Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Are consumers really being given VALUE FOR MONEY?

$1 milk - good deal...or bad deal??

Fascinating isn't it, in a world where almost half the population have dropped below the poverty line, battling starvation on a daily basis - the other half are fighting off the frightening man-made epidemic...OBESITY!! All things being equal, should that not mean that we are enjoying a healthy balance of nutrient intake, and physical body a global village? You may question the relevance of this statement, in the context of the below article. Happy to explain it straight up, right now.

The global retail industry that is dominating today, is doing so under false pretenses. While appearing to be supportive of your cause, in a financially troubled would - you are going nowhere fast...while they (the retail giants) continue to stack double digit growth figures on top of each other, year after year after year. That is impressive isn't it - considering how all of their valued and loyal customers...YOU, thought they were offering tremendous prices wars and discount specials!! How is that feasible? They make $$ billion profits, while you and I struggle to pay our bills. Yet as a collective society, we blindly maintain the status quo - giving them a big old slap on the back, saying, "Love what you are doing for us...keep up the great work!!" Whether it be Walmart in the USA, Tesco in the UK, Aldi or Lidl in Germany or Coles and Woolies in Australia, we are willingly pouring bucket loads of our hard earned into their coffers. Marketing spin at its very best indeed.

Now it is almost five years since the WAR ON MILK started - Australia Day 2011. The Duopoly rarely maintain a price attack (slickly sold to you the consumer as a price discount) on one product, over such a protracted period of time.

Why milk? Why a sustained attack on the dairy farmer? The answer is simple...greed (y) This has proven to be such a successful 'LOSS LEADER' for the giant retailers, that they have chosen to continue it strategically...whatever the cost :(

The cost to the huge corporations at retail level? It is irrelevant, because of their ability to shuffle margins across many thousands of product lines. While they are knowingly losing money on $1 milk, they could literally be making 1000%, or even 2000% plus profits on imported items (y) Not possible you say!! Well, that toothbrush you paid $2, may have been imported for 20c...that is 1000%. Perhaps the bottle of shampoo for $10, may have been imported for 50c...that is 2000%. Of course I'm just making these numbers up, as I have no idea of the actual costs - but I do understand that's how it works.

Don't be alarmed by the frightening news of their drop in profits this year. As Woolies and Coles hit a pothole in the road, they posted a drop in profits of 12.5% and 9.3%. Does that mean they experienced a loss? NO WAY - Woolies and Coles profits for the 2014/2015 financial year were $2.15 BILLION and $2.44 BILLION respectively! That represents the fourth consecutive financial year while selling $1 milk that they have both exceeded $1.5 billion profits...yes profits not revenue!!

Just remember, while Woolies and Coles knowingly and deliberately lose money on fresh milk (they have told us so publicly), they made a combined PROFIT of $4.59 BILLION for the 2014/2015 financial year!!! Back in 2011 Coles stated this would not hurt the dairy farmer...but industry figures show the average dairy farmer, across the entire state of Queensland...posted a LOSS for the same financial year.

You see, most dairy farmers I know don't have 10,000+ products to shuffle margins - they have ONE. It is called milk, and if they lose money on milk...they make a LOSS. The war on milk, compliments of retailers, has dragged the farm gate milk price back to the where it was in the 90's. Hard to believe, but the Queensland dairy farmer today, is being paid 1990's milk prices by their big milk company. It has not only given the consumer a new point of reference as to the perceived 'value' of milk in stores, but it has also educated the independent retailer of a new and improved wholesale price point for fresh milk, as major milk processing companies continue to undercut each other for market share.

How is this your problem, as a consumer? Many I've spoken to don't think it is an issue at all, as they are enjoying the savings they receive. My question to them is, "At what cost...are the savings coming to you?" When we put the cost impact of milk in perspective - is it really out of your price range? The true value of fresh milk is $2/L. So if your family was to drink 10L a week, that represents a $10 cost. Yes an extra $1/L on whatever your household consumption is. Cost impact? Save a $1/L on milk by supporting this war, and you help sink your local dairy industry. Spend and extra $1/L on milk, and you secure the future of your local dairy industry.

But who really cares whether our fresh milk is produced locally, or whether it is coming from the southern states or Australia? It is still Australian right? Sure it is...for now. The truth is we know there will be tremendous competition for high quality, 'safe' food in the near future from many countries in South-East Asia (it has already started actually). The southern states are heavily geared to manufacture and export commodities, like powdered milk and butter. As soon as we reach a tipping 'price point' where milk processors are rewarded a better price for exports...than they are for domestic milk supply, which has been devalued by the Retail Giants who we now know to be devoid of a social conscience - GOOD LUCK!!!

Good luck? That seems a bit harsh you say! Not at all. Processors will seek markets that help them generate profits too. As they are losing money from the sales of milk at $1/L (as are the retailers and dairy farmers), they will inevitably seek better opportunities. The DUOPOLY + ALDI are remaining rock solid on their intent to break the Australian Dairy Industry. Understand that survival is a basic human instinct. It will remain a driving force at the core of our business, our family and our life. Market signals are driving us as an industry away from domestic sales...towards export opportunities. You don't have to like it, or even agree with me - but you the consumer, who spend 80% of your money with the BIG 3, and support the continuation of supermarket milk sales with 50% at $1/L on a daily basis - are helping the above scenario speed up.

Now that Aldi are firmly in the frame...what do you know about them? They did actually start the war on milk, and Coles copied their did Woolies. Who are Aldi? They were originally owned and managed by brothers Karl Albrecht and Theo Albrecht. Sadly Karl Albrecht passed away in 2014, leaving Theo with a personal wealth of €17.2 BILLION ($27AUD Billion), making him the richest man in Germany, with the co-owners of Aldi Nord, Berthold and Theo Albrecht Jr., close behind at €16 billion ($25 Billion). Globally Aldi have a revenue of over €60 billion ($94 billion) from more than 10,000 stores. Oh, and Lidl will soon join the picture to - they are bigger than Aldi, with over 10,000 stores across 28 countries in Europe alone. Their revenue is now exceeding $100 Billion.

Despite the fact I've said it all before...over, and over, and over, and over again - the huge majority remain oblivious to this truth, to this reality. The people I get to talk to on a daily basis, are amazed - even bemused as to why they were unaware? They were shocked that they were aiding in the demise of the local dairy industry, as they had never been given the knowledge to make an informed decision. Marketing spin is a great tool to increase sales. But it is a frightening day when we allow, and accept that it's OK for retailers to educate to the correct retail price point for our high quality, locally produced, fresh food. If these retailers set prices at an unsustainable low price - rest assured, it is a means to an end for them...not YOU!!

What could the end game possibly be? A continuation of downward pressure on suppliers is seeing them go out of business. Over time, repetition of these actions will open the door for more cheap imports - and that will enable retail giants to increase margins and subsequently - profits. It also gives them the perfect 'out', by saying to you the consumer..."Sorry, but we are unable to source items ABC locally anymore as they just aren't available." Happy days for retailers, and you now get to buy whatever is on the shelf - whether you like it or not!

As we have known for years, retail giants have been breaking local suppliers financially. The ACCC is finally stepping in, but their power to repair this broken system is questionable. We saw last year the ACCC take positive action, fining Coles $10 million (remember their profit last year was $2,440 million). While ACCC Chairman Rod Simms assured us all that this would send a very clear message...really? At least they've started the ball rolling and that is something we haven't see before.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

It's so easy to slip...

Well I must admit...I never thought I'd fall for that! What is that, you ask? 'That' thing us humans tend to do all too often. Our unique ability to judge ourselves on past achievements. To be confused, by rating ourselves and giving ourselves a mistaken identity.

Coming off the year that was...2014 - there was never any chance of going back to back and following up with an equally successful 2015 (if success is rated according to accolades)
*Business Person of the Year* - Scenic Rim Regional Council Business Excellence Awards
*Platinum Award* - Scenic Rim Business Excellence Awards
*Australian Dairy Farmer of the Year* - Kondinin Group & ABC Rural AFOTY Awards
*Marketing Program of the Year* ("Saving The Family Farm" - Vie Marketing), Australian Marketing Institute Annual Awards
*Queensland's 50 Best & Brightest* - The Courier Mail
Our story was covered by Landline and The Project, and radio interviews were done by Steve Austin and Spencer Housen - 612ABC, Greg Cary and Chris Adams - 4BC, Nicole Dyer - 91.7 Coast FM, Marney & Mike - River 949, Jamie Dunn - 98.9 Country, Ross Greenwood 2GB Sydney.

Some kind of year hey!!

In some crazy form of inexplicable logic, 2015 has left me more than a little flat. Despite invitations to speak, traversing the countryside, and speaking in 5 States...I regularly questioned my influence, or more to the point, subsequent impact. It is at times like this that you seem to question your direction - even your value or purpose?

My answers to these questions we less than inspiring. They we sapping me of energy - as I began to believe I was failing on many levels. I was failing my family and farm, as my absence was putting pressure on daily operations. I was failing my fellow farmers, as my dream of offering a solution to their financial woes was getting no closer to reality. If I couldn't figure this all out post haste - I would also be failing millions of Queenslanders...and Aussies for that matter, who don't even know we are heading for a fresh milk drought. The only saving grace was that support of 4REAL MILK was booming. Supporters and followers continued to put wind in my sails on a daily basis. To this day I still don't think I quite have a grasp on the extent of the following I am creating, or the number of lives I am touching?

Unfortunately I also started to lean heavily on a couple of keep me propped up - to help me avoid the perceived reality of my failings. Morning after morning would see me drinking six cups of coffee, regularly skipping breakfast. Sometime after lunch (which I often hadn't eaten either), if I was working on farm, or in my office - I might have a beer or two...justifying "It's five o'clock somewhere!" It was not uncommon for me to drink a six-pack on a weeknight. Before I knew it, my habit had turned into a carton a week. I understand that many would argue that is common...or even normal - but it was not ok for ME. My energy levels were fading, my thought processes distorted, I was fast becoming an insomniac, but most frightening - that well know 'fog haze' was rearing it ugly head. I knew it was time - for ME!!

I wanted to see a nutritionist - as I recognised the importance of getting some quality food back into my system. All things happen for a reason...and I was fortunate to meet a great girl at Boonah Show earlier this year, who had already been closely following the Robotic Dairy FB page, and was very keen to bring her family for a farm tour. It was a great opportunity for a catch-up, and I committed to book in with her for a consultation. I was honest and transparent with all of my dietary and health problems, and knew she would give me a solid plan to work towards, and hopefully a kick up the backside! What I didn't see coming was a diagnosis of Hypertension!! Yes my blood pressure was very high. This was exactly the sort of reality check I needed. It immediately served as my motivation - and Katie did a fantastic job of putting the pressure on me in the first 3 weeks, of keeping her posted with my daily eating plan, and blood pressure readings twice a day. She was tough on me - but I stuck to the gameplan (except for a couple of blowouts at my local Beauy Show, and a great friend and cousin's wedding). Two coffees a day...three beers maximum, three nights a week, four 'beer free' days a week! Yes the first week was serious detox - but the next week and the week after I could start to see and feel the obvious benefits. I'd lost 4 kgs and almost 2 holes on my belt buckle!! Energy levels had risen sharply - and most surprisingly, sleep patterns were returning to normal. Thought processes started to function with clarity once again. Blood pressure had miraculously dropped from 160/120 to a very respectable 123/81 without medication!! Funny thing, I often only felt like one or two drinks on a 'beer' night - now drinking less than a 6-pack a week. Amazing how some healthy lifestyle adjustments can positively impact the human body.

Wait a minute...said the faithful old body. Not so fast!! Yes just as I was chomping at the bit, ready to blast out of the blocks - another pothole in the road of life. SHINGLES!! All things for a reason, and this was especially great timing. I was about to embark on a 3,000km roadtrip with my 17yo daughter - to spead the good news of 4REAL MILK now being available in regional and remote QLD towns, and to run information talks about the importance of customers and retailers supporting farmers to keep them alive, providing fresh food to the consumer. Needless to say, we've had to reschedule that roadtrip for late November 2015. I wouldn't wish shingles on my worst enemy, and I'll be forever grateful I didn't have to endure the worst of it on the road...and that my daughter didn't have to cope with me in that state. It's been tough enough for me dealing with the excruciating pain through the worst of it, in the comfort of my own house. I'm confident the enforced lay-off is building my body to greater strength. My mind is certainly improving, so when my body is willing...look out!!

Until recently, there was one thing that I hated with a was the word "PASSION". I just always felt it was staged. I didn't feel comfortable using it, like I was a fake or a phoney. But through my relentless drive to solve the problem as I see it in Australia, the inability of the consumer to see past marketing spin, I've been given purpose. Through my efforts to educate and create awareness - to enable consumers to be motivated to help the people who grow the food, so the people who grow the food (perhaps the most noble of all Aussie professions) can continue doing so, and in turn help the people who need the nourishment that the food provides. It's not rocket science - but it is definitely WIN WIN!! What's all this got to do with passion? Well I guess I never used to believe that passion was real...because I never 'HAD IT'. But now that I've 'GOT IT'...I 'GET IT' !!

Yes I believe that everything I attempt to do today is dictated and driven by PASSION. A passion that I may not always understand - but will likely continue to serve, like a slave to its master.

We as a community need to give our farming families a future - we MUST!!

Farmer Gregie

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

If Only It Was The Animal's Voice They Used...Instead Of Their Own!

I have no doubt that when groups like VOICELESS are formed - it is with the best of intention, and the endeavour to make a positive difference. Unfortunately their message becomes blurred, as it is delivered by smoke and mirrors, because emotion becomes the driving force, rather than reality. It is when reality is blatantly disregarded, they lose my support and respect.
This blog is a direct response by myself, to the very flawed piece of journalism that found its way into many publications last week. The RED is the contents of the entire article, verbatim. The BLUE includes many facts, as well as my thoughts and opinions, based on decades of real life experience.
Farmer Gregie ;)

AS YOU sip on your latte or slug back your smoothie, chances are you’re not worrying about how the milk in your drink was produced.
But the grim reality is a far cry from the idyllic green pastures we may imagine.
Most dairy cows in Australia are still grazing pasture nearly every day. But if individual farmers choose to feed their milking herd a mixed ration (of predominantly silage, hay and vitamins and minerals) - a huge focus is still placed on cow health and all farmers know, healthy happy cows are more productive and live longer.
As demand for dairy in Australia spirals, cows are paying the price, according to a report by animal protection institute Voiceless.
No actually - any price that cows are paying is due to Corporate Greed, not a growing demand for dairy. Huge corporations (many are internationally owned) have opportunistically pounced on the retail profits in the dairy sector. As the flow of money to the farmer has all but dried up - that will inevitably have a negative impact on cow welfare.
They are often bred to the point of exhaustion to make them lactate, forcefully impregnated so they give birth every 13 months for up to seven years, says the report.
Bred to the point of exhaustion?? Seriously - is that a scientific analogy, or someones opinion, intended to tug on the heartstrings of people who are unaware of the truth? The truth...the more often a cow has a calf, the healthier she will stay, and the longer she will live. Let's face it - in nature, cows will have a calf even more often, because they will be mated by a bull as soon as they start to cycle (usually within a month of their last calving), so it would be common for them to calve every 10 to 11 months. In a modern dairy, if cows go too long between calvings, they'll be converting the food they eat into body weight instead of milk. This means quite literally that a cow with a 3 year calving interval is much more likely to suffer life threatening metabolic issues within a month of finally having her next calf. 
The industry is accused of disturbing practices including premature mother-calf separation, slaughter of unwanted calves, painful mutilation (such as dehorning and tail docking) and leaving cows increasingly susceptible to injury and diseases from lameness and mastitis.
"Premature mother-calf separation"...saves lives! Yes, it is true that the modern dairy cow produces a lot of milk. Only one or two days after her calf being born, mum will be producing between 30 and 40 litres of milk. A newborn calf needs to drink 5 litres of milk a day. Surely as farmers, if we didn't monitor and control that intake - we'd be accused of neglect. So yes it is true, we bottle feed our calves, generally from the second day of their life. Do the calves suffer psychological damage? Doesn't appear obvious to us, as they just about knock us over when they see us coming with a bottle full of milk! And their mum? Yes there is an obvious show of distress on day one...but the very next day, they appear to be happily settled back into herd life, eating a specialised ration (we work with a nutritionist), and chewing their cud - which is a tell tale sign of a happy cow. 
I thought tail docking was not legal in Australia today? I do not personally know any Queesnland or NSW dairy farmers who have docked tails!! On the issue of dehorning - have the animal welfare experts at Voiceless seen what adult cattle with horns do to each other?
Once a cow’s milk supply declines, they are sent to slaughter.
Great observation and absolutely true. Would they prefer the dairy farmer let the 700kg+ old cows become broken down and crippled, die a slow and painful death - and then proceed to make a pile of dead stinking rotting cows on farm? Again implications of neglect would be fired at farmers, should we choose these actions.
At the end of a cow's productive life, she will go to the abattoir - and yes this is an important piece of the financial puzzle in maintaining profitability at farm level. Our Holstein cows are often worth in excess of $1,000. We need to get them on the truck, as that sideline income will help us survive as farmers. 
“For most dairy cows, life is hard, sometimes painful and invariably short,” Voiceless spokeswoman Elise Burgess told
“Voiceless’s aim in writing this report has been to bring attention to these (welfare) issues; to lift the marketing and publicity veil and look beyond the photos of happy cows in green fields. Sadly, there is a distorted and inaccurate picture of the often harsh reality of life for the majority of high production dairy cows.”
Voiceless's aim to bring attention to issues - is done through a divisive and often polarising platform, with statements like ...“For most dairy cows, life is hard,"  ...seriously?? A dairy cow's life is hard?? According to who? Show me the handbook that will enable the dairy cow to have an 'easy life'. These observations are totally subjective and based solely on OPINION not FACT! If you were to talk to generational dairy farmers, most of them would share with pride...the improved life and conditions of the dairy cow in recent decades. There is in fact much less hunger and malnutrition. Deaths due to 'natural attrition' or starvation are virtually a thing of the past - that is my observation.
 "sometimes painful and invariably short” is a ridiculous generalization. What does invariably short even mean? It does provide a negative connotation...which appears to be the not so hidden agenda of Voiceless today. The length of a cow's life varies hugely, just as it does for people. We have many cow's today getting to beyond 10 years of age, providing they stay healthy. But any number of things can happen - despite us working closely with vets and nutritionists, illness or injury can inevitably cut years off a cow's life. 
Calf welfare is also highlighted in the report, which found that 800,000 calves are killed every year after being labelled a by-product. According to the findings, 35,000 of these will be slaughtered at birth while 623,000 will be sold for slaughter for use in products such as pet food, veal and leather.
The way they are killed was also an area of concern, with calves slaughtered on-farm by means of chemical euthanasia, firearm or stunning by a captive bolt. “Alarmingly, it is legal to kill a newborn calf by ‘blunt force trauma’ which involves striking the head with a blunt instrument,” the report reads.
In many other countries, 'dairy beef' plays an important role - as most bull calves from dairies are in fact reared for meat, adding one or two years to their life. Australia however has a huge beef industry, so consumer demand dictates their 'meat of choice' be provided by beef cattle, not dairy breeds. Yes - the lack of demand for dairy beef as a marketable commodity is consumer driven.
On our farm, I've done the trials. We will invest $400 into our calves, boy or girl, in their first 3 months of life. That cost is reflective only of feed expenses (milk, hay, grain). I have factored no labour component, or medical $400 is unrealistically conservative. When we sold those 3 month old bull calves - they averaged $150. Yes we have about 100 bull calves born each year, and would LOSE $25,000 anually should we make that management decision.
Calves are separated from their mothers within 12 hours of birth, “causing pain and suffering to both”. They are also subjected to “disbudding” — the removal of the unformed horn using caustic paste, hot iron, knife or other device — when they are less than two months old.
I pretty much covered this above...we have industry workshops on best practice for dehorning available to farmers on a regular basis. To me, this argument is as flawed as saying, "All vaccinations on children must stop - because children CRY when they get a needle". Really...does anyone out there have kids who love going to the dentist to get a filling? Well don't knowingly inflict pain on your child! (ok...being more than a little facetious now!)
The report also looks at welfare concerns around live animal exports, which results in the export of tens of thousands of Australian “breeder” dairy cows each year.
Yes, live exports of replacement dairy heifers happens. It has in fact been a financial crutch for hundreds of dairy farms around the country. Again, because of consumer decisions to continue to support the $1 milk market - the dairy farmer's core income from milk sales has been eroded by about 20% across the board in the past 3 years. The existing shortage of locally produced fresh milk, will go into freefall, should the export market be stopped - as it is the only saviour for many of my farming friends 
Voiceless, which releases its in-depth report into the dairy industry on January 28, said Australian cows have been selectively bred to increase average lactation from around 2800 to 5500 litres a year, double that of 30 years ago. The Life of the Dairy Cow: A Report on the Australian Dairy Industry is the result of two years of analysis of current scientific research, and has been reviewed by five animal welfare experts from Voiceless’ Scientific Expert Advisory Council and endorsed by leading global animal protection groups.
The doubling of milk production doesn't mean cows are suffering. Yes, as farmers we continue to strive for genetic improvement through our breeding programs - because efficiency of milk production is often the difference between survival or otherwise...for the farm itself. A large factor in production increases (our herd were averaging 5,000L/cow 30 years ago...and are now averaging 9,000L) is the fact that animal nutrition, health and welfare have improved so much. All farmers know - happy healthy cows produce more milk. The better we look after the girls, the better they will look after us.
Written with the help of contributing author Dr Deidre Wicks, it contains recommendations for legislators, industry and consumers while “lifting the veil on the silent suffering of the Australian dairy cow”.

Ms Burgess said many Australians continue to consume huge quantities of cheap dairy under the assumption that it is essential for good health, that it is a “no harm” industry and that dairy cows consistently lactate and accordingly “need to be milked”.
“They do not draw the connection that, in order to produce milk, dairy cows must first be continually re-impregnated; that forced and repeated pregnancies increase cows’ susceptibility to painful disorders, like lameness and mastitis; and that some 800,000 unwanted ‘bobby calves’ are killed each year within a week after birth.”
WOW...cows are continually re-impregnated. Surely this would not happen in the wild? I covered this one extensively above. Consistent and regular calving patterns are a healthy outcome that lengthens life expectancy of the dairy cow. If Voiceless have a problem with the concept of reproduction in the animal kingdom...they need to talk to a higher power than Farmer Gregie.  
She said farmers often felt stuck in the middle, with domestic and international demand for dairy produce booming in recent years, while the price of Australian milk has sharply declined.
Consumer demand for cheap dairy products has increased pressures on both dairy farmers and dairy cows. To compete commercially, farmers have been forced to maximise milk production while reducing their overall operating costs, Ms Burgess said.
Ahh...finally - some common sense truth. If only these radical minority groups used their 'voice' for good, in a positive way. How about educating the wider community of the true value of fresh milk, so that the poor farmer stops getting bashed from every possible direction? 1990's milk prices...that is what the consumer is currently paying the Australian dairy farmer. That's right - the consumer can buy milk for $2/L (that is effectively the 2015 milk value), but are exercising their democratic right on a dairy basis, to buy the $1 milk, in a free country. 
“As part of this process, Australian dairy cows have been bred to produce double the amount of milk they did 30 years ago, exacerbating these welfare concerns.
Again with the sensationalisation!! Happy healthy cows producing more milk does not equal a decline in animal welfare.
“Currently, Australians consume around 107 litres of milk, 14kg of cheese and 4kg of butter per person per year.”
Ms Burgess said the aim of the report was not to make people stop consuming dairy but rather to spark discussion and debate among farmers, industry bodies, policy-makers and consumers about the animals’ welfare.
Voiceless has met with Australian Dairy Farmers and Dairy Australia and discussed some of its key welfare concerns, and where it feels the industry could make significant improvements.
It said that while the industry does have welfare systems in place, they are predominantly focused on issues that impact on production (such as mastitis) rather than cow and calf welfare.
Again - misleading to the extreme. Our industry focuses on mastitis because it also affects animal health. The reason mastitis impacts production, is because it quite literally has a negative effect on the cow's welfare. Like all responsible industry bodies, dairy give priority to the biggest problems farmers face, and mastitis is definitely one of them. There are numerous issues on our radar - and Research and Development within Dairy Australia are actively seeking solutions on a daily basis.  
“Voiceless would like to see a collaborative approach between farmer, industry, advocate, consumer and government to make the welfare of the dairy cow a priority, not just her productive output,” Ms Burgess said.
The group said that ultimately the report aimed to shine light on the Australian dairy industry, which has avoided much of the scrutiny that has been leveled against other animal industries because of a false perception of dairy as a benign product.
Actually - Voiceless have chosen to bypass the collaborative approach, by driving a wedge between their organisation - and hard working dairy farmers Australia wide. 
Noel Campbell, President of Australian Dairy Farmers, told “We’ve had discussions with Voiceless over the years, and we’ve put forward our position.
“We have a pretty good track record with dairy cow health and welfare. Cows are out in pasture, and so on.
“We’re willing to discuss whatever comes out in the report.”

Thursday, January 1, 2015

To share...or not to share? That is the question!

I have not made a New Year's Resolution for many years now. Happy for people to choose that path, I just feel you're giving that power away - relying on hope, and will power (that has proven to be too weak until this point in your life). Action...on a daily basis is so much more effective, than ONE BIG GOAL at the start of a new year.

The one percenters are what makes the accumulated end result. How many brush strokes to make that incredible painting? How many words to make the best selling novel? How many costume changes make a Katy Perry concert...a Katy Perry concert? How many days make 2015 a year?

It's your actions on a daily basis - 365 times, not a single decision, that will have a powerful and lasting impact. I know, that just seems too simple. Yes, simple in theory...not so much so in reality. Ideas can be awesome. Thoughts can constantly cloud our vision - be they good, bad or indifferent. But at the end of each day, 'doing' is what matters. 'Doing' is what makes a difference. If we don't 'do', then the just an idea, and that thought counts for nothing. You can try and fool yourself, but you won't fool those around you.

For some reason - we often get trapped by our thoughts. Overwhelmed by a feeling of helplessness. Frozen by a lack of belief in our ability - eroded by a perception of so many failed attempts in our past actions. Guess what? None of that is REAL!! It really is our mind playing a cruel and unnecessary twist of human nature. Undermining our unlimited potential, our battered and beaten psyche is blocking our way forward. Self defeated we flounder - no one to blame, but our own flawed mental being.

As demoralising as that may all sound, you should be excited! The cycle can be broken, with very simple processes. You can even fail your way through most of  2015 - yet achieve things you never thought possible. Just like in cricket, some of the world's greatest batsman found a way to score 'ugly runs', surviving form slumps and still notching up century after century - Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Jacques Kallis, Sacchin Tendulkar.... That's half the battle - stay in the game long enough and good things will come your way.

Achieving the unachievable - can be attributed to so many different levels of life. work... personal... financial. Some will focus all their energies on one or two areas - I generally try to spread myself pretty thin, and find a balance across all fields. Of course that means dropping the ball occasionally in an attempt to juggle too many! Trying to find what is therapeutic for you is all that matters. Finding an inner peace will help all aspects fall into place - to make sense of the chaos.

Many in my life struggle with where I'm coming from...or where I'm heading to. If immediate family and very close friends are struggling - then there's little wonder that amongst thousands of new found supporters, occasionally I cop a serve from the trolls. It hurts - but the key is moving on quickly. You'll cross paths with some of them too. When you are actively seeking a better life for yourself and others, that will not sit well with some people. Never let their opinions determine your actions. If your actions are based on what you believe to be good outcomes, for the right reasons...then stay rock solid and don't be swayed.

There is also a flip side to the negative feedback - and for this reason, I refuse to go through life with my 'blinkers' on. I honestly believe tunnel vision is dangerous. If you happen to get on the wrong track by mistake, or a lack of good won't make a u-turn, or take that exit until it's too late. Always be open to feedback, good or bad, as you'd be surprised just how often a slight correction to the course you'd plotted can save a lot of pain and heartache down the track. Another day, another lesson - the quicker you learn the cheaper the lesson :)

To this day - social media has become an integral part of my life...of my existence. Almost by default in fact, as the platform for our business played a crucial role in our survival, and growth in an incredibly competitive market. Beyond that however, it has become much more, growing a life of its own. On a daily basis, I can never be sure what's coming next - questions, comments, criticisms, complements, suggestions, requests....I guess Farmer Gregie is driving the bus - but we're taking the scenic route without question!

My intentional efforts to share my life with many thousands of supporters, does actually have a purpose. My obvious attempt to achieve balance in my own life, is effectively journaled in a very public forum. From family holidays, events and sport, to personal battles with depression, to farm life, to speaking engagements, to 4Real Milk updates...and most controversially - sharing my thoughts and opinions across a very wide range of topics. I have in fact been accused of being an 'oversharer' by a close friend, and I know my family struggle at times with my desire to be so transparent. Of course I too in turn struggle personally with feedback from those closest to me, so why continue to over share? I can never be sure who might next read a status update, with the latest Farmer Gregieism - or a classic Farmer Gregie rant.

So many people have thanked me, for helping them personally deal with their own 'stuff'. People who have openly said they've not previously liked or commented, but are always reading my posts. I'm genuinely saddened that some people want me to stop...being me. "Stop over sharing", "Don't pass judgement", "How dare you use a tragedy to promote your own cause!"

There may be people out there who may be surprised, but I have friends who love the Simpsons! I think it is still on TV today? I haven't unliked those friends in real life...but I don't like the Simpsons - never did. I see by the ads on TV, Home and Away is still going too - wow! I haven't watched it since maybe the early 1990's - and don't appear to be missing it yet. Despite my feeling of indifference towards those show (amongst many others), I have never written a letter, or sent an email to the respective TV networks, asking them to remove such rubbish from my screen.

What would the world be, without those who choose to share? The music industry is full of them. Some of the all time greats - Johnny Cash, John Lennon, Billy Joel, and modern day heroes - Keith Urban, Pink, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran...sharing their life experience (the good, the bad...and at times ugly) with little 'ole me - and you too of course! Yes these very musicians get told not to share - but thankfully they have selective hearing, as apparently do I ;)

That one person, crippled by depression, or another frozen by anxiety. The inexplicable feeling of being unloved, unwanted, unrequired - unable to see clear for a better future...or hoping for just one good day :( What if? What if through my openness, my honesty and transparency, that one person was able to feel a connection - that in their despair, they are not alone? What if I was to plant a seed of doubt...that all is not lost, that this incredible low is only temporary? Would that be such an imposition? Would it be too much to ask that some may have to scroll past that Farmer Gregie status update...just as I would flick past Home And Away to watch The Project?

I remain impressed at the way some people are able to travel through life, without imposing their struggles onto friends, or inflicting others with their mood swings. Playing their cards close to their chest and portraying the perfect life...but at what cost? Well that really does depend on the individual - and there may be no cost incurred whatsoever. Truth is - that just won't work for me. Sharing is what helps me move forward. If in the process of maintaining my own equilibrium I can help old friends, or recent supporters and followers face their fears and challenges, that surely represents a win-win!

For those closest to me, my ups are as obvious as my downs. That has also become increasingly obvious on my Robotic Dairy facebook page, as I am now comfortable to share feelings in a growing forum. My downs now dissipate quickly, rarely lasting more than a day or two. Five short years ago, that same low could have stretched for weeks or even months! Each to their own - I am totally okay with the fact that some will never understand my methods...but I do hope that one day they will come to appreciate that I am a 'better me' today, with the help of these tools, these methods, than I could have ever been without them. And yes, the 'better version of me' will continue to fall frustratingly short of perfection. But as I always maintain...Perfection is overrated!!