Presentations & Papers - Featured

#22: Labour Cost and Labour Efficiency within the Australian Dairy Industry (published in Australasian Agribusiness Perspectives)
The question explored in this paper is how labour cost-competitive and efficient Australian dairy farms are, compared to dairy farms in other countries, and how do farms in each state and region within Australia compare to each other. When the total labour cost per litre on Australian dairy farms is compared to five other countries over the last six years, Australian farms have the highest cost. The Australian labour cost per litre was on average 33 per cent higher than in New Zealand and 49 per cent higher than in the United States. Total labour cost comprises two factors: the cost of labour by unit of time and the level of labour efficiency. These factors were analysed to determine the basis for the variations in labour performance between countries and regions. To view the paper please click here.
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#21: Changing Production Systems: Improving Profit in Australian Dairy
This paper, and the associated presentation, was delivered by David Beca to the 2021 Grasslands Society of Southern Australia Annual Conference. The paper’s subtitle is ‘High pasture harvest is not enough for consistently high levels of profit – a high percentage of pasture in the diet is also required!’. It outlines the major trends in Australian dairying over recent years and the reason why pasture harvest has a causal correlation with profit. It then examines why the production system selected by farmers, as defined by the percentage of pasture in the cows’ diet, can either enhance or undermine the average cost of feed and consequently impact on cost of production and profit. The conclusion confirms the primary cause of the Australian dairy industry’s widespread reduction in profitability and loss of international competitiveness. To view the paper please click here.
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#20: International Dairy Industry Farm Performance Report: Australia vs New Zealand vs United States vs Argentina vs Uruguay vs South Africa vs Ireland vs United Kingdom
and
Australian Dairy Industry Farm Performance Report: State-by-State and International Comparisons including with New Zealand, United States, Argentina, Uruguay, South Africa, Ireland and United Kingdom
These reports present dairy industry farm performance data on eight countries and on all six dairy producing states in Australia. Graphs and tables outline changes in total milk production, total farm numbers, total cow numbers, and number of cows per farm, over the last two and four decades. There are also graphs of a full suite of farm performance ratios for the eight countries and for all states and regions of Australia. These reports have been produced so that the data, and its associated trends, might be used by any interested party to inform discussions on how dairy industries can develop and improve their level of performance and profitability.
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#19: Webinar: Profitability trends of international pasture-based dairying, and what can the UK learn?
This presentation was delivered by David Beca to LIC Europe’s Insights 2021 Webinar. The presentation identifies a core group of ratios that relate to profit and which dairy farmers should monitor in their business. This includes a definition of economic resilience. Dairy farm performance over the last two decades across a number of countries is outlined, and the impact of climate variability, including potential warming, on production systems and profitability is described. To view the webinar on the LIC Europe website please click here.
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#18: An Analysis of the Irish Dairy Sector Post Quota
This paper was produced by Teagasc and Cork Institute of Technology. It compares the performance of the Irish dairy industry post milk quota removal against a number of leading processors in key EU dairy producing countries, as well as New Zealand, with reference to farm gate milk price, investment, seasonality, costs of production and farm profitability. The conclusions, including in regard the net advantage to farmers of seasonal milk supply despite the additional costs incurred by processors, are of relevance to all countries with pasture-based dairy industries. To view the paper please click here.
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#17: Improving democracy at Dairy Australia and increasing engagement with dairy farmers
This paper proposes some targets for Dairy Australia (DA) to measure its engagement with levy-paying dairy farmers as well as 10 recommendations for improving the director election process. These recommendations are intended to assist discussion and debate in the Australian dairy industry on how to improve democracy at DA. If these issues were to be successfully addressed, then this should consequently prompt a higher level of engagement by levy payers with all DA activities, as well as positioning DA to make significant progress on the issues central to improving dairy farm profitability and the industry’s competitiveness. To view the paper please click here.
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#16: Webinars: Developing financially resilient dairy businesses for the next 10-15 years - what will be the key strategies?
This three-webinar program, sponsored by Standard Bank and Barenbrug, was delivered by David Beca in South Africa between 28 October and 26 November 2020. The three webinar titles are:
  1. What are the three dominant factors that farmers should focus on to increase profit on dairy farms?
  2. What is the single dominant factor that has driven improvements in profit in South Africa over the last 20 years compared to other countries…and what is South Africa’s ‘Achilles Heel’ limiting profit in the future?
  3. What are the step-by-step changes a South African pasture-based dairy farmer would need to make to lower their cost of production and increase their profit margin to establish a more financially resilient business?
To see more detail on the webinars and to view videos of these presentations please click here.
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#15: Measurement of profitability on Australian dairy farms (Option B)
This paper outlines a more robust and relevant option for measuring and monitoring profitability compared to that described in the Australian Dairy Plan (ADP) Appendix F. This includes recommending ‘return on capital’ (ROC) be used as the ratio for the dairy industry to monitor as this defines profit. The paper proposes a 5% operating ROC be adopted as the industry target with this calculated as a four-year rolling average. A suite of other profit-related ratios could then be calculated for each state, region, production system or individual farm based on the agreed profit (ROC) target. To view the paper please click here.
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#14: Evolution of dairy production systems in Australia…and can the country stop the ‘rot’
This presentation was delivered to the Australian Dairy Farmers ‘Farming Systems and Herd Improvement Policy Advisory Group’ in April 2020. It compares the trends in milk production, profitability and production systems in Australia compared to five other countries including New Zealand, Argentina, Uruguay, South Africa and United States, and outlines where Australia has lost international competitiveness with these other countries over the last two decades. Many of the trends are further described for each of the states of Australia and for the three main dairy regions in Victoria. The presentation also outlines what might need to change for the Australian dairy industry to improve on-farm profitability and recover the industry’s international competitiveness.
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#13: Key determinants of profit for pasture-based dairy farms (published in Australasian Agribusiness Perspectives)
The key determinants of profit for pasture-based dairy farms, and the impact of changes in pasture harvest, milk production per cow and production system (as determined by pasture as per cent of cow’s diet) on business performance are explored. One of the outcomes from this paper was to define a core group of ratios that can be used to reliably analyse farm business performance. A further outcome was to answer a common question as to whether the selection of a production system was relevant in determining the level of profitability of a dairy farm. An addendum to this paper is also available that compares the Australian set of data with a South African set of data. To view the paper please click here.
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#12: Trends in dairy farm performance in Australian states
This 11-slide presentation outlines the changes in dairy farm performance across all Australian states over the last 17-20 years. This includes growth in milk production and changes to milk price, profit per cow, profit per hectare, cost of production, milk production per cow, pasture as a per cent of the cow’s diet, pasture harvest, total feed cost per litre and total expenses per litre. New Zealand and United States dairy industry performance is included in some slides which further highlights the areas where Australian states have lost competitiveness with their international peers. To view the slides please click here.

#11: Evaluating the loss of profitability and declining milk production in the Australian dairy industry (published in Australasian Agribusiness Perspectives)
The question explored in this paper is whether, and, if so, why a significant proportion of dairy farm businesses in Australia have lost their competitiveness compared to other major dairy producers in the world. This paper proposes that the choice of production system by farmers is the primary determinant of the loss in profitability and the contraction in milk supply, and if lower cost of production systems were adopted by Australian dairy farmers in the future, then the Australian dairy industry could return to a position of annual increases in milk supply of 2-3 per cent. An addendum to this paper is also available that includes additional information on all six countries that could not be included in the published paper. To view the paper please click here.
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#10: Evolution of dairy production systems in leading exporting countries plus South Africa…and what can be forecast for the next 5 years
This paper was presented in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa at a dairy seminar in October 2019. It includes a comparison of Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Uruguay & United States as major exporters as well as South Africa. A suite of 20 key business performance ratios are reviewed comparing performance over the last 17 years and a forecast for the next 5 years.
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#9: Which are the critical dairy business performance characteristics that will provide profitability and sustainability for the next 5-10 years
This paper was presented in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa at a dairy seminar in October 2019. This included a full statistical analysis of 2 large databases of dairy farm performance; one from Australia and the other from South Africa. The presentation included information on 69 important relationships that directly relate to dairy farm performance and profitability.
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#8: Building a resilient, flourishing, internationally competitive dairy industry in Ireland
This superlative report was written by Con Hurley & Mike Murphy in 2015 for the Irish “2025 Agri Food Strategy Committee”. For anyone interested in understanding the key principles for building an internationally competitive pasture-based dairy industry, then this is an essential report to read. To download the full report please click here.
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#7: The Interview re: Evolution of dairy production systems in the world’s leading exporters
La entrevista re: Evolución de los sistemas de producción lecheros en los principales exportadores del mundo
David Beca was interviewed in Uruguay in relation to the paper that he presented at the 2019 INALE Foro. David answers 4 questions including 1) How would you summarise the milk production and economic trends over the last 17 years for Argentina, Uruguay, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa & United States? 2) What do dairy farmers need to do to get a good return on capital (or to improve their profitability)? 3) What are the prospects or forecast for the 6 countries analysed? 4) What are the opportunities that I see for improvements in the production systems in Uruguay? (this question is equally relevant to Argentina & Australia). To view the interview (preguntas y subtexto en español) please click here.

#6: Evolution of dairy production systems in the world’s leading exporters
Evolución de los sistemas de producción lecheros en los principales exportadores del mundo
This paper was presented in Uruguay at the INALE Foro in June 2019. It includes a comparison of Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Uruguay & United States as major exporters as well as South Africa. A suite of around 17 key business performance ratios are reviewed comparing performance over the last 17 years and a forecast for the next 5 years.
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#5: Rethinking your Dairy Business Profitability - What drives profit and which ratios to monitor?
Repensando la Rentabilidad de su Negocio Lechero – ¿Qué mueve las ganancias y cuáles índices controlar?
This paper was presented at the 1st International Seminar in Quito, Ecuador. It outlines how dairy farmers (and advisors) should analyse dairy businesses to determine how they are performing, as well as confirming what factors drive profitability. This includes a full statistical analysis of a relatively unique dataset of dairy farms in Australia.
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#4: International Competitiveness of Southern Hemisphere Dairy Businesses
Competitividad Internacional de los Negocios Lecheros del Hemisferio Sur
This paper is a development of an earlier one that was named “Make Australia Dairy Farming Great Again”, though with more information on the development of 5 key countries; New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, Uruguay & South Africa. Versions of this paper have been presented in Argentina, Uruguay, South Africa and then this latest version at the 1st International Seminar in Quito, Ecuador.
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#3: Things the most successful farmers (and their advisors) get right
Cosas que los productores más exitosos (y sus asesores) hacen bien
This paper was initially written by Associate Professor Bill Malcolm and Alex Sinnett from University of Melbourne and presented in New Zealand. Subsequently David Beca provided some further input to the paper and presented it in Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Uruguay and then this latest version at the 1st International Seminar in Quito, Ecuador.
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#2: Tri-Nations Revisited – Profitability variations between the average and the best in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand
This paper was presented at the 2007 South African Large Herds Conference. It describes the profitability variations between the average and the best dairy farmers in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. This paper sets out to determine the differences between the levels of profitability in pasture-based dairying in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
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#1: Are there economies of scale in dairying? If so, what is the most economic size?
This paper was presented at the 2006 Dairy Research Foundation Symposium in Camden, Australia. The questions explored are firstly whether there are economies of scale in pasture-based dairying, and secondly, what is the most economic size of a pasture-based dairy farm?
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