Farmers the vulnerable link

Farmers the most vulnerable in dairy to coronavirus

ADF News
PREPARED: Dairy Australia managing director David Nation.

PREPARED: Dairy Australia managing director David Nation.

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Dairy Australia's biggest fear right now is that dairy farmers and their staff will be too ill to work or that the government will make it all but impossible for them to get the job done.

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Dairy Australia's biggest fear right now is that dairy farmers and their staff will be too ill to work or that the government will make it all but impossible for them to get the job done.

DA is so concerned about the impact of the coronavirus on the flow of milk, it has dedicated a dozen staffers - with plans for dozens more - to tackle it on several fronts.

First, it had to reassure government that milk was still a safe food.

The concern was not that it might exacerbate infections but that industry standards might fail under the strain.

It also had to ensure governments understood what it takes to keep milk on supermarket shelves, DA managing director David Nation said.

"The government keeps making rules like closing state borders," he said.

"As things escalate, which they are, and the government has said they'll continue to escalate, how do we make sure it escalates in a way that things like stock feed deliveries, regular milk pick ups, and processing all can take place safely?

"There are obviously going to be challenges because farms are homes as well as a place of work.

"Government's going to have to make decisions: what does it mean to self isolate, what can people do and not do when they're isolating?

"There's going to be issues with visitors necessary for farms to keep functioning."

Stockfeed and livestock transport movements were also vital.

But most critical of all were farmers themselves.

"I think our greatest vulnerability at this point in time is the same as all of society, which is the loss of a workforce; people being sick and absent from work," Dr Nation said.

DA had released information to help dairy farmers deal with absences.

"The first thing is to be really clear on when and how people need to be absent," Dr Nation said.

"So the priority we've put up on the website to respond to coronavirus is advice to employers as dairy farmers."

DA has compiled coronavirus information for dairy farmers in a special section on its website.

That advice includes protocols about the collection of milk.

It suggests farmers "consider being absent" when the milk tanker is due.

Tanker drivers are asked to use disposable gloves that are discarded when leaving each farm.

Antibacterial spray carried in trucks should be used to wipe down all hand contact surfaces and touch points, including farm door handles, the vat, valves and controls.

Dr Nation said processors were meeting weekly.

"I know processors are talking about this in the same way as they talked about natural disasters like the bush fires," he said.

"When things get tight they ask, 'How can we help each other out?'."

Dairy production has ramped up in a bid to match panic buying, with long-life milk sales up 50 per cent last week.

"Positives are hard to talk about but the reality is I think this will turn society's attention back to the importance of food and agriculture," he said.

He wanted to reassure farmers that the industry was prepared.

"It would be fantastic for farmers to understand that the dairy industry actually has a standing capacity to respond to issues like this," he said.

"A rapid response was triggered two weeks ago, so there's a lot of talented people who have been doing good work for two weeks now and that will expand as we have to keep doing more."

The story Farmers the vulnerable link first appeared on Stock & Land.

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