Australian Dairy Industry

Dairying is Australia’s third largest agricultural sector, with more than 1.6 million dairy cows on 7,500 dairy farms producing over 9,000 million litres of milk. While the bulk of milk production occurs in temperate climate of south-east Australia region, all states have dairy industries that supply fresh drinking milk to nearby cities and towns.

The average herd size is about 220 cows. Industry data shows 11% of dairy farms have more than 500 cows and account for 28% of total milk production. At the other end of the spectrum, 45% of farms have less than 200 cows and account for 20% of total milk production. The vast majority of dairy farms are owner-operated (83%), followed by share farming (15%) and corporate ownership (2%).

Most enterprises use pasture-based management systems with some level of supplementary feeding. Annual average milk production is about 6000 litres per cow. It is worth noting that production levels achievable from pasture are significantly lower than those achievable from total mixed rations (TMR) systems. Australian-bred dairy cows routinely achieve comparable production levels as their North American counterparts when run under the same management systems.

About 20% of milk production is consumed as fresh milk. The remainder is processed into high quality consumer products, including fresh milk, custards, yoghurts and a wide variety of cheese types. Almost half of Australia’s total milk production is exported, predominantly to Asia, with Australia accounting for about 10% of world dairy trade.

The Australian dairying industry has a farm gate value of AU$3.4 billion. It is also one of Australia’s leading rural industries in terms of adding value through downstream processing. About 40,000 people are directly employed on dairy farms and manufacturing plants.

For detailed dairy industry statistics, please visit the Dairy Australia website.