WESTERN Dairy's 2020 Dairy Information Day (DID) in May has been cancelled, with the Western Australian industry's premier showcase event succumbing to COVID-19 social distancing, public events and movement restrictions.
Recognised by Dairy Australia as the best and most innovative industry event of its kind nationally, DID last year attracted about 400 people from WA's 145 dairy farms, dairy processors, equipment manufacturers and specialist consultants.
Since its inception in 2000, DID has showcased new techniques in herd management, feed production systems and milk harvesting at 17 different host dairy farms, as well as the WA College of Agriculture, Harvey.
Last year DID showcased Bannister Downs' new Creamery at Northcliffe which combined the State's first robotic rotary milking platform and low-temperature pasteurising processing equipment with a glass-walled viewing platform to create a dairy farm tourist attraction first.
Later the same day DID visitors also inspected a traditional rotary dairy and three-pond effluent system that produces water clean enough to wash down yards with at Wally and Julie Bettinks' Westland Acres, also in Northcliffe.
This year DID was to be held at White Rocks dairy farm, Benger, operated by WAFarmers dairy section president and Australian Dairy Farmers national council member Michael Partridge and his family.
The farm is also the home of White Rocks brand veal, established in 1989 as a successful offshoot business to utilise bull calves.
Brunswick Dairy Museum, filled with unique memorabilia and vintage farming equipment, is on White Rocks and was to be open during DID.
Western Dairy's new regional manager Janelle Bowles this week confirmed the 2020 DID had been cancelled, but plans are being prepared to hold Western Dairy's annual Spring Field Day and annual general meeting at White Rocks dairy farm in December.
"In line with government recommendations, Western Dairy has cancelled the Dairy Innovation Day conference and exhibition planned for May 21," Ms Bowles said on Monday.
"This is the first time DID has been cancelled in 20 years.
"Our popular on-farm event showcases a range of farm and dairy production innovations and ideas to more than 400 people every year.
"We look forward to welcoming dairy farmers, service providers and our valued sponsors back to DID in May 2021 and will keep everyone informed as the program takes shape.
"If all goes well, a smaller Spring Field Day and Western Dairy AGM may be held at White Rocks in early December, incorporating some DID program highlights such as the host question and answer session.
"Details of the event will be shared later this year."
Ms Bowles said it remained "business as usual" for dairy farms around the country.
"Dairy remains one of the country's essential industries and a National Response Group, convened by the Australian Dairy Industry Council and comprising Dairy Australia, ADF and Australian Dairy Products Federation representatives, is providing guidance to Federal and State governments," she said.
"Dairy Australia is working with industry stakeholders to co-ordinate efforts to forecast, plan for and monitor impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.
"A dedicated COVID-19 directory at dairyaustralia.com.au/C19 is host to a growing list of resources and information developed to support farmers, their families and farm businesses.
"In the weeks ahead, we'll be providing more advice to farmers on how to manage with reduced labour and how to effectively up-skill new labour for critical tasks, including milking."
At Westland Acres where the dairy operation relies on backpacker labour, Ms Bettink said they were lucky with movement restrictions and now had more workers than normal.
"We had one (backpacker) who was already here, one who had just finished her six months and was about to go travelling up the coast before going home to Holland, but she's decided to stay on with us and keep working because she has nowhere else she can go and the new girl to replace her is also here, we said she could come too," Ms Bettink said.
"We've probably got more workers than normal but the dairy operation is going good - we've got some green feed at last which helps.
"But every day we are getting calls from city people looking for work.
"It's not skilled work, if backpackers can do it, city people without jobs can do it if there's no more backpackers," she said.