“We think there is a real value in loyalty and we know La Casa appreciate the relationship we have with them just as much as we do. It’s only getting better.” – Ben McHugh
Despite significant ventures into cropping and hay production, dairying has remained at the core of the McHugh family’s business.
The McHugh’s have farmed at Mount Compass since 1938, with the first Jersey cow milked on the property in 1941.
Now run by the third generation of the family, the farm continues to grow and explore cutting edge technology thanks to a long-term relationship with their milk processor, La Casa Del Formaggio, which is backed by a strong milk price.
The McHugh’s – Ben and wife Katie, David and wife Jane and Ben and David’s parents Kym and Heather – were one of the original farms to commence direct supply with La Casa in 2014. It was an early promise from La Casa that has seen the relationship flourish over the past nine years.
“One thing Claude (Cicchiello, La Casa Managing Director) said from the very beginning is that he never wanted us to be producing milk for below the cost of production,” Ben said.
“La Casa was the first processor to build a floor price into their milk contracts. The dairy industry has seen some pretty low points over the past decade or so, but thanks to that floor price, we were still able to make some money to re-invest back into the business.
“Thankfully, the milk price for all dairyfarmers has increased over the past few years and the industry is looking bright because the demand for milk is there.”
Like other dairyfarmers, Ben has seen his fair share of market fluctuations over the years and the negative effect it has had on his fellow farmers and the broader dairy industry.
But now, he beams with excitement when chatting about the industry’s prospects.
“For us, we are really positive and confident about the future of dairying,” Ben said.
“That confidence is bolstered by our relationship with La Casa. Their long-term contracts and strong milk price give us security.
“Like us, they are a South Australian owned and operated family business. They have always been upfront with us about their plans for the business and it is fantastic to see those plans come to fruition with the new factory being built at Edinburgh Parks.
“That level of investment in their own business is a hugely positive signal for us as farmers.”
Over the course of the nine-year partnership with La Casa, the McHugh’s have made a number of significant investments in the farm. Most notable is the increase in herd size. When they first started supplying La Casa in 2014, they milked 200 Jerseys. Today, they are milking 300.
In addition, they have also bought more land around the home block at Mount Compass as well as more land at nearby Finniss where they do the majority of their hay and cropping.
But their most exciting investment will be in operation by the end of 2023 – a robotic dairy.
For the McHugh’s, building a robotic dairy isn’t just a matter of utilising the latest technology for its animal husbandry and labour benefits, it’s also about providing opportunities for the next generation.
“As a kid growing up on the farm, I always wanted to follow in my father and grandfather’s footsteps and be a farmer myself, and my parents were always very encouraging of that and provided opportunities to get involved,” Ben said.
“Katie and I have three sons and David and Jane have a daughter and a son. The kids are the biggest motivator for us to grow our business.
“If our kids choose to take up a career in farming, then we want to be able to give them the same opportunities we were given when we were growing up and choosing our career path.
“Robotics is just the way the industry is moving. The future will be largely technology-based and robotics is a really exciting aspect of the dairy industry.”
With the McHugh-La Casa relationship set to enter its 10th year in 2024, Ben says he is proud of the partnership between the two family businesses and looks forward to seeing it continue to grow.
“We think there is a real value in loyalty and we know La Casa appreciate the relationship we have with them just as much as we do. It’s only getting better.”
To find out more about becoming a La Casa Del Formaggio milk supplier, contact:
Wayne Lyons, 0409 400 490
Ty Maidment, 0413 126 073