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Subtropical DairyRegional Information

The Subtropical Dairy region extends 2200km from the Atherton Tablelands in far north Queensland down to Kempsey in northern New South Wales. The region is uniquely characterised by hot and humid summers and mild and dry winters. Average annual rainfalls often exceed 2000mm in northern parts of the state, with cyclones, flooding and drought all common events that challenge farm production and profitability.

There are approximately 450 dairy farmers throughout the region with production systems having generally intensified over the last 10 years with more milk being produced on fewer, more intensively managed farms. Regional milk production is approximately 460 million litres per annum is primarily for the domestic fresh milk market.

Subtropical dairy farms are typically family owned and operated, average herd size is 200 – 250 cows producing 6,250 litres per cow per year and average farm size is 200 – 250 hectares.

The value of Queensland’s milk production at the farm gate is $340 million per year, after processing for drinking milk and manufactured products this value increases to $1.1 billion per year.

Within the region there are seven major processing plants operated by Lion Nathan, Lactalis and Norco and more than 50 boutique processing factories. When combined, dairy farmers and manufacturing employees account for more than 3,000 people. Investment by dairy farmers amount to over $2.1 billion in farms, cattle and equipment.

Sunshine Coast Dairy Industry

Sunshine Coast Dairy Industry: Developing an Industry Strategic Plan

Researching options to value-add to farm gate milk is a key strategic priority for Subtropical Dairy. In late 2016, Subtropical Dairy Program, Sunshine Coast Council, the University of the Sunshine Coast and Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Queensland funded a pilot project to develop a Strategic Plan for the Sunshine Coast dairy region. In time, it is the intent of Subtropical Dairy to expand this to a northern Australian project. As the first step in achieving this goal, the purpose of this project was to understand the current state of the dairy value chain in the Sunshine Coast region.

Following a value chain analysis approach, the objectives of this project were to:

  • identify significant factors in the chains internal and external environment (marketing, economic, social, institutional) (global, national, state, regional);
  • explore what Sunshine Coast consumers value re the dairy industry;
  • map the existing chain in terms of physical movement of goods, relationships and communication;
  • Identify potential opportunities both domestically and internationally;
  • Identify gaps in the value chain or other structural impediments that may limit these opportunities.

What were some key recommendations from this project?

  • Local program to raise visibility of local brands.
  • Develop a market for local milk, private label milk and other coffee/dairy products such as ice-cream or cold coffee.
  • Move up or down the channel to strengthen the overall chain and position it more strongly in the market.
  • Consider other revenue options that the farms can implement to lower the risk of producing milk exclusively.
  • Develop a range of products targeting growing interest in health and well being:
    • Fermented drinks: kefir, drinking yoghurt, skyr
    • High protein – Fit market
    • Whey products
    • Protein bars
  • Gourmet food and cooking is also on trend in the market, so specialty cheeses such as European style cheeses offer opportunities for new products:
    • European style of cheeses
    • Chimay (soaked in ale), Anari (premium fetta).

A copy of the report from this project can be Downloaded here (8MB)

Situation and Outlook

The Situation and Outlook report analyses current dairy industry conditions, and the outlook for key drivers that affect dairy operation and profits. An annual report is released mid-year, with updates in February and October.

The June 2020 report is available now from the Dairy Australia website.

Follow this link to read all available Situation & Outlook reports  on the Dairy Australia website.

Dairy Australia’s ‘Northern Dairy Industry: Regional Industry Outlook’ report provides a summary of current industry conditions, and the outlook for key factors that affect dairy farm operation and profits.

Subtropical Dairy Strategic Plan

Download the 2017 -2022 SDP Strategic Plan.

For further information about the Subtropical Dairy Strategic Plan, please contact:

Dr Brad Granzin
Executive Officer
Subtropical Dairy Programme Ltd
Mob: 0431 197 479