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‘How did it get to this?’: Unique concerns about operating standards on Australia’s largest dairy farm

‘How did it get to this?’: Unique concerns about operating standards on Australia’s largest dairy farm

Australia’s largest dairy farming replace is facing current questions over its farm standards, after it used to be issued with environment protection notices and had an operating licence suspended thanks to overflowing effluent systems. 

Key factors:

  • The Tasmanian Dairy Exchange Authority stumbled on 83 per cent of Van Dairy’s 23 farms failed to meet the effluent code
  • The audit stumbled on the dairy farms relish increased herd sizes however hadn’t as it ought to be scaled up its effluent gadget
  • The replace says the most urgent repair work will seemingly be achieved within the next fortnight

Officers from the Tasmanian Dairy Exchange Authority (TDIA) visited all Van Dairy Neighborhood farms between February 22 and 26 this 12 months to assess whether the Farm Dairy Effluent Administration Code of Apply used to be being complied with.  

Early Newspaper

In a file sent to Van Dairy’s Chinese owner, Xianfeng Lu, TDIA supervisor Carolyn Harris mentioned of the 23 farms audited 83 per cent failed to meet the necessities of the code.

Forty-three per cent of the farms that failed the audit had factors that were considered “critical” (requiring fast action) or “well-known” (seemingly that the failure, if left unchecked over winter, would negatively impact the environment). 

The audit stumbled on loads of recurring factors, together with: 

  • increases to herd dimension with no enhance to the effluent gadget
  • failure to defend and shining out systems
  • lack of infrastructure similar to irrigation equipment, or failure to substitute or repair broken equipment
  • unqualified other folks endeavor work on the systems, resulting in a damaged or compromised effluent gadget

Within the file, Ms Harris mentioned the TDIA “does no longer relish confidence within the administration of Van Dairy Neighborhood Pty Ltd to be definite that the effluent systems on farm are designed or operated successfully at this time”.

Milking shed at Woolnorth's River Downs dairy farm

Van Dairy is Australia’s oldest and largest dairy farming replace. (



The file mentioned:

“The present operations supervisor at Van Dairy Neighborhood Pty Ltd does no longer relish relevant abilities and information in dairy farming to back farm managers, and there appears to be like to be no efficient oversight of farm operations to be definite systems are maintained and equipment is supplied and/or repaired as vital.”

She additionally notorious that previous requests for corrective action had no longer been addressed in a wisely timed manner, that quite a bit of the effluent systems had modified since their normal create or were no longer in-built accordance with plans. 

“Some changes made to effluent systems relish been undertaken by unqualified in home personnel, and this has in some situations resulted in damaged systems.”

The file mentioned the TDIA had applied “corrective action” to all farms, and required a documented notion from Van Dairy administration to assert how the farms would perchance perchance be managed going forward to be definite compliance with regulatory requirements. 

“TDIA Officers will seemingly be monitoring the farms carefully over the arriving weeks and months to be definite actions are being addressed as required and to toughen administration of their quest to get operations back on note.”

In a press free up, the TDIA mentioned:

“Basically the most critical items listed as due by 31 March 2021 or earlier relish been dealt with. The TDIA will provide continued regulatory oversight, together with following up these actions which are no longer totally achieved, and monitoring for every other factors.”

In a press free up, Mr Lu mentioned the TDIA had suspended the operation licence of one Van Dairy Farm due to overflowing from an effluent pond.

He mentioned the licence had been reinstated and the 280 cows on this farm were now being milked on a licensed farm. 

“There isn’t this form of thing as a risk to the welfare of these animals,” he mentioned.

Mr Lu published the local council had additionally issued Environmental Protection Notices between December 2020 and March 2021 thanks to factors with effluent ponds overflowing and pumps on loads of farms.

“VDL is endeavor repairs to the effluent ponds and pumping systems identified in council notices,” he mentioned.

“Many of the urgent repair work will seemingly be achieved within the next two weeks. More intensive works that can provide a permanent solution will seemingly be achieved by the top of April 2021.”

The sign at the entrance to the Van Diemen's Land Company.

Woolnorth is one of Van Dairy’s corporations basically based in Tasmania’s far north-west.(

ABC Rural: Hugh Hogan


‘How did it get to this?’

The International Investment Review Board permitted the sale of Van Diemen’s Land Company (VDL) to Mr Lu’s Moon Lake Investments in 2016, with then Treasurer Scott Morrison saying he had considered the impact on local jobs. 

Xianfeng Lu at Cape Grim

Xianfeng Lu bought the dairy replace in 2016.(

ABC Rural: Hugh Hogan


Moon Lake Investments later modified its name to Van Dairy Limited. 

5 of the company’s non-executive directors quit the board in 2018 over a inequity of opinion about the long traipse administration of the company, together with concerns about insufficient irrigation infrastructure on the farms.

Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson mentioned he had previously raised concerns with the Tasmanian and federal governments about Van Dairy’s farms.

“How did it get to this? How did it get to this the do we are if truth be told, by the manager’s relish studies, seeing catastrophic failure on the largest dairy farm within the country, one of our most iconic corporations?” Senator Whish-Wilson mentioned.

Senator Whish-Wilson mentioned there had been disasters in regulation, in addition to by Van Dairy. 

“We relish now failed to control this company smartly, and this replace,” he mentioned. 

Van Dairy owns 27 farms at Smithton in north-west Tasmania. 

One of Van Dairy’s greatest customers is Fonterra.

In a press free up, Matt Watt, Fonterra’s customary supervisor farm provide, mentioned since turning into conscious of the factors Fonterra had been working with VDL and its administration, the replace and regulators to be definite VDL remedied them.

“We relish now worked with VDL to be definite a comprehensive notion is save in home, which contains initiatives to put together and get to the bottom of the on-farm factors and back them comply with replace standards,” Mr Watt mentioned. 

“Whereas development is being made, it will personal some time to seek for the fabric improvements from these initiatives. 

“Dairy farms are complicated corporations, with cows wanting to be fed and milked day-to-day — so we are able to’t factual stop picking up milk, in particular at farms of this dimension.”

‘How did it get to this?’: Unique concerns about operating standards on Australia’s largest dairy farm