shortage of fitters. In our day, you had to be good or no-one hired you. Now, they can be busy every week. Everyone wants US$250 a day when they start working, and kids now all seem to need a safe place if someone says something they don’t like. What is that? My wife and I have robust discussions about this all the time – I think it’s important that kids learn how to work hard and take the knocks.”

He says intelligent hard-working fitters remain potential game-changers.

“Good clipping really does make a big difference on heifers – on cows, not so much. You can make a good heifer great by the way she’s prepared and managed – no question. Equally, you can make a great heifer middle of the road if you don’t get her preparation right.”

Decrausaz Iron O’Kalibra EX97 wowed the world. The thrice Swiss Expo Grand Champion was one of the few cows Pat Conroy chose stay with for her entire ride. Photos: Wolfhard Schulz.

Fitting into ownership

As he grew into his fitting career, Pat started to focus on building capital. He says it wasn’t hard to become addicted to buying cows – and he fearlessly backed himself. Decrausaz Iron O’Kalibra EX97 remains his personal pick.

Born September 4, 2008, O’Kalibra would go on to be the 2013 European Champion, thrice Grand Champion at the Swiss Expo (2012, 2013 and 2015) and the 2015 All-World Champion. She is Europe’s most famous cow, and the vibrations of her influence were also felt in Australia, when her Goldchip daughter sold for an Australasian record price of $112,000 in 2015.

Usually when he buys, Pat intends to sell them on. It’s the reality of a cattle marketer’s life. However, this time he chose to stay with O’Kalibra until the end, which came in May this year when she passed away.

O’Kalibra was bred by Fredy Decrausaz & Sons. Sired by Boss Iron, she was out of an EX90-2E Integrity daughter, followed by a VG89 Milestone. She had the width Pat loved, and a pedigree they could work with.

“O’Kalibra was just such a good doer and so aggressive. We had a lot of fun with her,” he says.

“She was game-changing for me and she was cheap in the end for what she did for us all. And she was special to me because this time I co-owned her all the way through. There’s been a lot I’ve sold through the years – and you love to see them do well for other guys – but once in a while, there’s one you want to keep.”

Throwing a fit…  

He smiles as he remembers the day he first saw her, saying he experienced the feeling cowmen often describe when they see a cow they have to have. It is a moment when the world seems to stand still – when the hairs raise up on the back of their necks. And there’s absolutely no hesitation. They just know they need to be part of her journey.

Pat says if he wasn’t so determined he could have easily missed getting aboard the O’Kalibra train.

“They didn’t want to sell part of her at first,” he laughs. “I honestly threw a fit like a kid, because I was so mad. I did – I threw a fit until I got my way. She was one of those cows I had to have, for sure.”

Win some – lose some

Typically honest, Pat is quick to balance the glory with the risk.   

“I’ve lost a lot of money too on cows too. There was four of us in a partnership and we paid US$160,000 for a cow. I thought she’d be a cow to be Champion at Madison [WDE] and the year I had in my mind she could do it, she died. I didn’t have insurance on her, and I was fairly young at the time so it was a fair kick in the teeth. It took a lot to rebound from that one because it kind of cleaned me out.

“Usually the first loss is the best one.

“I built back up, and I made another dumb decision. Three of us bought a nice cow for US$98,000 and a week later she got on the trailer and split her bag. That hurt too.”

He says buying and selling commercial cattle is a big part of his business today because the work is consistent and busy. The commercial cattle help him enjoy registered cattle. They also help underwrite his “addiction” to show cows.

Judgement day

His journey into judging evolved naturally. While he wasn’t interested, he did have strong opinions that weren’t always in line with popular thought. It is part of the reason he dons a suit more often than he’d perhaps like to.

“Somebody asked me to do a County Fair once and I said I’d do it, but it wasn’t a great experience. I thought to myself: ‘I’m never going to judge again’, but then I got asked again, and I did it and it ended up being a nice show. The biggest reason for me personally to start judging is that I got sick of narrow, high-pinned, bad-footed cows winning because they were black.

“For me, that was the biggest push. I thought somebody has got to step up and change this a bit. I think that maybe some guys who milk cows every day come to the show and they see those high-pinned, narrow cows winning and they make fun of the showing business. We’re supposed to have these high-type cattle, and to their eyes, those cattle are not functional.

“That seems to become negative publicity for the show industry. I’m not on Facebook, but I do watch the question of the week on Dairy Agenda, and I read the comments, and they’re always negative about the show industry. I want to do something to help change that for the breeders that don’t necessarily show.”

Playing favourites

Sheeknoll Durham Arrow becoming immortal at last year’s WDE when judge Pat Conroy made her Grand. She is led by her breeder/owner Jeannette Sheeham, from Sheeknoll Farms at Rochester, Minnesota, USA. Photo: The Bullvine.

That brings him to his favourite cow he has made Grand Champion to date: the 2016 WDE Grand Champion, Sheeknoll Durham Arrow. Bearing in mind, there were 2423 animals at Madison in 2016 – including 640 Holsteins (the biggest breed show) and WDE welcomed 74,000 visitors from 102 countries through its gates last year. There is always a massive audience ring-side for the Holstein judging, and the pressure resting on the sole person to award Grand should never be underestimated.

“I think because I grew up at WDE in Madison, it was the show,” Pat says. “Making that cow [Arrow] Grand was fun and a good experience. I didn’t make her Grand because she was a no-name cow before the show and I wanted to find a new Grand Champion, like some – no doubt – thought. She won it because she deserved it. It was just nice that the cow got ready on her own, she looked the part, and she was an easy fit that day.

“Madison was the easiest show to judge because you can find your kind and just go for it. At some of the other shows, you make cows Champion, that perhaps don’t excite you – but they’re the best ones there on the day. You play the cards you’re dealt.”

Heifers need width

He stays true to form on the type of show heifers that he believes will go on and make cows.

“Some people might bust my arse a bit for this, but I’ll take a heifer a little thicker, and I’m okay with that if they’re sound. The Quebec guys – and many of them are my friends – don’t like the style of cows I like. They’ll take them narrow and black.

“I’ve always liked the stronger ones, because if there ever a problem at any of the farms I’d be working at, the one that was sick and off her feed was always the narrow one. Always.

“And then I started taking care of my own heifers when I bought my first little place and I would have heifers in and that included the big black fancy ones I bought, and shouldn’t have. When I’d go to grain them and it was -60 [-15 degrees Celsius], the one standing in the corner sucking their thumb would always be the narrow one.   

“So, personally I can’t stand skinny heifers. It makes their legs look bad and they don’t have any substance. Maybe the next guy could take them skinny, but not for me. Heifers need to have muscle tone – like an athlete.”

Give it a couple of years…

Pat says patience is a virtue in the judging game.

“I always remember what they say if they’re unhappy with how I place them, and then I’ll wait a couple of years and have the conversation again. Not that I’m always right, by any means, but it’s interesting to see which of those animals last, develop and breed back,” he smiles.

The eternal question the industry has wrestled with has been the term “dairy strength”, and because it is subjective, it has proven to be an oft-confusing conversation.

“That’s another thing that pushed me into judging,” Pat says. “People have the assumption that ‘skinny’ is ‘dairy’. It’s not the case.” He says there’s a huge difference between “dairy strength” and being “half starved”.

“I think if the people making those calls had to write a cheque for one, milk them every day and calve them down, they’d learn quite a bit that way – and that includes the AI guys who don’t own or work with cattle, but who have had a role to play in starting this narrow high pins dairy, dairy, dairy crusade.”

Progress going backwards?

The impact of genomics and changing dynamics continues to be a concern when it comes to the future of shows, says Pat.


“I don’t want to be negative, and say there won’t be many shows in 10 to 15 years, but I’m afraid that might be the truth. I know how much it’s changed in the last 20 years, and I wonder where it will be in 20 more years.”

Pat says if he could use a time machine to choose his time to be involved in the industry, he would take the late 1980s and early 1990s.

“I’m certainly grateful for my career so far, but I almost would have loved to have been that earlier era when it was very competitive, and there was lots of investors,” Pat said.

“There were no cell phones, and no internet – it was exciting. Once in a while I grab one of my old Holstein Worlds and look through them, and it’s kinda depressing because we’re never going to have that again. It’s almost like the party’s over a little bit. I don’t know how we’ll ever get it back.”

Madison whispers

Pat confirms that this year’s lead-up to WDE in October is not rife with the usual energy and excitement that comes with cows changing hands for big money. The game has changed, and most marketers’ inventories remained available for sale when CrazyCow went to print.

“Certainly with the milk price we’ve lost a lot of good breeders and I think there’s just a bit of a negative atmosphere because of that,” Pat says. “The top-tier buyers that I would normally be selling to are disappearing. And so, the ones that are left aren’t faced with as much buying competition for animals.

“It used to be that you’d get a lot sold before the show because potential buyers knew if they looked at an animal one day and liked her, they better buy her because there’d be someone else coming to look at her the next day.   

“At Madison, I think the final-tier guys will buy there, but they don’t have to be in a hurry right now because they know that the guys like me that are selling have ultimately got to sell them – that’s our business – and there’s only limited competition, so they’re going to be patient.”

Comical source

It’s a long way from the days when Milk Source, Butlerview, Arethusa, Gene Iager, West Coast, Gerald Todd, Howard Binder Jr and Clark Woodmansee (to name a few) were all competing strongly.

By the time everyone converges on the showgrounds at Madison, Pat says animals will then be compared with others on-ground – everyone will have an opinion – and the white noise will be distracting for buyers trying to make decisions.

“I think it’ll be so cut throat this year, and there’ll be a fair bit of back stabbing. It will be quite comical, I bet,” he smiles.

“And, some of that attitude can also be attributed, I think, to people who are doing a helluva good job at shows and when others know they can’t compete with them, they are starting to say: ‘Why go?’.”

In Wisconsin, that’s getting fairly evident because Milk Source and Budjon – to cite just two – are doing great jobs and it’s expensive to show and if you don’t want to sell an animal it makes it harder to pay for it all.”

Shrinking industry heightens ‘tall poppy’

He says the shrinking industry is heightening the tall poppy syndrome and jealousy within the US registered industry.

And he doesn’t back away from it.

“Shit, I almost feed off it a little bit. It’s like a pack of wolves in a pen. If you throw enough meat in there, it’s fine. If there isn’t enough meat, it gets pretty fierce. And the dairy industry is at that same point in the US, I think. There are a lot of wolves and not a lot of meat.

“Sometimes, I think I wouldn’t care if I never went to another show again, but the truth is I’ll never quit. I get too psyched about it.

“I said I wasn’t going to buy a thing for the rest of the year, and I bought a heifer a couple of weeks ago, and I’ll buy one at Madison too. I know I will.”

For more great articles like this one check out Crazy Cow in Print  CrazyCow In Print, Australia’s favorite dairy magazine is produced by the well-known names behind Bluechip Genetics: Dean and Dianna Malcolm.


Be sure to check full coverage of this week’s Le Supreme Latier where Pat will be serving as the official Holstein show judge.







Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.





Australian dairy has a precious chance to ‘get it right’

The heart of Australia’s dairy industry in Victoria is struggling through one of the toughest winters in living memory – as some milk companies continue to send farmers to the wall with undoable opening milk prices.

Mud sticks and none more so than the mud on Murray Goulburn’s reputation. As some farmers deal with a tough winter – they are also facing milk pricing challenges they never dreamed could happen. Photo: Sheila Sundborg

Mud sticks and none more so than the mud on Murray Goulburn’s reputation. As some farmers deal with a tough winter – they are also facing milk pricing challenges they never dreamed could happen. Photo: Sheila Sundborg

Farmer co-operative Murray Goulburn historically led the industry on pricing, processing more than one-third of Australia’s 9.6 billion milk pool. But the rhetoric has been hot and heavy since the news broke that the co-op would struggle to meet half of its net profit forecast that was outlined in the prospectus for its partial float on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) less than a year ago.

The feedback from other processors is damning – when it comes to the management strategies MG used and has tried to justify.

To recap

MG’s Managing Director, Gary Helou — who was MG’s highest paid CEO in history — resigned April 27, after he massively overestimated sales figures, plunging the company’s 2400 suppliers into a financial tub of iced water.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Fonterra then announced the price it paid its farmer-suppliers would immediately drop from between $6 and $5.60 for every kilogram of milk solids to just $4.75-$5/kg — equivalent to as little as 35c a litre of milk.

And it got worse

Not only would prices be slashed immediately, but they would be backdated or imposed retrospectively to the beginning of the 2015-16 financial year or milk season.

This meant that every litre of milk sold to MG and Fonterra during the past 10 months — for which farmers have already been paid — they are now paying back.

MG and Fonterra have offered low-interest loans, repayable after three years.

Or, the debt can be erased if suppliers accepted 14c a litre for their milk for the two months until July.

Some farmers could see no way out, and sent whole herds to slaughter. Suicides have become an overwhelming concern for the industry.

And opening milk prices (stripping away the confusing layers of smoke and mirrors) from July have been cold comfort – MG at best is $4.45/kgMS or 34c/litre and Fonterra has announced at $4.75/kgMS or 36.5c/litre. Australia’s cost of production is closer to 45c/litre. And one of the MG directors also named in the lawsuits that have followed MG’s fall from grace – Philip Tracy – remains as MG’s current leader.

Where to now

Increasingly, it appears the only way for Murray Goulburn (MG) to pave the road to recovery is to appoint an honest and approachable Chief Executive Officer (CEO), who understands the dairy industry and appreciates its co-operative culture.

Farmer lobby group Farmer Power rose up and has called MG on everything, asking for a 50c levy to be imposed on milk sales. Meanwhile, industry appointed industry watch-dogs (supported by farmer levies) have struggled to find their teeth.

Urban ally

Presenter Waleed Aly from Melbourne television show “The Project” (the 2016 Gold Logie winner) arguably did more for the industry in one newscast than many have ever been able to do. The result? The consumer listened. And sympathised. And bought branded milk. It proved one thing: the urban audience values Australian farmers.

Supported by intelligent and dogged journalism across mainstream media, MG — in particular – had few places left to hide.

Joe Aston, of the Australian Financial Review newspaper, called MG out for allowing Philip Tracy to take MG’s helm, given he was part of the initial board.

“Hasn’t Murray Goulburn’s Philip Tracy picked up right where ousted chief executive Gary Helou left off?” he wrote. “The dairy Chairman had an opinion piece in Melbourne’s Herald Sun on Thursday, which we’re seriously considering framing – so memorable it is for a scarcity of logic.

“Remember that on his watch, Murray Goulburn loaded the balance sheet with debt to lock in a decade of volume growth at paltry margins, failed to penetrate with its relaunched Devondale brand, and repeatedly fell short of profit forecasts, all while unrealistically promising its farmers $6 per kilo for milk solids, then retrospectively yanking it back to $4.75 and diluting 38 per cent of their equity to outside interests.

“Yet now Tracy sheets the blame to falling global dairy commodity prices and the fact that ‘Australia produces 35% more milk than it can possibly consume’.”

Trouser-deal stink

The journo also disagreed with Philip Tracy’s argument that MG’s 10-year contract to supply Coles with private-label milk was a “very good deal for our farmers”.

“Sorry, but the Coles deal is a stinker for Tracy’s farmers. The contract includes a rise-and-fall provision so Coles trousers the greater margin when commodity prices are lower. And if, as Tracy claims, Coles is paying MG a premium above the farm-gate price (and who knows which price he’s talking about – the real price or the one he recently foisted on his suppliers), then why aren’t the farmers seeing any of it flow back to them? Oh and that ‘much-needed investment’ he’s talking about are the factories (built with bank debt) that pump out more milk than anyone can drink, thus creating the oversupply he was earlier blaming for MG’s woes. Go figure.”

No one had to go far to find the bad guys in this story – it lands at MG’s door, and to a lesser degree, Fonterra’s.

It led to May 16, when class action specialist lawyer Mark Elliott launched legal proceedings on behalf of unit-holders in MG, alleging the dairy company and its board misled investors in a product disclosure statement (PDS) issued last May. (Mark Elliot is a former partner of Minter Ellison, but in the past couple of years alone, the now-sole solicitor has launched several shareholder class actions, including against Banksia Securities, Leighton Holdings, Treasury Wine Estates, Downer EDI and WorleyParsons.)

In a statement of claim filed with the Victorian Supreme Court, Mark Elliott alleged MG knew sales forecasts in the PDS were “unlikely to be achieved” on the very day it filed the fundraising document, May 29.

Enter the watchdogs

The action comes on top of investigations by corporate regulator the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and competition watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Mark Elliott, who is acting for lead plaintiff John Webster (as trustee of Elcar Pty Ltd Super Trust Fund) in the class action, alleges every member of the Board at the time — including chairman Philip Tracy and then-CEO Gary Helou — are liable to pay compensation because they “each consented to the inclusion of the misleading PDS representations”.

Mark claims MG breached the Corporations Act by failing to disclose any problems when it listed on July 3, 2015, even re-affirming its forecasts as late as October 26, at its annual general meeting.

MG units plunged on February 26 this year when the company initially downgraded its profit forecast, and again on April 27 when it released a second downgrade.

The Directors who were named in the lawsuit are: Philip Tracy, Gary Helou, Kenneth Jones, Natalie Akers, William Bodman, Peter Hawkins, Michael Ihlen, Edwin Morris, Graham Munzel, John Pye and Martin Van De Wouw.

Damning words of fairness

One of the most damning commentaries came from Bega Cheese’s CEO Barry Irvin later in the proceedings. He resisted saying anything publically for a month, but in the end it became too much for him.

“It’s an emotional thing for me,” Barry said. “Trust is built by your actions, it’s not built by rhetoric. It’s built by actually doing things and understanding the impact of those things on the people that do indeed trust you.

“We’re a very polite industry, the dairy industry. We don’t name people and I actually think the trust is also cultural, and I think if we don’t be public and we don’t address this [MG’s price cuts] in a very direct way, we will see this happen again, and again and again.”

“When MG cut the price — and I want to be fair here — no one was mentioning Fonterra because they were openly saying the price was too high. Not only do they [MG] cut the price, they elect to hold a profit, and that doesn’t feel fair to me. And it doesn’t feel like it builds trust.”

Collective ‘fluff’

“The actual price for May and June is almost impossible to work out because it’s hidden by something that is called a ‘milk supply support programme’. It sounds like a collective loan to me.

“If you give somebody money, and you ask for it back with interest, to me that’s a loan, and that’s what it should be called. And the speaking should be plain.

“Why did we [Bega Cheese] not drop our price? Because it was the wrong thing to do. Bega had to hold its price because that’s the commitment we made. Whether it’s legal or whether it’s moral I don’t actually mind. It’s a moral commitment so I’ll hold and I’ll take the pain and I’ll build trust over a long period of time — by my actions, not by my words, and not by my rhetoric.

“And so for me, this is about actions, demonstrating that you’ve thought very deeply about the lives you affect. I had a 26-year MG supplier who burst into tears while she was begging me to take her milk. That’s not what we should have in this industry. We have a long way to go to build trust back.

Unfair impact

“Sadly, for me I’ve spent my life trying to build trust and I am actually impacted by this. Because suspicion doesn’t stop at a particular company — the damage to the industry goes across the industry.”

Gippsland-based Burra Foods has also been open about its position, with its CEO Grant Crothers not mincing words.

Its website says: “We all know we are in a volatile and cyclical industry, but the selfish disregard that MG has shown to its supply base is culpable (which may well be confirmed by ASIC, ACCC and/or a Class Action).

“The cycle is against us, as has been the case for some time now. Fonterra NZ was honest about the outlook some 12 months ago, enabling the NZ industry to prepare as best as possible for the cyclical low, whereas our ‘industry leader’ decided their new business model could withstand the downward pressure.”

Less honesty, more fallout

“At Burra we were extremely suspicious and gave as many indications as possible that a $6 or even $5.60 milk price was unsustainable. In the end, MG could not defy gravity any longer and the fallout is significantly worse than if they had been more honest with themselves and their stakeholders at a similar time as Fonterra NZ.

“Personally, I am ashamed to be grouped as a processor with MG and recently refused the opportunity to sit on a panel with [Philip] Tracy as I don’t want to be grouped as a processor with the current MG Board and senior management. I have more invested in the industry than most, have been adding more value to it than most for an extended period of time, and I value transparency and communicating the best information possible to stakeholders — our values refer to it as respect.”

Hubris contained at MG

Grant Crothers went on to say that dairy is viable going forward.

“This speed bump is a steep one, made worse by management hubris at the largest processor. Thankfully there is competition in our industry and that some organisations have a stronger set of values than MG, the financial hybrid that continues to refer it itself as a Co-Operative.”

The in-house commentary appears to overwhelmingly support a clean slate for MG with fresh legs, fresh ideas, more transparency and less jargon-loaded press releases.

Co-ops have a place

Paul Kerr, CEO and Executive Director of Australian Dairy Farmers Corporation (ADFC), says he still believes in the co-operative model, and that MG should be the leading co-operative in Australia.

Paul spent 27 years at MG, including 11 as its COO. He is a current member of accounting body CPA Australia, and the Governance Institute of Australia.

He says that dairy-farming nations in the western world are dominated by co-operatives and without that model, farmers have “no chance” of a fair price.

“People will say they are only taking the market price in a co-operative. But they are also having a say in the costs up the chain, and what markets they’re going into – not just getting what someone wants to pay them,” Paul says.

Processors must collaborate

Paul also believes the future of the dairy industry lies in the 250-500-cow family farm.

“Because it is the family farm that can manage the market volatility, and it has the heart to manage its cost structure and it can weather the storms. There’s nothing like a family farm. We should be trying to create a lifestyle. That’s what we’ve got to get back in to in the industry. It’s a people game, and farming is about farmers being profitable. It’s not about big corporations and robots.”

He hopes for more collaboration between processors moving forward in a way never before achieved.

“We need this industry to be attractive to our younger people. We have got to make sure farms are profitable. And as milk processors, we should also be collaborating with other companies to take the costs out of the supply chain.”

CCIP51_June16_Cvr (002)

Check out more great articles like this in the latest edition of Crazy Cow In Print

Anger will die down…

He said farmer apathy would help no one.

“Dairy farmers are angry today. They’ll be a little less angry tomorrow. It’ll die down. It’ll rain, the grass will grow, the cows will start calving and all of a sudden it’s the peak of the season. You get tied up in your own world. It’s human nature.

“If I’m really positive about all of this, I see it as farmers having a great opportunity right now to move forward in a positive way.”

BREXIT – The Beginning of the End Of The EU?

Bruce Jobson

Bruce Jobson

The whys and wherefores of the UK’s EU referendum

At the end of June, the UK voted on whether or not to stay in the European Union (EU).  CrazyCow’s Dianna Malcolm asked British dairy specialist Bruce Jobson — and CrazyCow’s own Europe correspondent — to explain the reasons for the referendum.

DM “How did the UK’s referendum on the EU come about?”

BJ “Many British people have had longterm concerns with regard to continued EU membership. During the 2015 general election, Prime Minister David Cameron stated that if his ruling Conservative Government was re-elected for a second term, he would hold a referendum — albeit after he had negotiated terms for a reformed agreement with the EU.

The negotiations took place earlier this year and Mr Cameron has recommended that the British electorate vote in favour of remaining in a ‘reformed’ EU.

“However, there is still uncertainty as to whether the EU will fully ratify the negotiations, and many opponents consider the reformed negotiations as ‘worthless’. Hence the campaign to leave — or ‘Brexit’, which is an abbreviation for ‘British exit’.”


DM “Why has this all happened?”

BJ “In 1951, the concept of a free-trade zone and better economic integration was discussed, and, in March 1957, a six-country alliance of Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany was established [by signing the “Treaty of Rome”] known as the Common Market. The creation was a rebuilding process in a pretty much bankrupt Europe, resulting in mutual benefits as well as having the aim of preventing any future wars between member states. In 1961, the UK applied to join this exclusive club but the application was rejected by France, fearing US back-door influence, but eventually, the UK joined in 1973, following a ratifying referendum.

“The economies of these northern European countries was similar and the club became a huge success with the Common Agricultural Policy, or CAP, being the most successful policy implementation. Since then, the Common Market has changed from an economic alliance to a more political alliance, resulting in an extended 28-member ‘federal state’ of 500 million, changing the name along the way to the ‘European Community’ to the present, ‘European Union’, or EU. Turkey, with a population of approximately 80 million, is the latest country aiming to become a full member. “Large sections of the British public now consider the ‘new’, extended EU is not the organisation that the country voted to join in 1973. British sovereignty and border control has been eroded, and 60% of all laws applicable to British subjects are created and passed by the EU Parliament in Brussels, which is also the capital of Belgium. Many of the laws are created by faceless and unelected EU bureaucrats, and the UK has little power to influence or change laws that are seen as benefitting other 27 member states and economies.”


DM “Surely, the UK will be better-off by remaining in the EU?”

BJ “That’s the £55 million question [A$109.3m]. The UK pays £55 million every day — or £350m [A$695.5m] per week — as its contribution to being an EU member. The UK receives approximately 60% back as a rebate. The UK does not have any control over how and where the rebate money is spent. This is decided by the EU.

“However, it is the rules and regulation that are seen as restricting our industries. For example, AHDB Dairy is funded by a producer levy on all British dairy farmers — yet the organisation is not allowed to promote British milk. [AHDB Dairy is a subsidiary of AHDB, or the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.]. EU rules prevent AHDB Dairy from promoting its own members’ produce as this is seen as unfair competition against other EU member states.

“The same applied recently to the steel industry, which has been going through a severe downturn in the UK and globally. The UK Government was powerless to step in to support or ‘nationalise’ the steel industry, and two massive steel plants were closed with the loss of thousands of jobs.

“There are tens of thousands of these laws governing our countryside, including the distance that houses are built from heathland [five kilometres] to prevent cats from chasing birds. The EU is viewed by many as being out-dated — and now built to keep power with the EU elites, and not the people.

“The regulations imposed on agriculture are staggering, although it has to be stated that some rules are beneficial, while others are considered to be downright ridiculous. EU farm payments are a concern, as many farmers view the subsidies as a ‘necessary evil’, but the ‘red tape’ and bureaucracy involved is immense, and can only be undertaken by paying professional land agents to complete the necessary paperwork.”


DM “How much does immigration play on the fear-factor of the British public?”

BJ “Immigration is becoming a huge part of the Brexit campaign. Under the Treaty of Rome, free movement is allowed between member states – and that remains a fundamental part of EU membership. The UK is the second-largest economy in Europe, behind Germany, and the sixth largest in the world. People from the other 27 EU countries are free to move to Britain to work under the Treaty of Rome.

“There are two issues here. First: legal immigration; and secondly: illegal immigration. Last year, in the 12 months ending September 2015, more than 530,000 migrants entered the UK — including 256,000 from the EU. Over the same 12-month period, 630,000 migrants received National Insurance registration numbers so they could work, and subsequently receive UK benefits – such as housing, health, social welfare payments, and so on. Net migration into the UK has been regularly running high — last year was 330,000 — for several years.

“The sheer volume of numbers is placing incredible strain on housing, education and the National Health Service, which is a free service. The UK cannot build enough houses, enough schools or enough hospitals to cope with the increases. In London schools, an estimated 60 languages are spoken and education services have to provide interpreters. It is estimated that due to immigration increases, the UK has to build a new house every seven minutes.

“The National Health Service is reported at breaking-point, and in some areas estimates state there are not enough local family doctors, and hospitals are unable to provide the required service owing to spiralling costs. The UK could build a new hospital every week if it did not have to contribute £55m each day to the EU!

“The ongoing EU migrant crisis is a huge concern, with over 1.83 million people illegally entering the EU last year — six times more than the previous year. More than 1.1 million migrants were welcomed by Germany alone last year; additionally, Germany is expecting 2.5 million migrants to arrive in the next five years.

“EU border checkpoints have been over-run, and concerns over terrorist infiltration is immense. Once registered, all will be entitled to an EU passport, and can therefore gain entry to the UK as part of the EU’s free movement of people policy under the Treaty of Rome. On that basis, there is nothing to stop 500,000 or one million people legally entering the UK on an annual basis.”


DM “Will the EU be weakened if Brexit occurs?”

BJ “This is just my personal opinion: yes, I believe the EU will be weakened if the UK leaves. I consider the migrant crisis allied to a Brexit may, and I repeat, may, lead to the collapse of the EU in its present form. There is also the financial concern over the euro currency and Euro-zone. Britain maintained the pound sterling, as is not part of the failing currency union. The euro is in deep trouble and there may be another financial crisis similar to 2008.

“Financially, the euro currency is a potential future disaster area, with countries such as Spain having 55% unemployment in its population who are aged under 25.

“The Brexit campaigners want to be free of undemocratic EU centralist policy, passed by laws in Brussels, and pursue global markets in other countries such as Australia, Canada, China and USA and so one. Trade tariffs will have to be negotiated with these countries as well as within the EU, should the UK leave.

“It may seem confusing to Australians, where a points system determines immigration policy and effectively who can and cannot live and work in Australia. The old Common Market was originally similar to the 12-country Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP — but with the free movement of people. [TPP members are: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.]

“It’s not hard to imagine how Australians and Canadians would feel if 60% of their laws were made by unelected bureaucrats in a 12-country TPP parliament residing in another country? Or if the free movement was considered of millions of people to live and work in the USA from Mexico, Peru, Vietnam or Singapore?

“The USA would not allow 11 other countries to make 60% of its laws and overrule its democratically elected administration. Would Australia or the US open its border controls and allow unrestricted freedom of movement from the other 11 TPP countries without the need to produce a passport?

“One final point on security: the EU makes a strong play on the fact there have not been any wars — and is eager to bask in the acclaim. Since 1945, the security of Europe has been the responsibility of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, of which Britain is a member. But in fairness, the United States has backed and guaranteed the security and freedom of Europe for the past 70 years, and this has been underpinned by the US dollar.”

Check out more great articles like this in the latest edition of Crazy Cow In PrintCCIP51_June16_Cvr (002)

Send this to a friend