A STRUGGLING dairy farmer from Tongala has finally received some good news, and this time it’s no bull.
Scott Fitzgerald has been awarded a scholarship by the Gardiner Dairy Foundation, which will allow him to take part in their Farm Business Management Program.
Scott said the program will make him take a step back and think of ways to improve his farm’s business model.
“For farmers, we often get busy in our own day to day operations and get stuck in a rut,” he said.
“Often you need to take a broader look at your business, and this program helps with that area.”
Scott will be the chair of 2018 Australia Dairy Conference, and he said he wants to pass down his newfound knowledge to help other farmers in the industry.
“This course will be perfect for pushing me outside my comfort zone so I can learn not only for myself, but for our business in general and what our business needs to look like in a changing future.”
Scott’s future looked bleak when milk supplier Murray Goulburn slashed its farmgate milk prices last year, which was a huge blow to dairy farmers like Scott.
“We were with Murray Goulburn 12 months ago. We’re a fairly young business and the volatility in Murray Goulburn’s price structure made it very difficult.”
“The worrying thing with us is that the pricing seemed to be getting more aggressive. The highs were short lived, and it jumped from high to low fairly quickly. It could go from extreme one end to extreme the other.”
“If we were a bit older in the industry or had our business a bit longer we would’ve been able to handle that volatility a bit better.”
Scott said the sense of pride in his work and his confidence that he was still delivering a quality product kept him sane through the rough years.
“There are always things within a bad season that you can draw positives out of. In those times we focus on key performance indicators like our per-cow production, our quality, our replacement heifers, herd health.”
“You still get a buzz for ticking the box in those areas even when it is a low milk price. Even though financially you’re doing it tough, you’re still getting a lot of drive in improving other areas in your business. If you didn’t have those in a tough year you wouldn’t survive.”
Scott said winning the scholarship was another morale booster, because he would not have been able to afford the program without it.
Although he is still recovering from the financial blow he took last year, Scott said that his future is looking brighter after he left Murray Goulburn and began supplying A2 Milk and a local factory farm in Kyabram.
“Looking back at it now, it’s been one of the best decisions we’ve made on the farm. A stable milk price is hard to beat.”
After finishing the program, Scott will join the Australia Dairy Leadership Alumni in December to discuss ways to improve long-term future prospects for the dairy industry.
Mary Harney, chief executive of the Gardiner Dairy Foundation, said she was confident Scott will make a difference to Australian dairy farmers.
“It is essential for farmers to be equipped with the skills required to manage their own businesses and take control of their future,” Ms Harney said.
“This is the resounding aim of the Farm Business Management Program and we strongly encourage leadership developments, so as to give back to the dairy industry and widely spread the benefit.”