Australia's unlisted dairy cooperative, Bonlac is trying to convince its shareholders to accept a proposed merger with the New Zealand Dairy Board (NZDB) despite attempts by rival National Foods Ltd and another unlisted farmers' cooperative Murray Goulburn to buy Bonlac for A$550m.

Bonlac chairman Bill Hill and managing director Alex Sloan have embarked on a nationwide tour to win support for a deal that will give NZDB a 25% stake in the company. Bonlac management need 75% approval at a shareholders meeting (April 23) for the deal to go ahead.

Hill and Sloan met with farmers at the Colac RSL club in country Victoria today to discuss the New Zealand deal and the National Foods/Murray offer. Similar meetings will take place in Warragul, Kyabram and Ulverstone and Tasmania. Bonlac's 2,300 dairy farmers suppliers are concerned about the motive behind the National Foods/Murray offer announced last week.

Under its proposed offer, NatFoods would acquire Bonlac's A$325m consumer business while Murray Goulburn would take its ingredients and production assets.