Securing a future for our dairy farmers

1st May 2020 | Eativity editors

Southern Highlands dairy farmer Cressida Cains has won the 2020 NSW-ACT AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award for her work in promoting a profitable, secure future for Australian dairy farmers. Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall congratulated Cains and awarded her with a $10,000 bursary, which will be used to develop her project, Dairy Cocoon.

“Cressida is an outstanding winner,” Marshall says. “She is passionate about supporting small scale farmers to adapt and grow their businesses.”

Cains will use her bursary to create the Dairy Cocoon online platform that will help dairy farmers to develop and produce their own unique branded products.

Cressida Cains wins Rural Women's Award for her work supporting dairy farmers
Cressida Cains. Image: Dave Smyth.

Meeting industry needs

Cains is co-founder of artisan sheep milk dairy and cheesery Pecora Dairy, located in Robertson, NSW. She says work will now begin to get Dairy Cocoon up and running. When it does, it will enable farmers to create industry and product-specific business plans.

“I’m so proud to be a part of this amazing award and have the opportunity to turbocharge my project,” Cains says. “[Dairy Cocoon] will include a range of business tools, information and education. There will also be an online community to facilitate connections and support that meets the needs of the dairy industry.”

Pecora Dairy
Pecora Dairy’s sheep also have an eye on the future.

A crisis in dairy

Cains grew up in the Southern Highlands and her heart has always been on the land. But through her years working in the dairy industry, she noticed a worrying trend.

“Small dairy farms are closing their gates at an alarming rate,” she says. “Many simply cannot make a profit under the current model.”

Cains claims that 40 percent of dairy farmers rate the viability of their farm as poor. Often their fate lies at the mercy of huge retail and processor market power. Farmers told Cains that they needed assistance if they were to produce their own branded product. As a result, they could take back control of their businesses.

The concept of Dairy Cocoon evolved in response to this crisis in Australian dairy. The online platform and support hub will help small dairy farmers to formulate a business plan and get educated, as well as connecting with the community and its expertise.

Cains says we cannot underestimate the importance of Australian dairy businesses. And once they’re gone, the landscape of the industry will be changed forever.

“I have seen small dairies transform and create fantastic brands,” she says. “I want to help more small dairy farmers do likewise. To break the shackles of being a price-taker and start seeing the profits for all their years of hard work.”