​​​​​​Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, January 2018

These fact sheets provide current information about how the Australian Government is supporting the agriculture, fisheries and water sectors, and are available for download.


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Dairy fact sheet PDF 2559 KB

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Dairy is one of Australia’s most important rural industries worth $3.7 billion in farm gate production, and directly employing around 42,100 people. It has the third-largest gross value of production in 2016–17, behind beef and wheat.

Australian dairy farmers have driven productivity growth averaging 1.5% per year since the late 1970s by continuing to innovate, including through use of rotary dairies, artificial insemination and by synchronising production with pasture availability.

Asian markets are now the major export destination for Australian dairy products. Many of these markets should continue to grow as incomes rise and diets become more complex.

Building a stronger dairy industry

The Australian Government is driving a more profitable, resilient and sustainable dairy sector by:

  • delivering a $579 million dairy industry support package to assist farmers affected by the decisions of Murray Goulburn, Fonterra and National Dairy Products to retrospectively reduce farmgate milk prices in 2015–16, a package that includes 
    • access to Dairy Recovery Concessional Loans 
    • an additional $900,000 to Dairy Australia for Tactics for Tight Times, which provides one-on-one business support to farmers 
  • investing $30.8 million under the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper to increase access to markets—including 5 extra agricultural counsellors on the ground in overseas markets to negotiate access and tackle technical barriers to trade 
  • continuing to provide matching funds alongside the dairy industry for research and development (R&D) to drive innovation—$25.8 million in government R&D investment for dairy in 2016–17
  • additional R&D funding through Rural R&D for Profit including $927,273 for infrared technology that scans milk for genetic, health and production information—informing breeding decisions to continue improving the genetics of Australia’s dairy cow herd. 
  • investing $5 million in the Leadership in Agricultural Industries Fund to help identify and train the next generation of leaders for state and national roles.

Key Facts

  • Australia is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of dairy with a 6% share of the world market after New Zealand, the European Union and the United States.
  • Australia’s fastest growing dairy export markets in the past 5 years have been China and Malaysia.
  • Most Australian dairy breeding is by artificial insemination, employing sophisticated genetic evaluation techniques that give access to some of the best genetic material in the world.
  • 5,789 dairy farms operate across all states—supporting an overall dairy herd of 1.5 million cows.
  • The size of the typical Australian dairy herd has more than tripled in the past 3 decades to an average of 262 cows per herd in 2016.
  • 2.1 million hectares of Australia’s 367.2 million hectares of farmland was under dairy farming in 2015–16.
  • Australians consume 103 litres of milk and 13.5 kilograms of cheese on average per year.

Export markets for dairy, 2016–17


Australian dairy, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Production volume—milk (megalitres)9,3729,7329,6799,015
Yield per cow—milk (litres)5,6925,7616,1985,819
Gross value of production—milk (A$m)4,6284,7224,2823,687
Export value—dairy products (A$m)3,1942,8763,0013,017
Farmgate milk prices (cents per litre)51.248.544.940.9

Sources: ABARES; ABS; Dairy Australia

Further information

General inquiry 1800 900 090
GPO Box 858, Canberra ACT 2601

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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