Dairy farmers must be forced to engage more with the supply chain if they won't take the lead themselves, according to a new report.

The Role of the Dairy Farmer in the Progressive Food Chain, written by consultant Mike Houghton from Andersons, recommends farmers be forced to take part in supply committees, so they get a better grasp of their own milk contracts and their buyer's needs.

They must also work much harder to reconnect with consumers, and not leave it all to the retailers and processors, says Houghton. "It wouldn't cost a great deal of money to reconnect with consumers - if they knew what standards we produce milk to, they'd be surprised."

It could be the only way to improve farmers' profitability, Houghton says. It will also help them adjust to changes that are overtaking the industry, such as every third day collection for commodity milk. "Farmers see it as a right to have their milk picked up. They shouldn't."