Queensland dairy farmer breaks ranks to go it alone

Scenic Rim dairy farmer Greg Dennis has put his family farm on the line to invest $1 million into processing and bottling his own milk.
Scenic Rim dairy farmer Greg Dennis has put his family farm on the line to invest $1 million into processing and bottling his own milk. Contributed

A SCENIC RIM dairy farmer has parted ways with the supermarket war on milk prices, putting his family farm on the line to bottle and sell his own milk.

Greg Dennis is part of a niche group of farmers who have opted over the past decade to end their long-running deals with traditional processors and go it alone.

For Mr Dennis, a fourth generation dairy farmer, the prospect to self-bottle became a reality when a renewal contract with his former processor offered a price 25% below processing costs.

It also followed the pressures of a discount war between the major supermarkets created after Coles lowered the price of milk in 2011 to $1 per litre.

Like many dairy farmers before him, Mr Dennis, a father of two, faced a crossroads.

"Unquestionably, it has been the biggest decision our family farm has had to make," he said.

"But one we felt very comfortable about making because the decision was to risk staying with our old processor and losing money on a daily basis.

"That risk might have been that we lost our farm."

Mr Dennis and his family - wife, two children, mother and father and uncle and aunt - have spent the past "hectic" eight months investing more than $1 million to establish a processing plant on their Scenic Rim Robotic Dairy Farm, near Beaudesert.

South-east Queensland retailers - including health food stores and cafes - have ordered the Dennis family's glass and plastic bottled homogenised and unhomogenised milk ahead of it hitting the shelves on June 14.

Queensland Dairy Organisation president Brian Tessmann said the emergence of farmers deciding to bottle their own milk was a result of tough times.

"I don't think it's a panacea really, but for some people who are willing to have a go, it is an option, but it's a tough option," he said.

"It takes a lot of money to set up to do that and a lot of management as well, but it's not for everybody.

"It's a thing that happens during the tough times and if they continue you will see a little more but if things improve you won't see it as much."

The Scenic Rim 4Real Milk will officially launch at the Scenic Rim Eat Week on June 25.

Topics:  dairy editors picks milk scenic rim

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