DemoDAIRY was formed as a Co-operative in 1991 after studies recommending its formation in 1989. These studies built on the experience of the Westmere focus farm (north of Warrnambool) operated through the 1980s and the experience of the Macalister Research Farm (now the Macalister Demonstration Farm) purchased and operating since the 1960s near Maffra. The significant economic impact of the dairy industry to the south-west Victoria region, coupled with the need for mechanisms to transfer knowledge to the industry was the primary driver for this recommendation.
A group of dairy industry stakeholders, mainly dairy farmers, with the support of the Department of Agriculture, milk processing companies, the then Dairy Research and Development Corporation (DRDC) and other regional dairy service providers, coordinated fundraising. When the target funds were raised, a board was established which then identified a suitable property near Terang and proceeded to buy and establish the DemoDAIRY farm.
The farm was purchased in 1996 and funded through the issuing of about 350 shares and bank borrowing. This narrow capital structure was not strengthened by significant capital contributions.
The farm was situated two kilometres west of Terang and 40 kilometres east of Warrnambool on the Princes Highway. Centrally located to the major dairying districts in south-west Victoria it provided ready access for its primary client-base, dairy farmers, and was ideally located also provides an excellent ‘display window’ for the dairy industry to tourists and other industry stakeholders.
After consolidating the farm and herd purchase, DemoDAIRY operated as a commercial dairy farm milking about 230 cows with a sharefarmer for several years. The Board then adopted a programme to make the farm more relevant to Western Victorian farmers through a commercial scale demonstration of two different production systems (the Tandem Herd project). New farm operators were recruited and a consultant was retained to provide direction and supervise the trial. While challenging and stretching the farm resources, this trial put a focus on the farm operations.
A little later, WestVic Dairy, the regional dairy organisation, shifted its offices to the DemoDAIRY site starting the development of the dairy support precinct and providing administrative and management support to what had been largely a volunteer driven and implemented organisation.
At all times, board members were not paid director’s or sitting fees. These voluntary inputs contributed most of the surplus remaining after the farm was sold.
After the Tandem Herds project was completed in the mid 2000’s, the 3030 Project, a research driven activity funded through Dairy Australia, contracted with DemoDAIRY to use the farm facilities for smaller scale farmlet research which required rearrangement of the farm layouts and ongoing management of smaller herds. There was also a major DPI supported trial on management of wet soils which were very relevant to western Victorian dairy farmers and provided valuable lessons.
The reorganisation of dairy vocational training in Victoria led to the formation of the National Centre for Dairy Education Australia (NCDEA) which agreed to use expanded facilities in the DemoDAIRY precinct as its base for dairy vocational training in Western Victoria. These were expanded in early 2013.
Aerial views of the
DemoDAIRY Farm and Educational Precinct
The 3030 Project was completed in 2011 but it took 18 months to return the farm to a focus on profitable commercial operations with changes to facilities and structure. In 2011, DPI contracted with DemoDAIRY to use part of the farm to undertake applied research on alternative pasture types (chicory). Establishing these pastures created significant problems for the farm operations. This project was completed in 2014.
DemoDAIRY made significant progress from being a basic dairy farm when purchased to being a well-developed dairy farm with a separate dairy industry support precinct of offices, meeting and training facilities and a large multi-purpose building used by researchers.
Plans developed in the 2008 Strategic plan to construct a new interactive dairy centre including a new milk harvesting facility integrating training and public observation areas could not be implemented as the additional funding needed could not be raised and the dairy farm could not support additional borrowings to achieve have taken longer to bring to fruition.
DemoDAIRY Co-operative Activity Statement
In accordance with Part 6 of the Act, the activities of the Co-operative were to own, operate and develop the DemoDAIRY farm and industry precinct at 7161 Princes Highway, Terang as a site for hosting and conducting activities that align with the implementation and dissemination of profitable dairy farm management practices.
‘The DemoDAIRY farm and industry precinct are to be a focal point for dairy industry education and training; local applied research and demonstration trials; extension; and to assist in increasing the communities understanding of the dairy industry.’
From 2013, the DemoDAIRY Board had challenges in balancing and funding the operations of the dairy farm and education precinct accentuated by challenging seasons and varying milk prices. Following much discussions and research by the Board, and consultation with DemoDAIRY shareholders and other regional dairy industry stakeholders, in 2017, the Board resolved to wind-up the co-operative, liquidate the assets and refund shareholders of the co-operative for their share contributions. This was completed in May 2018.