Murray Goulburn Co-Operative has a proud history since it was formed by a group of dairy farmers in the state of Victoria, Australia in 1950.
Today, Murray Goulburn Co-Operative remains wholly Australian dairy farmer-owned.
The co-operative had been through many ups and downs during its 60 years but remains strong and its importance to the Australian dairy industry is as critical today as it was when the pioneers established the company in 1950.
Read more about the history of Murray Goulburn in the below sections:
Murray Goulburn origins
Murray Goulburn has its origins in the soldier settlement region of northern Victoria. Returned serviceman, many of whom had never seen a farm, had become pioneer dairy farmers and were concerned that they were not getting the proper return for their efforts from local proprietary dairy companies.
On 18 May 1949 the Murray Valley Soldier Settlers League called a meeting at Katunga to gauge public interest in the establishment of a new co-operative dairy factory. The support was unanimous and an interim committee was formed and empowered to find out all the necessary details required to establish a new dairy factory.
And it was this committee that recommended Cobram as the site for the plant, mainly because the size of the town would make it easier to recruit workers and its proximity to the Murray River for water and red gum logs to fire the boiler.
It was 20 February 1950 that the co-operative was registered as the Murray Valley Co-Operative Dairy Produce and Trading Company and the factory was opened at Cobram in May 1951. It was changed to Murray Goulburn following a number of mergers with other smaller factories in northern Victoria.
These northern factories played a key role in strengthening the fledgling company in its early years.
The first to join MG was Nathalia in 1957 followed by Kyabram in 1961. Berrigan and Deniliquin under the Berriquin banner followed in 1963 and Swan Hill joined MG in 1966.
Rochester was the fourth dairy factory to join Murray Goulburn.
In 1963 many farmers on the Campaspe River were concerned that proprietary companies were set to make bids to buy out smaller co-operatives and the Rochester dairy factory directors approached Murray Goulburn about a possible merger. At a following meeting, 250 suppliers unanimously agreed with their board’s decision.
The Mid-Murray Dairy Company which included towns like Gunbower, Pyramid Hill, Cohuna, Kerang and Koondrook, joined in 1973
Today the Cobram factory remains a showpiece of Australian dairy manufacturing producing cheese and associated products for the domestic and international markets. The plant processes milk sourced from suppliers extending south of Shepparton and north and west to Jerilderie and Deniliquin and east to Corowa.
The plant also includes a separate state-of-the-art baby formula facility - MG Nutritionals. Combined the Cobram plants provide employment for over 500 people.
Today the Rochester site is a key cheese production plant and provides employment for over 200 people.
MG Trading stores,field services and transport drivers operate across the region.
Murray Goulburn Co-Operative in North-East Victoria
The first north eastern dairy factory to join MG was Eskdale in 1969 followed by Milford,which was a merger between the Milawa and Myrtleford factories, in 1972.
In 1973 Corryong, which was the headquarters of the Cudgewa Dairy Company joined MG.
NEDCO remained the only independent north eastern dairy company and had built up a strong and loyal customer base. But the need to introduce new technology and the costs associated with matching larger dairy companies encouraged NEDCO to join with MG.
Today Murray Goulburn Co-Operative’s Kiewa-based factory employs over 160 people and produces daily pasteurized milk and cream cheese.
Murray Goulburn Co-Operative in Gippsland
The Leongatha-based dairy processing site became part of Murray Goulburn in 1973. It was then operating as South Gippsland Milk Industries and included the dairy factory at Korumburra.
The year 1973 proved to be a watershed time for dairying in Gippsland as the Maffra factory, then under the Gippsland Amalgamated Milk Products banner, also agreed to merge with Murray Goulburn.
However the Leongatha factory wasn’t the first Gippsland factory to join Murray Goulburn. Dumbalk Co-Operative Butter Factory joined MG in 1966 and virtually started a stampede of amalgamations among dairy companies in the region to protect themselves from what was locally termed “the invader from the north.”
When the Mirboo North factory joined MG later in 1966 it enabled Murray Goulburn to get a stronger foothold in the district and within seven years the larger amalgamated Gippsland dairy companies based at Leongatha and Maffra agreed to join MG.
Suppliers to the Leongatha and Maffra factories now spread from Pakenham in the west to Cann River in the east and take in all the areas north of the Gippsland coast to the Great Dividing Range.
The Leongatha plant employs approximately 450 people and produces domestic and international products ranging from dairy spreads, cream and specialized powders and is also the home of Australia’s largest UHT milk processing plant.
Maffra has over 170 employees – the site producing powders and other products for the ingredients market.
Murray Goulburn Co-Operative in Western Victoria
Today MG’s Koroit plant is the co-operative’s largest and suppliers are spread from as far east as Colac, as far west as the Clare Valley in central South Australia and as far north as Coleraine.
The move into the Western Districts came in 1966 when MG, at the invitation of the local board, bought the dairy factory at Tandarook, situated midway between Cobden and Simpson in the growing Heytesbury Settlement.
Soon after, the Grassmere dairy company which operated a factory at Koroit, sought an amalgamation and then factories at Coleraine, Condah, Portland, Penshurst, Macarthur, Hamilton, Merino, Heywood and Casterton decided to join MG.
With such strong backing from local farmers, MG demolished the Koroit factory and milk was taken to Portland, Heywood and Coleraine while a new, modern plant was re-built at Koroit.
Today, MG’s Koroit factory employs more than 200 people. The site produces milk powders and other products for export and domestic markets.