Dairy Farm Monitor Project

The Dairy Farm Monitor Project is a comprehensive financial and production analysis using 80 Victorian dairy farms spread evenly across 3 dairy regions:

  • south-western Victoria
  • Gippsland
  • northern Victoria

Now in its fourteenth year, the project is a joint initiative between Agriculture Victoria and Dairy Australia.

Reports inform government and industry decision-makers on the farm-level factors that contribute to profit and the information helps shape policy design, research themes and extension programs.

The results and trends reported need to be interpreted carefully as participant farms might not be representative of the industry or region and participant farms differ every year.

Industry reports

2019 to 2020

A challenging first six months of 2019 to 2020 was followed by improved seasonal and business conditions in the second half of 2019 to 2020 to lift performance across Victoria’s dairy regions compared to the previous year.

Dairy farmers were able to lower their costs and with a 17 per cent improvement in milk price, average earnings before interest and tax increased to $346,000 ($1.68 per kilogram of milk solids (kg MS).

Region Overview report


Victoria overview (PDF - 2.2 MB)

Victoria overview (WORD - 60.4 KB)

Northern Victoria

Northern Victoria overview  (PDF - 785.0 KB)

Northern Victoria overview (WORD - 60.7 KB)

South west Victoria

South west Victoria overview  (PDF - 929.1 KB)

South west Victoria overview (WORD - 60.2 KB)


Gippsland overview  (PDF - 949.8 KB)

Gippsland overview (WORD - 60.8 KB)

2018 to 2019

It was a challenging year for the Victorian dairy industry in 2018 to 2019 wirth mixed performance across the regions.

Profit was constrained by continued dry seasonal conditions and high input costs, particularly in irrigation water, grain and fodder.

These costs were only partially offset by a 6 per cent increase in milk price. On average, Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) was $85,000, a significant decline from the previous year.

Region Overview report


Victoria overview (PDF - 556.4 KB)

Northern Victoria

Northern Victoria overview (PDF - 644.9 KB)

South west Victoria

South west Victoria overview (PDF - 682.0 KB)


Gippsland overview (PDF - 655.6 KB)

2017 to 2018

Region Overview report


Victoria overview (PDF - 226.3 KB)

Victoria overview (WORD - 254.0 KB)

Northern Victoria

Northern Victoria overview (PDF - 409.5 KB)

Northern Victoria overview  (WORD - 234.5 KB)

South west Victoria

South west Victoria overview (PDF - 436.5 KB)

South west Victoria overview (WORD - 248.0 KB)


Gippsland overview  (PDF - 409.2 KB)

Gippsland overview (WORD - 231.0 KB)

In 2017 to 2018 average profit across Victoria was the fifth lowest recorded over the 12-year history of the project and reflects the challenging seasonal conditions despite improved milk prices.

Return on total assets (RoTA) remained constant at 2.5 per cent year-on-year across the state on average.

However, there is notable variation between the regions. Gippsland and northern Victoria had increased profit, while significant increases in feed costs led to a sharp decrease in south west Victoria profit performance.

2016 to 2017

In 2016 to 2017 Victorian dairy farmers received record low milk prices in the 11-year history of the project. However, good seasonal conditions and pasture growth allowed farmers to reduce purchased feed costs and offset the low milk price.

Farm profits improved in 2016 to 2017 from 2015 to 2016, but were still below the the long-term average. Statewide average whole farm earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) were $166,878, the fifth lowest in the history of the project.

Of the 75 participants, 67 (89 per cent) achieved a positive return on assets. The statewide return on assets was 2.5 per cent, compared to 0.6 per cent in 2015 to 2016.

2015 to 2016

The 2015 to 2016 season was characterised by dry seasonal conditions, high water costs, reduced pasture availability, higher feed costs and lower milk prices.

Despite these challenging operating conditions more than half the farmers surveyed (45 of the 75) by the Dairy Farm Monitor Project recorded positive return on assets.

Overall, dairy farm profits declined in 2015 to 2016. Statewide average whole farm earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) fell to $70,804, a 70 per cent decrease compared with the previous year.

This was the second lowest EBIT recorded over the 10-year history of the report, while return on assets was 0.6 per cent compared with last year's 5.3 per cent.

2014 to 2015

Almost all farms (97 per cent) recorded positive results in the 2014 to 2015 year. Whole farm earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) was positive on average, but 34 per cent lower than last year.

Return on assets decreased to 5.3 per cent from 8.5 per cent in 2013 to 2014. The 2013 to 2014 year was exceptional on many levels and this needs to be kept in mind when comparing this year's results.

The decrease in milk price was the main contributor in the reduction of profitability. The milk price fell 11 per cent from $6.77/kg milk solids in 2013 to 2014 to $6.04/kg milk solids in 2014 to 2015.

The impact of lower milk price combined with challenging seasonal condition was reduced due to higher milk solids sold per hectare and per cow and slightly lower variable and overhead costs.

2013 to 2014

Farm profitability showed great improvement on last year, with all participating farms recording a positive return on assets. The 2013 to 2014 year saw favourable seasonal conditions, with above average rainfall for the state.

Milk reached an average price of $6.79/kg MS across participating farms — the second highest average level recorded in real terms in the 8-year history of the project.

While grain and water costs increased from last year, farms drew healthy returns from feeding high-quality concentrates and investing in home-grown feeds. After a challenging year in 2012 to 13, many farms were able to consolidate their businesses and attend to delayed capital purchases and repairs.

Following a good operating season, farmer expectations for the coming year are variable. Managing input costs and maximising efficiencies are the major expected challenges going into the next 12 months.

However, with a strong opening milk price of $6.00/kg MS, the coming 12 months look positive for farm profitability.

2012 to 2013

In 2012 to 2013 challenging market conditions saw milk price fall 11 pwer cent to $4.90/kg MS and grain prices rise by 14 per cent to $336/t DM, while drier than average seasonal conditions contributed to lower industry profitability in 2012 to 2013.

The combination of challenging market and seasonal conditions saw the average return on assets across Victoria fall from 5.0 per cent in 2011 to 2012 to 0.7 per cent in 2012 to 2013.

The range was −11.5 per cent to 10.2 per cent, and 43 of the 75 participant farms had a positive return on assets.

2011 to 2012

Following on from 2010 to 2011, a year that saw the second highest milk price on record and strong returns for farmers across all regions, 2011 to 2012 again yielded a strong milk price, down only 2 per cent to $5.52 per kilogram of milk solids.

In northern Victoria a return to traditional season for the first time in a decade saw farmers in that region make the highest returns since 2007 to 2008. But seasonal conditions in the southern regions conspired to depress returns compared to the previous year.

The 2011 to 2012 feature article identified the factors that enable participant farms to sustain long-term profitability.

2010 to 2011

The 2010 to 2011 year saw a return to form for all Victorian dairy regions. A strong opening milk price, followed by several step-ups helped push the average closing milk price to $5.64 per kilogram of milk solids.

Favourable seasonal conditions further provided an improved operating environment in 2010 to 2011 and 72 of the 74 farms surveyed recorded positive profits, with return on assets rising from 2.2 per cent in 2009 to 2010 to 6.2 per cent in 2010 to 2011.

The 2010 to 2011 feature article looked at 'does farm size matter'.

2009 to 2010

In 2009 to 2010 it was a slow start for the industry, with lower opening milk prices limiting income. But more than 80 per cent of the 71 farms recorded positive return on assets.

The feature article focused on the influence of calving pattern on cost of production, milk price received and overall business profitability.

2008 to 2009

The drop in demand for Australian export dairy products combined with climate variability, low water allocations and previous high farm gate prices has had a financial impact on farm businesses.

The feature article examined the effect of the milk price step downs on participant farms and the management strategies adopted by farm businesses to manage the lower income.

2007 to 2008

The results from the year from 2007 to 2008 reflected the strong world price for milk, and average return on assets across the state was 10 per cent.

The focus of the feature article is on people, and how people are managed on dairy farms.

2006 to 2007

The results from the year from 2006 to 2007 year reflected the exceptional seasonal conditions across the state. Average return on assets across the state was 0.1 per cent.

Page last updated: 19 Oct 2020