OUTSPOKEN dairy industry leader Shane Paulger will not be taking home any prizes from this year's Gympie Show, amid widespread claims he has been blacklisted and effectively run out of business.
For the first time in more than 50 years, the Paulgers and their prize herd are not in the winners' circle or even among exhibitors at Queensland's premier regional show.
Mr Paulger became known as a strong and sometimes defiant voice for farmers and some say he may now be paying the price.
"I'm not sure how much I can say about it," an emotional Shane Paulger said yesterday when asked about his sudden disappearance from the show circuit's dairy competition.
One of the region's largest dairy farmers and a highly successful stud breeder, Mr Paulger also became known as a fearless advocate for farmer concerns through the dramas of industry de-regulation and more recently in price talks with processors.
Recently a state political candidate for Katter's Australian Party, Mr Paulger sat in the crowd at Thursday's dairy cattle judging.
"It was hard not being up there but it's part of being president of the Jersey Society."
The show's dairy section was yesterday alive with speculation on the family's absence from competition and the fate of its iconic two million-litre a year Kenilworth dairy operation.
The speculation seems to consistently include suggestions that Mr Paulger may now be paying a high price for his honest representation of farmer issues in a market controlled by a small number of processors and an even smaller number of retail chains able to dominate their customers and suppliers.
"The word is out there. The number of people saying 'this is no good' is amazing."
Mr Paulger said he could not be sure of the future and could not risk the cost of exhibiting.
He said the recent departure from dairying of Kia Ora's Rodaau family showed continuing sickness in the industry.
"I look at this area and see a good climate, close to market and a lot of smart farmers going out of business.
"We won the Gympie Supreme Champion All Breeds dairy cow for two years and wanted to make it three, but it costs a lot to move the cattle up here for show."
His Adadale stud has won Premier Breeder at the Brisbane Exhibition for 21 years in a row, a record likely to endure.