Rising input costs may have taken some of the shine off for farmers this year, but the WA dairy industry’s confidence is up for 2023, buoyed by processor support and growers’ investing and expanding. While the average profitability of dairy businesses declined on last year, nearly 70 per cent of farmers are expecting their returns to increase during the next 12 months. The latest results from last financial year’s WA Dairy Farm Monitor Project — which 26 farmers took part in — were released at Western Dairy’s AGMand spring forum. Consulant Sarah Lang said while farmers had a higher gross income than last year, it was offset by input costs and supply chain constraints. Dairy farmers faced their fair share of challenges including labour shortages, coupled with skyrocketing fuel and fertiliser prices off the back of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and supply issues in China. However, Benger dairy farmer Michael Partridge said the season had rounded out to be “pretty good” and was optimistic looking ahead. Part of the reason is the increased support processors have provided producers in light of some of the challenges. Brownes, Lactalis (Harvey Fresh) and Coles all increased what they pay farmers for milk at the farm gate in July. Mr Partridge said it had helped offset increasing costs. “The supply chain has recognised the cost squeeze to the farmer,” he said. “It has given us confidence to keep our production levels steady where it is.” He also noted the good working relationship that existed across the dairy supply chain. Re-elected Western Dairy chair Robin Lammie — who was also appointed to another three-year term as a director — said the industry would have lost more farmers if not for the rise. “It is looking like one of the major processors is probably going to come up with a bit more money in the short term,” he said. “The prices are the highest they have ever been but consequently it will take six months or a year to wash out against the increased costs.” Mr Lammie said there had been high prices for cattle on the beef side of businesses. “The export market for friesians going to China has also been pretty good, so those income streams have had people’s balance sheets looking pretty healthy, even if the milk price wasn’t as high as it could have been.” Going into 2023, Mr Partridge sees opportunities for improvement. While he is hoping for a decrease in fuel and fertiliser prices, he is looking at other ways to grow the bottom linewith “investment in new technology and efficiency”. Mr Lammie is looking to expand his business with property acquisitions over the next 12 months and their were indications others were expanding. “I know of a few dairies where some renovations are going on,” he said. “There are positive signs out there, allbeit we lost a few farmers, I think the milk volume will hold or slightly increase over the next year.” Mr Lammie said Dairy Australia’s focus on workforce development was starting to make an impact. “We are really starting to get some traction with that, with helping farmers be better employers and then what you need to do to attract really good people,” he said. Dairy Australia chair James Mann said it was pleasing to see continued enthusiasm for dairying in the State. “There are lots of signs of investment in the WA dairy industry by those who choose to stay in it,” Mr Mann said. Denmark dairy farmer Andrew Jenkins will continue in his position as vice-chair, while Bonnie Ravenhill will take over retiring Jindong farmer Peter Evans’ position as a board member.