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If you want to keep up to date with the goings-on at 4Real Milk and some farming updates from Farmer Gregie, keep an eye on our Blog.
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By Farmer Gregie 18 Jun, 2016

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 price 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 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 forego huge mark-up on fresh milk (they have told us so publicly), they made a combined PROFIT of $4,590,000,000 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 (over 70% of farmers in fact), 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 over 60% 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 exports - 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.
By Farmer Gregie 18 Feb, 2016
I will continue to challenge you...and be challenged by you. That is a given I must accept :O
In this politically correct world where truth is repressed, and honesty berated - people are wrapping themselves in cotton wool, to avoid PAIN from the truth, or being HURT by honesty.
Without even realising it, what are they avoiding? LIFE ITSELF.

As long as we're ALIVE - we will endure pain in its many forms and disguises. Sometimes learning a truth that was previously foreign to our beliefs, and in conflict with our actions can be a very painful experience...but wouldn't you rather know? How can you adjust you course of action, if you're acting on false navigational information?

Knowledge is power (y)

I haven't yet figured out how to go 'viral', although this page has gone from about 12,500 followers to 15,454 in the few weeks since my return from illness. 3,000 people have just come in on the 5th season of 'Farmer Gregie's inconvenient truth'....some think I'm a breath of fresh air - while others think I'm a bad odour that they mistakenly stumbled across :(
Too all you NEWBIES - this bumpy little ride will be as challenging for you as it is for me. I haven't change my 'in your face' delivery in the previous 4 seasons. I am still the cranky little shit stirrer that I was in 2012. Yes I at times frustrate my own family and friends with the insights and opinions I share - but I AM STILL AUTHENTICALLY 'ME' :P

I do continue to take on board constructive feedback, and I will without exception analyse it and implement suggestions that are beneficial to the greater good (y) Perhaps one thing I don't do well enough is replay the very first scene of the first season of this epic journey...for all the newcomers. I polarise an audience and that is unavoidable.
I am and will continue to extremely grateful of all the compliments and suggestions that come into this page. I personally see all of them and respond if and when I'm capable...myself. I will continue to do so, for as long as is physically possible. With weekly traffic nudging and exceeding 200,000 - you will start to see Leah from the office, and my daughter Jewel's names popping up to answer some of the simpler and more generic questions. I will continue to respond to the tough ones that nobody else quite knows how to handle (y) I will continue to tell people what they NEED of hear, not necessarily what they WANT to hear. Tough love indeed!!

So if you've just jumped onto this page and into this conversation in the past couple of weeks, it might prove to be too hard a work for you. You may want to request that I change my methods (as some already have), or you might choose to get off at the next stop. I am okay with that reality, and I need to be.

Despite the fact that I make myself personally available through this forum, some make a conscious decision to withdraw their support. I know this because they tell me so, and of course others do likewise without letting me know. The great irony is that many of these people were supporting, and may go back to Internationally owned milk labels, or the duopoly who sells them - but do they have a personal line to the CEO? Can they instigate a conversation with the Chairman of the Board? Perhaps just one of the company Directors? Funny how the human brain justifies and rationalises our actions. Ignorance is not bliss, it just lulls you into a false sense of security!!

Unlike BILLION $$$ corporations, my motivation is not the bottom line. My motivation is not to justify my position at the helm, and retain my $30 MILLION per annum pay package. My position does not rely on my ability to 'rob Peter to pay Paul'. I do not have MILLIONS of $$$ to pour into advertising campaigns designed and intended to mislead - and nor would I want to.
My mission in life is to empower consumers by personally bridging the gap between City and Country. I will continue to ask that you..."Help me help you"! FOOD SECURITY is a 'tomorrow problem' that desperately needs 'today solutions'. I think I've been put on the planet to drag you kicking and screaming...back into the dysfunctional free country we created. I want you to remove your rose coloured glasses, so that you can see the truth, so that you can make informed decisions, so that you too can make a REAL difference to our future...your future. Your contribution will be made. Your impact is inevitable. Will it be for the GREATER GOOD?

Farmer Gregie ;)
By Farmer Gregie 16 Feb, 2016
My mind is spinning, my heart racing, my body good it feels to be back!

After having the extended 'holiday' that I apparently needed to have, my overactive imagination is gushing with ideas and strategies. You will all see some incredible opportunities unfold this year...played out in the very public arena through my presence in the wonderful world of social media.

If ever you feel the need to have a 5 month break from work...or life - SHINGLES should never be your preferred option. Trust me!! I knew very little about shingles, until I was struck down with a severe bout back in September. I knew it was a rash, and thought it would be irritating. WOW! If the shingles I knew about was a guppy sucking on my big toe - then the one that I came to know intimately was a GREAT WHITE - and it chewed me up and spat me out!!! The nerve pain was excruciating, initially deep in the muscles of my back, and later on the surface of my skin. I was unable to wear any kind of shirt for almost 8 weeks, as the nerve endings were so sensitive. Pretty much had to stay confined to one room of my house, because any air low was painful, as was temperature below 25C or above 27C. I could only sleep on my back, but could never pull the sheet up above my waste!! I felt physically ill most days and was subsequently struggling with appetite, energy and basic brain function. I tried just about every medical treatment and herbal remedy suggested, but the only thing that appeared to be working...was TIME.

That was just the excitement of the physical impact...but of course my good old mate the BLACK DOG had to pop in and keep me company for a couple of months too!! It is so incredibly difficult to explain to someone who may have never experienced depression. In fact even for many of us who have, it holds sway in many different shapes and forms. Physically unable to do any form of work, I cannot even begin to describe the frustration of not having any mental capabilities either! To spend most of the day lying down playing CANDY CRUSH!! Couldn't concentrate well enough to read more than two or three pages of a book. Sat at the computer at times for hours, looking blankly at the computer screen unable to remember what I was going to do. Watched my phone ring on countless occasion and let it go to message. Many emails were left unopened, as I knew I was neither capable of reading them, let alone responding.

In golfing terminology...I had the YIPS!! What used to be as easy to me as sinking a 1 foot putt, was not even catching the lip of the hole!! Only a few short weeks ago, I was questioning if I would ever be the same old irritating, shit stirring, 'bull at a gate' Farmer Gregie. My confidence and belief in all that I had done, and everything I still hoped to achieve had vanished before my eyes. I could not walk into a 4REAL store and instigate a conversation - with an employee or customer. I could not pick up the phone and speak freely. I could not even interact, by reading comments or answering questions, by post insights through social media. I COULD NOT :( I was a broken man who had lost his way. I had no purpose - had lost belief - had given up!

Depression is a strange beast. There'll be many well meaning people who will try and 'cheer you up'. Unfortunately it is just not that simple. You cannot think 'happy thoughts' and push it out of you mind. Your logical brain may suspect that the thoughts are not real, yet you are still powerless to feel anything other...the way you feel. There are tools to help and yes medication and therapy are important. But even if all hope appears lost, you must believe one thing. TIME will defeat depression. You might not know exactly how long this will take or when it will happen - but as long as you're sucking in oxygen, TIME has the opportunity to play its pivotal role. And should you again slip back, TIME will still be there to do its thing again... and again.

As each week passes, I look back at where I was and how I felt, in disbelief at my progress and improvement. I feel like, "Wow I'm getting better", yet I continue to get better, week after week. It sounds contrived to suggest that my recovery has been nothing short of miraculous...but it's true. It is like somebody flicked the switch a month ago, and I've gone from the dull glow of a candle, to the brightness of a flood light. Perhaps another four weeks from now I'll be radiating as brightly as the light towers over the GABBA!!!

Physically I'm still struggling and learning what works best for my body. Mentally, I'm getting there - despite frustrating lapses of...FRUSTRATION. One thing I know for sure is that our business stands a much greater chance of survival with me working 'off farm' than on farm. We've put together a really good team on the farm, who with Dad and Uncle Ray's guidance and wealth of knowledge have kept things running very nicely indeed. The survival of our family farm is reliant on the survival of 4REAL MILK. During my absence I have come to understand with clarity, that nobody within our organisation has the ability to communicate the message, and interact with the people who will in turn save 4REAL MILK - YOU!! Nobody...but Farmer Gregie!!

I have become an accidental activist. A voice for all Aussie farmers, that has been lost for decades. A forgotten story that has not been told by corporate dominance. A future pin-up boy for Australian Agriculture...a GLOBAL SENSATION...sorry...wait...too far?? Okay getting a little carried away there!! It's good to aim high right? I talk in seriousness about the comparisons between what Steve Irwin did for wildlife conservation in his short time on the planet, and what I have set about achieving for the future of Agriculture. His ability to communicate a message was as irritating to some, as it was inspirational to others, and appears to be a talent I share. His global impact on his chosen field was actually magnified through his work away from Australia Zoo - although it will forever remain his legacy. I say in jest, that I will one day be as big as Steve - but no stingray will take me out! More likely a runaway tractor. But in seriousness I also recall vividly the indelible mark that fateful day left in my heart, when the news broke on the radio. I was in the tractor raking hay - I could take you to the paddock and almost drop my hat on the spot where I heard of the tragedy :(

Sometimes structures are unable to be repaired. The integrity of their framework has been compromised or destroyed. They are condemned and need to be rebuilt from the ground up - for the protection of human life. That is today true of the Dairy Industry I've grown up in, as I look on astonished at the unnecessary devastation since the 1990's. The systematic dismantling of a once strong and thriving industry has gone on unabated to far too long, without government intervention or consumer comprehension. Corporate greed will be the death of agriculture in Australia - but it is what gives me strength, gives me purpose and fans my fire. I refuse to idly sit around any longer, to watch my farming friends drop like flies - and see your LOCAL FRESH MILK evaporate into thin air.

I am making a STAND, and you are all more than welcome to join me. No longer am I fearful of the all conquering CORPORATE MACHINE. They have bought their way into media and bombard us every day with subliminal messages built on retail profits, not commercial realities. Their propaganda has so effectively infiltrated every aspect of our lives, that we are oblivious to the fact that CORRUPTION is determining market value...not COMPETITION. The Australia you live in today is no longer a capitalist society, but a dictatorship. CORPORATE GREED are now running the show - and we are funding their ongoing campaign, by spending 80% of our money with them instead of supporting independent businesses. Market manipulation, compliments of predatory pricing is simply a means to an end. Whose end? Gigantic Multinational Companies desire to kill off competition. The means? Gain absolute control of the market, to maintain control of the MONEY. They may have bought air time on TV and Radio - but they cannot buy your loyalty or trust. They need to earn that the old fashioned way, by walking the talk. TALK is matter what price you paid for it!!

The definition of INSANITY?? Doing the same thing and expecting a different result. If you don't like where we're heading - then you'd better make some life changing decisions NOW. If you want to wait for the right time...wait. If you want to wait for government intervention...still waiting! If you want to wait for RETAIL and FOOD PROCESSING GIANTS to develop a social conscience...keep waiting!!

I'm done waiting. It's time for decisive action, not procrastination!! YOU SNOOZE YOU LOSE :(

Farmer Gregie 
By Farmer Gregie 05 Feb, 2016
It's funny how our own mind plays tricks on us - and at times incredibly frustrating! 

I realise after sleeping on it, my anxiety of succeeding or failing in the Crowd Funding campaign has nothing to do with 'success or failure' such. It has everything to do with the belief among the thousands of supporters like you who have been on the journey until this point in time. Do you believe strongly enough in me? Do you believe strongly enough in my message? Do you believe, beyond a shadow of doubt that I will take this message to the world - and create the awareness that I speak of?

As I look at my own track record - I cannot dispute our achievements...they are real. I have already left an indelible mark in my small corner of the world. I have taken a U-turn from tradition, and flipped the way milk is sold on its head! The way we do business is the way of the future. The way we produce and market food is the way of the future. The corporate alternative has no future. It will self destruct, not a question of if - but when? It's a paradigm shift for many - one future, very bright - the other future, extremely bleak. You will determine that already are today.

A promising start to the campaign, with 19 backers. It is a nice mix of some original and very loyal believers, and some brand new faces. This is a great test of the 'care factor' of the wider community. I am already feeling much more at ease with the outcome, as it will help shape my way forward. You see - it will be for the best if the campaign is not supported, as that indicates to me that target audience I thought was out there...does not exist. However if the campaign is heavily backed, that is awesome news, giving me the green light to be the one who shows the way of the future, ably assisted by YOU!

This will prove to be a great release of the pressure I've put on myself. It can be exhilarating to be a creative, to act on a faith, to believe what I've already foreseen to be true and real. It can also be draining and daunting for those closest to me, those who don't always share in my visions. I have been working on this project (educational documentary), mentally, for the past 5 years. As soon as that report was released in 2011, of Year 11 Students who thought Yogurt grew on trees, and Cotton came off animals, I knew that awareness had to be created, that education was key. That was also the motivation to start our farm tours.

Over to you pressure! After 12 hours of going live we're at $814. Unfortunately that puts us on track to reach the target in 74 days time, which is 53 days beyond my deadline. As my wife always tells me - "You snooze, you lose". I will know whether to action my plans or not in the coming days. I already believe in 'me', but if you do too...then I need your help. It's in your hands.

Farmer Gregie :)

By Farmer Gregie 02 Feb, 2016
I believe that RESPECT is a two-way street. Maybe I have formed some opinions thanks to my upbringing? Perhaps it's also due to choices I've made beyond childhood?

On the Dennis family farm, we do what we can to save lives on a daily basis. Our future depends on it - and so does the job security of our entire team. Of all days, today rammed it home to me even more than usual.

You see, this morning, Dad called in to break the bad news to me that one of our 2 year old milk heifers was down (and almost certainly out) with Ephemeral Fever. This despite the fact that Dad and Uncle Ray (both in their 70's) picked her up well after knock-off a couple of days ago, and shifted her to the relative comfort of the rubber matting, and relief of the water sprinklers in the dairy shed. Known as 3 Day Sickness in cattle, it is like a severe dose of influenza - which can result in death during our extreme heat and humidity. We vaccinate our 500 girls annually, at a cost of $$ in the thousands - but just as with humans, not everyone is protected 100% of the time.
I was reluctant to 'put her down', although that appeared to be the only option, and the humane course of action. I spoke to Courtney, and asked her, along with Jason, and Justin (who literally started with us yesterday), to sit her up and give her one more opportunity to have a drink and a feed. What I didn't request was for Courtney to share her ICY POLE with Tarnya!! Justin was onto it (he'd been studying Veterinary Science and completed Animal Production prior to coming here) knowing the importance of re-hydrating her, but we had no electrolytes on hand.
Tarnya sparked up so quickly that she went on to have a good drink of water, and ate a couple of biscuits of hay...and maybe even cracked a smile :) Is she now heading for certain recovery? Not yet - more like moving from the Intensive Care High Dependency! We have at least given her a fighting chance.

Really made me think of how precious life on the farm is, because only a matter of minutes before I visited Tarnya to check her progress...down the other side of my house - one of our best cows, Clutha gave birth to a little girl :) Just looked at the date on the computer, to see that it was June 10th 2015 that Clutha went down with a mystery illness. I was deeply saddened last year, as I was resigned to her passing. She was unable to get to her feet for almost a week, but we continued to offer her feed and water in the faintest of hopes. Most miraculously of all, despite her dire condition, she had been mated 43 days - an eventual pregnancy that went on to produce this little one by Brazzle :)

What has RESPECT got to do with any of this? There are lowlife out there running around flaunting their slick youtube clips, evoking hatred towards the unassuming, hard working, animal loving farmer. While these same fools claim to be liberating tortured farm animals, they are directly inflicting more pain and suffering than the farmers they have condemned ever will. Their contrived perception of reality is promoting the mass withdrawal of consumer support for animal products - which you guessed it, creates even greater instability of the financial and emotional well-being of generational farmers, who are in fact the caretakers of....wait for it....FARM ANIMALS!!!!!

Perhaps my sentiment towards the radical minority animal rights groups seems devoid of respect. Two-way street remember. When they start respect the never ending efforts of the humble farmer, then - and only then, will I feel comfortable that they have developed a level of respect for the farm animals with which they share this planet. Maybe then, will they have displayed to me a respect worthy of reciprocation. relieved I was in a good mood when I wrote this :/

Farmer Gregie ;)
By Farmer Gregie 26 Jan, 2016

This day will likely be bittersweet forever more...for me. Sweet - because it signifies the event that became the catalyst of 4REAL MILK's birth. Bitter - as I continue to question the cost?

January 26th, 2011 - Coles launched the sale of 'fresh milk' for $1 a litre. They were actually following a price already set by ALDI (who were not seen as a major threat at the time), which in turn forced Woolies hand and saw them follow suit. And so it was, the biggest of all price wars this country has ever seen was set in motion.

Dairy farmers watched on in anger, disillusioned. Rallies were organised and protests coordinated. Our farm gate price was about to crash and despite our attempts to create a public awareness of the direct and very real impact - we were powerless to effect change. Not surprisingly, farm gate milk price across Queensland and NSW did crash in the ensuing months by between 20% and 30% depending on which milk processor you were contracted to. With a force as destructive as the 2011 floods, the dairy industry was left decimated in it's wake - losing almost one third of its farmers in the coming months and years.

I look back astonished, as we all felt confident the milk wars would only last a matter of months. Supply and Demand would dictate a turnaround by necessity as the local milk shortage kicked in. Well I've been right about many things in the past decade, but in this case I couldn't have been further off the mark! The status quo has been maintained and consumers continue to be misled to believe that $1 a litre is a good deal for fresh milk. The truth? The fallout happened so rapidly that here in Queensland, retailers have been forced to truck milk thousands of kilometres to meet the market since 2012. This continues to happen as local farmers (within a 2 hour radius of their major centres) are paid below the cost of production and forced off their generational dairy farm. Interstate fresh milk imports have increased by between 300-400% in the past three years (from 40 million litres in 2012, to about 150 million litres last year), to ensure consumer demand was met. Pauls, Norco and Dairy Farmers milk products are indeed trucked up and down the entire east coast of Australia, every week of the year.

It truly has been a great case study for the good old 'divide and conquer' strategy. Of course Coles, Woolies and ALDI don't collude - that would be illegal. Incredibly however they have remained rock solid on their milk price since 2011. Yes, without speaking to each other, they have managed to maintain a retail price point for milk - which is lower than you the consumer were paying in store back in the 1990's, over 20 years ago! Major milk processors (be they internationally owned public companies, or Aussie owned Co-ops) lock their farmer groups into long-term contracts (whereby farmers are obligated to sell every last litre of milk they produce to their milk company...because they signed the legally binding document), yet have 'supply agreements' with their enemy (or should I say 'fellow') milk processors which enable them to shuffle tens of millions of litres of milk between factories year round. Again perfectly legal I'm sure. They have also done a tremendous job in stimulating hatred among farmers, be it State vs. State - Factory vs. Factory or Mate vs. Mate!! Out of fear for their own survival, individual farmers scramble aimlessly as the 'fight or flight' instinct kicks in.

Much like the political argument in my last blog, I question whether all this frantic activity happening behind closed doors driven by selfish short term motives or with a long term view of the greater good? Instincts can be hard to override, but sustainability depends on a fair and balanced approach. Survival today is all for nothing if any chance of future prosperity is corrupted or compromised. 'Charity starts at home' was never intended to mean that's also where it ends. It starts at home, so that it can flow freely to others - in strengthening relationships, and business partnerships - in our country and overseas.

As we expand our 4REAL market it is a double edged sword. Low food miles and supporting local remain among our core beliefs. In regions like Charleville and Longreach - there is no local dairy industry. Despite the many hundreds of kilometres in transit, 4REAL MILK may well still be their closest 'local' option. Even towns like Townsville and Cairns, major milk companies are trucking milk thousands (not hundreds) of kms up and down the east coast of Australia, while local industries like on the Atherton Tablelands have been systematically dismantled. It is true - Far North Queensland are now NET IMPORTERS of fresh milk all year round, with less than 40 surviving dairy farms!! Even if we come closer to our home base, it's fraught with danger of rejection. You see our farm is only 35 minutes from the NSW border. Our milk is produced and bottled closer to Kyogle, Casino and Lismore - than it is to Toowoomba or Warwick. We are closer to Tweed Heads, Murwillumbah and Ballina than we are to Dalby, Roma or Gympie. We have been fielding an almost fanatical level of support from Northern NSW consumers (and many retailers too), desperate to get 4REAL over the border...into what is effectively still our own 'backyard', since our inception. This is something I'm very proud to say we have finally achieved.

Perhaps I need to elaborate on the double edged sword analogy? Our milk had been over the border all of 3 days, and some small minded people had lodged complaints and threatened to withdraw their support of some of these retailers, who they claimed are "no longer supporting local".  This displays with great clarity the fear that has been instilled in consumers and farmers, seeds deliberately sown by milk processors themselves. I don't care whether a milk company is internationally owned, or an Aussie owned co-op who claim to support local - they all act with level of disrespect to our industry as a whole. How so? When we started our milk company, the immediate motivation was to save the family far so good. The much bigger picture was always to save other family farms by putting upward pressure on an unsustainably low farm gate milk price. As I now get to see and hear first hand the goings on within industry, every single big milk company is about eliminating whoever they believe to be competition, regardless the cost. The issue I face (and sadly the small retailer who is simply following through on the requests by their supportive loyal customers in sourcing a product on demand), is that this disappointing situation has risen its head under the camouflage of interstate rivalry. However, a friend of ours from over the border, told me of his own experience last year. He built a small milk company about the same time we did, and quickly established a strong local following - even winning a Gold Medal at the RNA Fine Food & Wine Awards dairy section. Within two years of startup, a big milk co-op went into his biggest local stockists (some within minutes from his farm), and undercut his wholesale price by more than a dollar a litre. Hmmm...did you too just pick up the scent of hypocrisy in the air?? Forget about the marketing spin that milk companies have become so proficient at, their motivation at every opportunity is to search out and destroy any threat, perceived or otherwise. Shoot first - ask questions later. I'm embarrassed that some of our Co-ops today tug on your heartstrings and trade off the "Aussie Made and Owned" mantra, while trying to bury little blokes like me, like 4REAL who are also Aussie made and owned.

All seems so bitter! There really is a big whack of SWEET too thankfully. Every hit I take from a big milk company - I will wear as a badge of honour. They are watching what I'm doing - they're hearing what I'm saying - they're more than a little rattled... I think I've got them on the run!! I have figured out something they don't deem necessary to their survival - pay the dairy farmer a FAIR farm-gate milk price. As generational dairy farms in our sub-tropical region continue to close down, BIG MILK still think the 'stick' is a much better prompt than the 'carrot'. If you understand human nature - when people have been battered from pillar to post for long enough, fear ceases to be an effective motivator. A growing number of these people (otherwise know as dairy farmers) are saying...ENOUGH!! They are exercising their freedom of choice, to depart the dairy industry. When all hope is lost beyond the foreseeable future - there is no reason to stay.

Ooops - sorry! This was supposed to be the sweet bit - and I've slipped back into bitter!!

Big milk companies continue to pay farmers what they think is fair - but that isn't even covering the farmer's bills, let alone repairs and maintenance. At the same time a little milk company with a big plan, is paying farmers what he knows they are worth - so that they can pay bills, and maybe...just maybe dream of a future. There is a catch however. The only way these grandiose plans will ever fly, is thanks to YOU! It can become very confusing - who should consumers support? But when you can get a grasp the benefit, you can't help but want to do what is right. The most important factor in enabling you to make a judgement call, is to be armed with the relevant facts. Below is a breakdown of the numbers that you don't get to see. Nobody within milk processing or retail have ever shared them publicly. They are real - based on industry figures, not Farmer Gregie opinions. Prior to our venture in the wonderful world of processing, distribution and retail, I had neither the tools or the knowledge to share with you.

Itemised breakdown of retail milk in QLD -
Cost of production (on farm) - 65c/L
Cost of processing (approx) - 50c/L
Cost of warehousing and distribution - 10 - 20%
Cost of retail mark-up (varies) - 25 - 40%
Cheap Supermarket $1/L Milk
Farm-gate price to farmer - 35c/L (30c/L loss)
Cost of processing - 50c/L (maybe not covered?)
Cost of distribution - (covered)
Cost of retail mark-up (loss leader) - loss of between 5-20c/L

Sustainably priced $2/L
Farm-gate price to farmer - 65c/L (costs covered)
Cost of processing - 50c/L (covered)
Cost of distribution - 35c/L (approx)
Retail mark-up - 50c/L (approx)

*Approximations are due to differing economies of scale

I understand that this all seems rather long winded - so please give yourself a pat on the back from me if you got this far!! But here's the kicker. If the difference between a future with fresh milk...or without, is KNOWLEDGE, maybe you'd agree this has been time well spent?? What are the odds of long term availability of locally produced fresh milk, in a supply chain that distributes a LOSS to each and every sector? I reckon - "A snowflake's chance in a Queensland summer". Just saying!!

Farmer Gregie ;)

By Farmer Gregie 24 Jan, 2016

You know the old saying - "Absence makes the heart grow fonder". Of course that is referring to people and relationships, but it will be equally relevant to availability of fresh food and it's subsequent impact on our quality of life. Sadly it is also true that you don't appreciate what you've got - until it's gone. Here in the lucky country, Aussies en masse have been spoiled with abundance since the Great Depression. I look on incredulously, as complacency runs rampant and our freedom of choice in the very near future is eroding before my eyes.

Some of us have been taught from an early age, that charity starts at home. I hear some of you gasp...what a selfish motive! Not at all. Have you ever considered why the flight attendants request that you put your own oxygen mask in place before attempting to help others? How could you possibly help anybody else, let alone yourself, if you're lying back - passed out in your seat?? If as a country, a community and a family, we don't nourish our bodies and strengthen our own financial position - then we will be rendered powerless to help others, at home or abroad and cease to exist in the literal sense of the word :(

We should not be surprised that the Chinese, and any other intelligent society would want to secure food supplies from Australia. In fact I consider it a compliment of the highest order! We have a well earned reputation as one of the 'cleanest and greenest' agricultural producers in the world today. The 'green'? Well I'm happy to agree that as an industry we can keep working on that one, and continue to lift our game. The 'clean'? Thanks in part to import regulations surrounding biosecurity...but most importantly the fact that we are quite literally an island - with a fairly substantial protective barrier know in some circles as an OCEAN!! We can all look on in amazement at the structural feat that is the Great Wall of China - but just imagine what it would have cost to pile up dirt the size of Australia, and plonk it in the middle of a big pond!

Don't be mistaken however - if we make the decision to sell off any of our farm land to foreign investors (from any country without discrimination), we lose control of where the resultant crops or produce with be sent. Other countries are already setting about securing their food future. They won't be looking to feed Australia first, with the food they've the land they own. Investment in agricultural land is a very different beast to investment in manufacturing, industrial or residential land. There are many things we can do in a free country - but that call is above our pay grade. In this instance we must apply political pressure, and never allow the powers that be, during any given term, sell out the future of generations not yet born. NEVER!! We own the land - we control the market.

It is true that in democratic countries we can all vote governments in or out, and have an expectation that they will make the appropriate decisions that will benefit us as a whole. Unfortunately the events we used to call 'Elections' have become farcical in recent decades, even more so with the advent of Social Media. (KRudd is probably only marginally behind Kim Kardashian and Farmer Gregie for the most selfies taken since '07)!! Today these elections are little more that a 'Popularity Contest'. I fear for the day when they become a 10 or 12 week TV series, like X Factor, MKR...or "I'm a Politician Get Me OUT OF HERE!!" Through a process of elimination, the last person standing will be our newly crowned Prime Minister. (Although now that I've suggested it the Commercial TV channels will be soon bidding for the exclusive rights - with Coles and Woolies tendering for major sponsorship package that will likely return their investment 10 fold).

Yes the little voice inside my head continues to chirp away, "But is it UNAustralian to believe the Australian way is no longer... Australian??" You see we have been subtly building a Brand New Australia since the 1980's on a foundation of 'greed is good', under the guise of a corporate propaganda machine, being ably assisted with a high level of inactivity I like to call AUSSIE APATHY!! Oooo that sounds harsh now that I've typed it - maybe I really am being UNAustralian by simply making such a suggestion. I just think it's about time we stopped playing the blame game with all that's going wrong in our world - and own up to our personal contribution. As sensationalist media happily frame governments and giant corporations as evil...they willingly take copious amounts of money under the table, to pay for the advertising with which we are bombarded 24/7, about the very same governments and corporations. Not surprisingly, as apathy kicks in - we mindlessly soak it all up, swallowing the sugar coated poison that is breaking our spirit from the inside out.

Are we really so powerless? Are YOU really so powerless?? Understand that you DO have the ability to choose - in a free country. The choice of what to watch, what to believe, what actions to take - and who to support. Ignorance is NOT bliss. Inactivity IS a contribution. What you do...or don't do about the situation we face will help determine the future, just as all that has been done before has shaped our past. The situation I speak of? FOOD SECURITY!

Until something impacts directly upon your life, it is difficult to consider it a problem. That is basic human instinct, as we are hard-wired for survival. The past couple of centuries have seen a huge shift in the value we place on differing roles in society. After many thousands of years of being  predominantly agricultural, we've moved through the industrial age...and into the technology boom. So we've gone from food producers comprising a dominant sector of the workforce, to today in Australia less than 1% of the workforce are farmers. If you were to talk to many of the farmers, their morale is especially low, they feel there is little or no respect for the role they play and the efforts they go to on a daily basis. As opportunities on the land have all but dried up, farmers insist that their kids and grandkids get a trade, or a degree. Become a professional and live without the hardships faced on farm (of course the grass is always greener!). People continue to flock from regional centres to the coastal cities - who in turn are unable to cope with infrastructure and population growth.

Let me say, to all the farmers out there, and anybody who lives in Australia and eats food (covers most of you I reckon?)...I want to put this in perspective. Less than 1% of Aussies supply 93% of domestic food requirements, and export enough to feed another 60 million people (valued at $41Billion p/a). Has anybody stopped for just one moment, to consider how their body would operate - how their brain would function, without food, without being regularly refueled? Have you ever sat in a car turning the key, willing it to start, when the fuel gauge reads EMPTY?? Not going to happen!! Yet despite the fact that logic dictates we are nothing without food, farmers feel unworthy, and many (not all) city dwellers don't care. We are turning the corner, but it is a slow turn that's been a long time coming.

The very big issue we face here is education. It's not going to be resolved without the will of the people who have lost touch with the land, who no longer have that direct generational connection through farming. The truth is that as farmers, we let ourselves down badly. We get so busy being busy, that we allow the huge profit driven processing and retail machine to promote and sell our 'labour of love' on our behalf. We've all seen with clarity how that's played out over the past 30 years or so, and it's leaving a bitter taste in my mouth! You see the greed of CEO's and shareholders (yes we too have been contributing as a collective) is driving retail price-point, while you the customer have been taught what is an appropriate spend on food. Sadly this has little to no relevance for sustainability, and most certainly doesn't translate to value. In simple terms, the price is what you pay - set by the retailer. In recent decades, the disparity between price and cost (the actual money required to maintain profit at farm level) has grown so rapidly, that many agricultural sectors have gone past the tipping point. Pressure on farmers across sectors has been delivered with one core message - "Get big or get out"! This philosophy has undoubtedly been driven by corporate accountants who understand the economies of scale. But when you get into negative territory, you lose more money faster. Great 'price' may not align with great 'value' if there is no margin at farm-gate. Ask anyone with a degree in Economics, is it possible to continue running a business when expenses exceed income every single month? Actually...ask anyone with a calculator! That continues to be the experience of the humble Dairy Farmer. We've allowed external forces to create a market and educate the masses that $1 milk is a good deal...but at what cost? As the cheap milk market continues to grow in volume, high level dairy farms are shutting their gates at an increasing rate.

The role we play as individuals is critical. We can't wait for government intervention - things move too slow through that forum. Governments are too busy 'sledging' the other team, instead of making positive and effective policy to benefit our country. In fact - democracy as we know it has failed us all badly...just my opinion! If politicians were genuinely about what is good for Australia as a country, then opposition would work with, not against the incumbent government in the spirit of bipartisanship - for the greater good. Opposition do more harm for our country than the worst performing government ever could, as they erode confidence and instill fear in us all, as to what inevitably lies ahead...and I mean ALL opposition, Federal and State!! I wish they would GROW UP and show some leadership, for the sake of the people they've been elected to serve.

This Australia Day - and every other day of the year, all I ask is that you think about your choices. Is the way you spend your money on food going to help strengthen an industry or destroy it? Are you comfortable with importing your fresh food in the future, pending availability, from countries who have surplus to their domestic requirements? Have you really considered the consequences of your actions today - and how it will flow on to Australia's future prosperity? 

If you genuinely care, as you tuck into your family feast...spare a thought, and say thanks to the farmer you've never met who put that food on your plate. I want you to know that they will keep doing it for as long as they physically, mentally and financially can, day in day out. I know this because I'm one of them. But should the day come, when it's no longer possible...only then will you realise just what you had and how much you are going to miss it :( 

Happy Australia Day!
Farmer Gregie :)
By Farmer Gregie 20 Jan, 2016

While we call it anecdotal is REAL!!

Just ask one of the thousands who have discovered that our milk is not causing any of the nasty side-effects they had come to associate with anything dairy!

I continue to question..."Has our body really changed in one generation - or are we continuing to do more damage to our food through processing, in turn creating digestive issues". We're all chasing that elusive property we've trained to look for through cleverly coordinated propaganda campaigns..."SHELF LIFE" !!

Milk - more than any other product in the supermarket isle has attracted millions of dollars into R&D...because it is so perishable - naturally. The inconvenient truth? The longer the shelf life, the worse it is for your body...and subsequent health. Today more than ever before, more and more milk is being subjected to more and more processing damage - so it can last longer and longer in the fridge - NOT GOOD FOR YOU!

We at 4REAL have separated ourselves from the pack, by bucking the trend and doing less damage, not that you the consumer can get more health benefits...not less :)

Fact - fiction - opinion?? I know where I stand on this issue, and so do the multitudes who have stumbled across 4REAL MILK.

Do the taste test...have your say on our survey.


Farmer Gregie ;)

By Farmer Gregie 20 Jan, 2016
Fact 1 - Before our calves are born - their mums are fed a specially formulated ration, as we work constantly with our cow nutritionist. This gets our cows in optimum health - but also provides essential vitamins and minerals to the unborn fetus.
Fact 2 - On the point of calving, mums are checked around the clock, and assisted with the birthing process whenever necessary. We regularly save lives!
Fact 3 - We ensure our calves are fed colostrum (the first milk from mum) by bottle, in those first few critical hours of life. The colostrum is extremely high in anti-bodies, and make the difference between a long healthy life...or a miserable immune deficient existence, and potentially premature death.
Fact 4 - We rear our future milkers on farm until approximately two years of age, maintaining a high plane of nutrition, and personally administer all of the required vaccinations.
Fact 5 - When the girls come of age, they enter the milking herd and are actually trained prior to having their first calf, to help them assimilate into their new life. This greatly reduces the pressures and stresses on them at the time of calving.
Fact 6 - We continue to work with Nutritionist, Vets and Hoof care specialists year round, to build optimum health into the daily life of our girls.
Fact 7 - Our milking herd can move freely, as individuals or in small groups of friends at the times they choose...24 hours a day.
Fact 8 - Once they graduate to the milking herd, the girls continue to graze in the paddocks just as they did for the first two years of life. Our grass-fed cows are offed the comfort of a pasture based diet 365 days a year (except on a leap year of course!!)
Opinion 1 - Our cows are extremely happy with their 'lot in life'!!
Opinion 2 - All the girls (from one day of 15 years old) appreciate the efforts we go to - for them.

Well this is just the ethical angle surrounding animal welfare - one of a number core values my family has placed on our daily operation (y)

Fact or Opinion? I've given you the facts (and a couple of opinions)...happy for you to form your own opinion :D

Farmer Gregie ;)
By Farmer Gregie 18 Jan, 2016

Did you know that YOU were 4Real Milk's biggest advocates when we first started? Because you asked your local IGA's, fruit shops, butchers to stock our milk OUR phones began to ring and we tried our best to keep up with the demand. Media started calling…and of course Farmer Gregie was more than happy to oblige!!

In 2015, we were able to partner with Metcash (a nationwide grocery distributor for IGA's and Foodworks stores) which has allowed many stores we physically couldn't get milk into to now have access to it. Check out STORE LOCATOR  to see where to find it near you!

So here's where you can help again! If you notice that your local IGA or Foodworks in Queensland or Northern NSW doesn't have 4Real Milk, and you're keen to drink it and secure your future fresh milk supply, please see if they can get it in… (or make sure they just haven't run out!)

Please comment here to let us know which store you've contacted so we also can follow them up! The good independents are always keen to look after their customers!

Help us achieve our vision to see more people like YOU have access to minimally processed fresh ethical milk and see farmers paid a sustainable Gateprice!  ‪#‎saveQLDfarmers‬  #ethicalmilk

Thank you for your 4REAL support!

Farmer Gregie

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