Brie-lliant Dairy Industry Statistics in Australia

dairy industry statistics

Australians love dairy! Who can blame them when a fantastic assortment of Australian dairy products are made right at home. Did you also know that the dairy industry is the country’s fourth-largest rural sector and the fourth-largest exporter globally? However, the latest dairy industry statistics show the emergence of worrying trends that may disrupt the dairy industry. 

Learn more about dairy in Australia and why it might be in danger by dipping into our grate collection of facts and comparisons below.

10 Udderly-Engaging Dairy Industry Facts

  • The dairy industry produced almost 8.8 billion litres of milk in 2019/20.
  • Victoria is Australia’s largest milk-producing state, with almost 5,700 million litres per year.
  • October 2019 was the best month for milk production in Australia in 2019/20.
  • Dairy companies in Australia produce around 370,000 tonnes of cheese every year.
  • Milk consumption in Australia was 97 litres of milk per capita in 2019/20.
  • 5,055 registered farms were operating in Australia in 2019/20.
  • The average herd size had grown to almost 280 in 2019/20.
  • Australia generated $995 million in cheese exports in 2020.
  • The average farmgate milk price is projected to rise by 2% in 2021/22, amounting to 48.8 cents per litre.
  • Global prices for Australian dairy products are projected to stay flat in the medium term.

Statistics on the Dairy Industry in Australia

1. Dairy is the fourth-largest rural industry in Australia.

(Dairy Australia)

Why is the Australian dairy industry important to Australia?

The dairy industry in Australia employed around 43,500 people in 2019/20, working on either dairy farms or in various dairy companies. In addition to these employment opportunities, dairy offers possibilities in related research, development, transport and distribution services. Furthermore, even though dairy is the fourth-largest rural industry nationwide, the bulk of milk manufacturing is centred in the South East—in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania.

2. The dairy industry produced almost 8.8 billion litres of milk in 2019/20.

(Dairy Australia)

Are you wondering how big is the dairy industry in Australia? Well, it produced around 8,776 million litres of milk in 2019/20, almost 30% of which were exported around the world. The majority of dairy exports included value-added goods, such as butter, cheese, milk powders, and treated milk.

3. Victoria is Australia’s largest milk-producing state, with almost 5,700 million litres per year.

(Dairy Australia)

The latest Australian dairy industry statistics show that Victoria is the largest milk producer in the country, with 5,619 million litres produced in 2019/20 alone. The data shows that Victoria has had the largest capacity for milk production in Australia for the past 14 years, covering over 60% of the country’s total manufacturing potential.

4. Victoria’s milk production has increased by 45 million litres of milk in 2019/20, compared to the previous year.

(Dairy Australia)

Per the latest Dairy Australia report of 2020, dairy farms in Victoria have produced over 0.8% more milk than the previous year, which indicates a trend change from recent years. For instance, Victoria made the least amount of milk in 2018/19, with 5,574 million litres, which amounts to 837 million litres less than four years prior.

5. The second-largest milk-producing state in Australia is New South Wales.

(Dairy Australia)

While New South Wales has one-fifth to one-sixth of Victoria’s capacity to produce Australian milk, it still boasts a large production capacity compared to other states. For example, NSW generated 1,044 million litres of milk in 2019/20, representing around one-eighth of the total milk production that year.

6. Tasmania is the third-largest milk producer in recent years.

(Dairy Australia)

Tasmania comes in third in milk production in Australia with 950 million litres of milk produced in 2019/20. Unlike the declining trend in other states, Tasmania has been recording increasing numbers in milk production since the 641 million litres produced in 2006/07.

7. With around 310 million litres produced in 2019/20, Queensland is the country’s least significant milk producer.

(Dairy Australia)

Queensland has become a minor milk-producing state in Australia in recent years, with only 311 million litres produced in 2019/20. The second-smallest milk producer is currently Western Australia, with 364 million litres of milk produced for the past year. However, WA has overtaken Queensland as the more prominent milk producer only in the past three years.

8. October 2019 was the best month for milk production in Australia in 2019/20.


The most recent dairy industry statistics show that October 2019 was the most bountiful month for milk output in Australia, with almost 1,000 million litres of produced milk. For the following four months, Australian dairy farmers were manufacturing a decreasing amount of milk, with the lowest-on-record in April 2020 with 623.5 million litres. 

9. 1979/80 was the worst year for milk production per cow in Australia.

(Dairy Australia)

In 1979/80, Australia had annual milk output of only 2,848 litres per cow. However, the following 40 years are marked by a relatively constant year-on-year increase in milk production per cow. For instance, more than double that amount was recorded in 2019/20, with an average of 6,170 litres of milk produced per cow.

10. Dairy companies in Australia produce around 370,000 tonnes of cheese every year.

(Dairy Australia)

The dairy sector produced 371,000 tonnes of Australian cheese in 2019/20—a decrease of 3% from the previous year. Note that more than a third of Australia’s milk production is reserved for the production of different types of cheeses.

11. Australia produced 199,963 tonnes of cheese between July and December 2020.


The cheese industry in Australia manufactured almost 200,000 tonnes of cheese for the second half of 2020, marking an increase of 0.75% over the same period of the previous year. October was the most productive month with 40,535 tonnes of manufactured cheese, while July recorded the lowest production amount at  24,102 tonnes.

12. Milk consumption in Australia was 97 litres of milk per capita in 2019/20.

(Dairy Australia)

The latest dairy industry statistics show that Australians have consumed an average of 97 litres of milk per person, which indicates a slight decrease compared to prior years. Nonetheless, the consumption of milk remains relatively high compared to other countries. Per Dairy Australia, the high milk consumption results from the spread of the “coffee culture” and the popularity of flavoured milk products.

13. Australians eat approximately 13.6kg of cheese per capita.

(Dairy Australia)

The same report also shows that around 13.6kg of Australian cheese is consumed per capita every year, roughly the same amount for the past five years. While cheddar remains the prevailing cheese type, Australians have also grown fond of non-cheddar varieties in recent years. For instance, mozzarella cheese has become quite popular in the foodservice industry and various retail stores, along with other specialist cheeses.

14. The annual per capita consumption of butter in Australia is around 4kg.

(Dairy Australia)

Dairy Australia reports that butter consumption in 2019/20 was 4.1kg per capita, marking a downward trend from the 4.9kg per capita reported in 2015/16. According to recent nutritional findings, the decrease in butter consumption is possibly the result of the health risks associated with butter, despite its superior taste and cooking usefulness.

15. Australians consume approximately 9.4kg of yoghurt per capita.

(Dairy Australia)

Australians have been consuming an increasing amount of yoghurt in recent years. For instance, while the per capita consumption of yoghurt was estimated at 9kg in 2017/18, it has risen to 9.4kg in 2019/20. Recent health and nutritional science has affected yoghurt intake as well. For example, consumers have started choosing Greek and natural-style yoghurts over sweetened varieties.

16. “Beston Pure Foods“ is the top dairy company according to consumers.

(Dairy Australia)

Dairy Australia’s yearly competition for the best Australian dairy products reveals important trends about the current public perception of the most popular dairy products on the market. For instance, the latest 2020 edition of the Australian Grand Dairy Awards has revealed that Edward’s Crossing Vintage Cheddar is the most popular cheese in Australia.

Dairy Industry Market Statistics

17. Australia currently ranks fourth in world dairy exports, with a 5% market share.

(Dairy Australia)t

Australia produced almost 2% of the global milk supply, yet it remains a significant dairy product trader, holding fourth place behind Zealand, the EU and the US. Australia’s most important market for dairy is Greater China, reserving 32% of its exports. Japan’s high-value market is another Asian destination vital for the country’s dairy exports. Overall, the latest dairy industry facts estimate that more than 87% of Australia’s dairy is exported to Asia, valued at $3.4 billion in 2019/20.

18. Dairy yielded $4.8 billion in farmgate value in 2019/20.

(Dairy Australia)

Dairy is one of the country’s most significant rural industries generating around $4.8 billion in farmgate value in 2019/20. The only three industries currently accruing more revenue than dairy are the beef, wheat, and sheep sectors.

19. Milk, cheese, yellow spread and yoghurt sales increased in 2020.

(Dairy Australia)

The dairy industry in Australia has ended 2020 with a domestic increase in both volume and value as the food service consumer sector has started recovering from Covid-19. For example, the year-on-year growth for cheese has increased by 10.3% in volume and 17.5% in value. Domestic sales of yellow spread have also risen significantly, with volume growth of 8% and a 12.5% increase in value. Finally, yoghurt and milk sales have increased in value by 5.9% and 11.4%, respectively.

20. Australia generated $995 million in cheese exports in 2020.

(Dairy Australia)

Australia exported almost 158,000 tonnes of cheese valued at around $995 million in 2019/20. However, Australia is also a significant cheese importer, with a 30% increase in imports over the past ten years.

21. 1,404 million litres of full cream milk were sold in 2018.


Per recent data, Australian dairy brands sold more than 1.4 billion litres of full cream milk in 2018. The second most sold type of milk was the reduced-fat variety, with 544 million litres, whereas the least sold variety was the no fat one, with 54 million litres.

22. 28% of the milk produced in Australia in 2019/20 was used domestically as drinking milk.

(Dairy Australia)

The amount of milk consumption in Australia has risen substantially in the last two decades. While 18% of the total milk production was reserved for domestic consumption in 2001/02, that number has increased to almost 30% by 2019/20. However, even though Australian-owned milk companies are selling an increasing amount of milk for national consumption, they still export a substantial amount overseas.

23. More than 8.5 million Australian consumers purchased butter in an average month in 2018.


A 2018 survey has revealed that consumers prefer butter as the go-to spread product over margarine and other butter blends. These dairy industry statistics found that an average of 8.61 million consumers bought butter in any month of the surveyed period. Margarine sales were estimated at 5.02 million in an average month, while butter blends or dairy spread sales added up to 2.58 million.

Dairy Cattle Farms Statistics in Australia

24. 5,055 registered farms were operating in Australia in 2019/20.

(Dairy Australia)

How many farms are there in Australia? More than 5000 dairy farms were up and running in Australia in 2019/20. Interestingly, while the number of Australian dairy farmers has decreased by around 75% since the 1980s, milk production has increased by 60%. This trend is evidence of a shift in business practices to more extensive operations with bigger herd sizes.

25. Almost 70% of Australia’s farms are located in Victoria.

(Dairy Australia)

Victoria has the longest and most significant Australian farming history, with as many as 3,462 farms reported as of 2019/20, amounting to almost three-quarters of the total number of farms. New South Wales has registered the second-largest number of dairy farms, with 534 ranches in 2019/20. Southeast Australia’s temperate climate and rich grazing resources are the main reasons these two states house the greatest number of farms in the country.

26. Western Australia had the fewest dairy farms in 2019/20.

(Dairy Australia)

Western Australia is a minor contributor to Australia’s dairy industry, with only 135 active farms as of 2019/20, i.e. 15 fewer farms than in 2018/19 and 87 less since 2006/07. WA is followed by South Australia and Queensland, with 206 and 327 farms recorded as of last year.

27. The average herd size had grown to almost 280 in 2019/20.

(Dairy Australia)

According to data provided by Dairy Australia, a typical dairy farm houses 279 Australian dairy cows on average. In contrast, the average herd size in 1985 was 93 cows. Massive cattle operations of over 1,000 milking cows have also appeared in recent years.

28. Average dairy farm income was projected to have increased by 37% in 2019/20.

(Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment)

The average income of a dairy farm in Australia was expected to have grown by more than a third in 2019/20 due to the higher milk prices, reduced quantities of purchased fodder, as well as lower feed expenses. The latest income estimations—around $165,000 per farm—are 23% above the 10-year average leading to 2018/19.

29. Dairy farms had around 24,400 employees in 2018/19.

(Dairy Australia)

Dairy farming in Australia involved more than 24,000 full-time and part-time workers in 2018/19—adding up to 9% of the total agricultural workforce nationwide. The majority of the dairy workforce (66%) were steady full-time employees, while 12% were part-time workers. The remaining 22% were either casual labourers or unpaid staff. 

30. The average age of workers employed by the dairy industry in 2018/19 was 45.

(Dairy Australia)

Employees working on a dairy farm in Australia were 45 years of age on average in 2018/19—the youngest age of all workers in the agricultural industry. Furthermore, 50% of all labourers were secondary school graduates, and 63% worked more than 40 hours per week.

31. Dairy farms in Victoria employed over 60% of the total dairy workforce.

(Dairy Australia)

Around 15,600 employees of the dairy industry were plying their trade on Victorian farms in 2018/19. New South Wales (3,500) was the second-largest employer, followed by Western Australia (1,900) and Tasmania (1,800). The states with the fewest workers in dairy are South Australia (500) and Queensland (1,100).

Statistics on Dairy Industry Costs and Prices

32. The average production costs for Australian farm businesses was over $850,000 in 2018/19.

(Dairy Australia)

According to Dairy Australia, typical farm businesses spent an average of $864,384 (including inventory changes) in 2018/19. In comparison, the production costs excluding potential inventory changes ramped up to $914,994. Note that dairy farming in Australia includes various costs, such as variable herd, shed and feed costs and overhead expenses for labour and maintenance.

33. Australian dairy farms spent an average of $556,193 in animal management costs in 2018/19.

(Dairy Australia)

The same report tells us that cattle ranchers spent more than $550,000 for animal management that year. For example, the total herd costs were estimated at $55,824, feed costs went as high as $463,877, and the remaining $36,492 were reserved for shed costs.

34. An average dairy farm in Australia paid $120,404 in labour expenses in 2018/19.

(Dairy Australia)

The latest dairy farming facts reveal that over $120,000 go to labour expenses each year, with an additional estimate of $103,895 reserved for imputed labour. Therefore, the employed labour expenses come down to $0.60 per kg milk solids.

35. Dairy farmers spent close to $55,000 for repairs and maintenance in 2018/19.

(Dairy Australia)

Dairy cattle farming in Australia includes overhead costs other than worker wages. For instance, farmers had to cover $54,280 on average for maintenance expenses in 2018/19. Combined farm insurance and overhead costs of around $45,000 also applied.

36. Australian dairy farmers paid an average of $25,340 for animal health in 2018/19.

(Dairy Australia)

Maintaining the health of Australian dairy cows is essential for producing quality milk for manufacturing. The average farm paid more than $25,000 toward that purpose in recent years. Cattle ranchers also paid $9,377 for calf rearing and $21,106 for AI and herd tests.

37. In 2019, the cost of transport per litre was 0.025 cents.

(Stock and Land)

According to a 2019 study, delivering unprocessed milk by road from farms to milk processors 50km away cost 0.025 cents per litre. Furthermore, the price to deliver a tonne of milk powder to Melbourne port was estimated at $292.

38. The average farmgate milk price in 2019/20 was $7.19 per kg MS.

(Dairy Australia)

Milk processors paid almost $7.20 per kg milk solids to farmers last year—an increase of $0.55 from the previous year. Тhe average farmgate milk price has been steadily increasing since 2016/17 when it was $5.46 per kg MS or 40.9 cents per litre. Note that milk prices have been dictated by market forces since the government deregulation of milk prices in 2000/01.

39. Queensland paid the highest farmgate milk prices in 2019/20—$9.31/kg milk solids.

(Dairy Australia)

The latest Dairy Australia figures regarding the typical prices paid by milk factories show that Queensland paid the highest farmgate sums last year—68 cents per litre or over $9.30 per kg MS. New South Wales followed closely with $8.55/kg MS, while South Australia paid the third-highest prices at $7.40/kg milk solids. On the other hand, the lowest value was offered by milk processors in Tasmania with $6.70 per kg milk solids and Victoria with $7.01.

Current Challenges and the Future of the Dairy Industry

40. Australian dairy exports have been affected by the Russian food import ban.

(Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment)

The Russian import ban—initially introduced in 2014—prohibits the import of certain agricultural goods produced in Australia, the EU and North America. Russia has recently extended the ban for the 5th time until Dec. 31, 2021. This embargo blocks the import of all milk and dairy products, except specialised lactose-free milk and dairy products used as dietary therapeutical and protective food.

41. While milk production in Australia improved in January 2021, monthly rates are yet to grow to their predicted range.

(Dairy Australia)

Despite a remarkable season for Australian dairy farmers and an increase of 3.3% in milk production, compared to December 2020, current manufacturing growth has not yet reached its forecast range of 1% to 3%.

42. Shortage of available labour is currently one of the main challenges for the dairy industry in Australia.

(Dairy Australia)

The latest dairy industry news in Australia reports the detrimental impact of Covid-19 on the availability of ready workers. While the problem with labour accessibility had already existed for several years, Covid-19 has aggravated it with movement restrictions and border shutdowns. Therefore, both small and large farms had to implement various cuts to adjust to this worker shortage.

43. High cattle prices constrain the expansion of the national herd.

(Dairy Australia)

The price increase of dairy cattle in Australia after the Covid-19 lockdown has hindered the restoration of the country’s herd. Since buying additional cows in Australia is currently unprofitable, farmers are hoping to increase their herd sizes with new calves. The result is smaller-sized herds that are limiting the growth in milk production nationwide.

44. Dairy farming in Australia will have to adapt to the adverse climate change in the following decades.

(Dairying for Tomorrow) (Dairy Australia) (ABC News)

Recent research conducted by CSIRO and supported by Dairy Australia reveals that the country’s eight dairy regions will be less profitable by 2040 due to the detrimental climate changes. For instance, Australia is expected to become hotter with reduced yearly rainfall and prolonged droughts in the country’s south. The CSIRO report projects that while the average temperatures will increase by up to 2°C, the total rainfall will vary greatly and mostly decrease, depending on the region.

The main challenges arising from hotter and drier climate include, but are not limited to, the viability of shade vegetation, providing substantial feed amount, good pasture growth, dam runoff and managing various pests, weeds, diseases and stress caused by heat. Some of the harmful effects of global warming have already been witnessed in certain parts of the country. For example, farmers in southwest Western Australia had to shift from livestock to crops since the region has seen a 20% reduction in winter rain since the 1970s.

Per the latest dairy industry news in Australia, the government has already implemented its 2020–2025 strategy to combat the detrimental effects of climate change on the dairy industry. In essence, Australia plans to adapt its dairy farming systems to warmer and more variable environments, retain its low carbon footprint, manage its environment despite the changing climate and strive to keep the global warming increase below 1.5°C.

45. The average farmgate milk price is projected to rise by 2% in 2021/22, amounting to 48.8 cents per litre.

(Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment)

The farmgate milk price per litre in Australia is expected to rise in 2021/22 due to the stronger international demand and the slower increase in supply. According to the Australian Department of Agriculture, once milk production recovers and competition for milk supply alleviates, the overseas market will dictate the farmgate prices.

46. The medium-term farmgate prices are expected to stay stable at approximately 49 cents per litre in 2025/26.

(Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment)

Latest projections about the dairy industry in Australia estimate that the average farmgate milk price will vary between 48.9 and 51.3 cents per litre in the years leading to 2025/26. This price forecast was based on the outcomes of four potential climate scenarios, which all include at least one dry season in different years. Both upside and downside scenarios are devised, and their results are averaged to assess future milk and dairy prices.

47. Global prices for Australian dairy products are projected to stay flat in the medium term.

(Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment)

Official predictions about the export prices of Australian cheese, milk, and other dairy products calculate that prices will flatten out starting 2021/22 and leading into 2025/26. Provided no additional shocks occur to the dairy industry, global supply is expected to grow parallel with the demand. Furthermore, the Department of Agriculture projects the following international price ranges per tonne for the industry’s main dairy products:

  • Skim milk powder: US$3,200–US$3,300
  • Whole milk powder: US$3,400–US$3,600
  • Cheese: US$3,700–US$3,900 
  • Butter: US$3,900–US$4,100

48. Domestic milk production is expected to increase by 1% throughout 2021.

(Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment)

While the number of milking cows in Australia is expected to increase by 2.7% in 2021, milk production is forecast to rise by only 1% due to a drop in the average yield. This decrease in output is an expected outcome when replacing part of the herd with young calves, which produce less milk during their first years.

49. Milk production in Australia is expected to decrease to 8.6 billion litres by 2025/26.

(Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment)

Over the period between 2020/21 and 2025/26, yearly milk production in Australia is supposed to decrease to 8.6 billion litres. Likewise, the national herd is expected to decline to 1.3 million cows. However, the government is planning to support a yield increase to maintain a similar milk output.

What’s the bottom line?

The dairy industry statistics provided here illustrate the importance of the dairy sector to the Australian economy, both domestically and internationally. Therefore, meeting the challenges that the dairy sector is currently facing is of the utmost importance. Recently, the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change have had unpredictable effects on dairy in Australia. Hopefully, strong and effective initiatives will be implemented before long to ensure that the Australian farming history not only endures but continues to thrive, providing high-quality milk and dairy products for the next generations of curd nerds.


  1. (ABC News Australia)
  2. (CLAL)
  3. (Dairy Australia)
  4. (Dairy Australia)
  5. (Dairy Australia)
  6. (Dairy Australia)
  7. (Dairy Australia)
  8. (Dairy Australia)
  9. (Dairy Australia)
  10. (Dairy Australia)
  11. (Dairy Australia)
  12. (Dairying for Tomorrow)
  13. (Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment)
  14. (Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment)
  15. (Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment)
  16. (Statista)
  17. (Statista)
  18. (Statista)
  19. (Stock and Land)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Close Bitnami banner