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The best thing since milk cartons

When Craig ‘Reggie’ Davis sees an advertisement on TV extolling the virtues of a soft drink, he thinks ‘why can’t that be about milk?’

When he sees an energy drink sponsoring a sporting event, Reggie thinks `why can’t that be dairy?’

With this in mind, the fourth-generation dairy farmer from Tandarook near Camperdown labels Dairy Australia’s new `Legendairy’ campaign as the best thing since the invention of milk cartons.

“Anything that promotes milk has got to be a winner,” he said.

“It annoys me to see soft drinks and energy drinks all over the place. Milk is a better and healthier product – why not have a Big M float across the MCG instead of a Coke?”

While welcoming the new promotion which tells the story of dairy farmers and the nutritional product they produce, Reggie would like to see the campaign expand.

“I don’t think we’ve been advertising milk as much as we should be. We used to have the Big M girls but we’ve had nothing like that for years,” he said.

“Legendairy is unbelievable, the best thing that has happened for many years. People love to see kids out on the farm and people producing milk. I think if the whole industry united, if all the factories and industry groups would band together, we could do a lot more. We should use sports people to show how good milk is for recovery.”

The new emphasis on promotion comes at a good time for an industry facing challenging conditions.

Like most dairy businesses, the Davis farm has endured a tough season.

“It has been very challenging over the past year and I think it will be pretty tough for the next few years,” Reggie said. “It has been a bit more positive over the past month with the price going up and some rain, but it couldn’t have got any worse and the price is just playing catch up with the increasing costs,” he admitted.

Confronting those challenges is part of what makes dairy farming so appealing to Reggie, his wife Tanya and their children Haylee, Lachie, Ebony and Chloe.

Over the past five years the farm has developed innovative practices that have improved its efficiency and profitability.
“One of the great things we’ve put in place is becoming mostly self-sufficient in making compost with our farm waste,” Reggie said.

“We’ve all got to become more efficient. If you just sit back and wait for the price to go up you’re not going to survive,” he said.
The Davis farm has upheld that philosophy over the past five years. “We’ve got better at things,” Reggie said. “We’ve got a better herd, lower cell count, and we’ve been composting and introducing biological farming for five years.”

“We were one of the first to feed grain, one of the first to make compost and we’ve got more in the pipeline,” he said.

When he came home to the farm 30 years ago at age 15 his parents Geoff and Laurel were milking just 160 cows. When his brother Grant joined the farm they built a new rotary dairy and increased numbers up to 300 and introduced three-times-a-day milking. They reverted to two daily milks when Grant left about seven years ago.

“We’ve grown over the years; we’ve probably taken on five or six settlement blocks,” Reggie said.

The farm now stands at 545 hectares with a milking area of about 265 hectares for a herd of around 630 cows.

Reggie cites his proudest achievements as developing a good quality herd, Alandale Holstein and always trying to stay progressive in the industry.

“Probably the one thing that stands out was receiving my Advanced Diploma in Agriculture this year. I’d left school at 15, which I don’t encourage anyone to do, so it was pretty good to get an advanced diploma after all these years. It recognises the skills I’ve learned over the years and I’m pretty proud of that”.

The dairy lifestyle has been in Reggie’s blood since childhood and it shows no sign of abating.

“We need to hang in there and be united in promoting the industry,” he said.

“I don’t like to look too far ahead but if we can get the milk price up and get some help beyond the farm gate with the international market then things will look up.”

Reggie hopes the new Legendairy campaign will not only lead to more milk sales but to greater understanding of the role of dairy farmers.

“It’s a great lifestyle for raising a family but farming is not that simple now. There’s a lot to it.”