David Basham operates a 380 cow dairy farm with his wife, Kate and two daughters. Their property is located in Mount Compass, 65 kilometres south of Adelaide, on the Fleurieu Peninsular in South Australia (SA). David’s family has been milking cows for more than 120 years.
David is the President of the South Australian Dairyfarmers’ Association (SADA) in a role he has held since August 2005. SADA is a membership organisation that advocates and develops policies to benefit SA dairy farmers.
David has been instrumental in the development of a new brand of fresh milk, SADA Fresh, being sold in one of his state’s major retail supermarkets to generate funds for SA industry development.
Growing up in a family that has been dairy farming for over 120 years, what does dairy mean to you?
Dairy has been the lifeblood of our family. I’ve had a long history of family involvement, particularly in leadership positions, where my father was Vice President of the SADA back in the 80s and my grandfather was also passionately involved in many sectors of the industry. The dairy industry is certainly something that is in my blood to be involved in and help make a difference for.
You have been an active leader in the dairy industry for almost 10 years, what does your position on the ADF Board mean to you personally?
I am a re-appointed Director, having served almost six years in the position in the previous form of the Board. Getting involved back on a national level is vital to developing the relationships that are required at a Federal basis for connecting ADF with Dairy Australia (DA) and Government. I believe the techniques I’ve developed over the years will help to strengthen the whole industry.
What importance do you place on engaging with all sectors in the industry, including building strong relationships with Government?
Building on strong relationships with politicians and their advisors is essential. Not necessarily when you want something, but actually when you don’t want something! Meeting and talking with them on an ongoing basis is essential to building up goodwill. The important thing about relationships with Government is being able to make that phone call when you need to make that phone call – having the phone number and access is so important.
With other stakeholders, it’s so important to develop and strengthen those relationships to make sure that there is nothing in the industry that could potentially blindsides us. We need to work as a cohesive group to develop a good industry.
Animal Health and Welfare is a policy area you are passionate about, do you think the industry is being proactive enough in addressing its issues? How do you think we can improve this?
It’s a very hard space to be more proactive than we have been. It would be nice if we could, however the problem is, we have to be able to bring the industry along with us.
We’ve seen in New Zealand for example, a few years ago when they tried to ban calving induction and they did not have the support from the industry to do so. It led to enormous issues of managing the situation.
When we make significant changes to policy, particularly in the animal health and welfare space, we need to be able to bring the majority of the industry with us. There will always be those that want to make us move faster, but the difficulty is bringing the majority.
If there is one policy issue you would like to see ADF focus its advocacy efforts on in 2015, what would it be and why?
I think there are a lot of areas we need to look at in the animal health and welfare space to ensure we are constantly monitoring it. But I think we also need to look at issues that prohibit or restrict our ability to use new technologies. We need to make sure we can convince the consumer, Government and others that they are safe tools and practices that we, as dairy farmers, should be allowed to use.
You’re interstate a lot with work, how do you manage running a dairy farm, being a husband and a father, as well as an industry leader?
It is a big challenge at times. Running the farm is the easier side of things – I have two great staff who are very reliable, that carry out the day-to-day farm work. Over time, I’ve become a very good manager over the phone.
Probably the harder one to manage is the family side of things. Last night I missed my daughter receiving a reading award. This is an example of the difficult things I sometimes have to miss, however I try to be there as much as possible when I am home. Farming, to some degree, also gives you that flexibility to take a day off and go on an excursion to the zoo which may not be possible with other jobs.
We know you love swimming in bath tubs of milk, but tell us something we might not know about you…
On a personal note, I guess one thing many people don’t know about me was that I was single for a very long time and I met my wife on a winery tour, which was a complete and utter setup that I had no knowledge of. It worked quite well because within two weeks, Kate moved in to live with me!