Despair, anger, disbelief.


Lots of dairy farmers are naturally cynical and, let’s face it, we’re never entirely happy with the weather forecast. But we are optimists at heart because things will always be better next season.

Not this season.

I have never seen my fellow dairy farmers so subdued as they were at a meeting last night. Dinner at the local pub was laid on – a rarity that normally guarantees a festive mood – but somehow it felt like more like a last supper. Nor have I seen such anger online.

Partly, I think, it comes down to being battle-weary. Around here, it’s been a disastrous season. Dry-land farmers have not been able to grow grass and the La Nina we were hoping for still hasn’t arrived. By now, we should be building a wedge of grass to get the cows through winter. Instead, paddocks are eaten to the boards while farmers wait for resown paddocks to fire up.

The conventional wisdom is to apply nitrogen now while the soil’s still warm enough to grow grass. Many farmers at last night’s meeting had not applied any urea yet despite its unusually attractive cost this year because the soil is still too dry.

We can buy in more fodder or sell more cows. Fodder is getting hard to find and expensive, too. Many of us have already culled hard. The options are narrowing. We need something to go right.

It isn’t. Farmers seem sure that the milk price for 16/17 won’t be good. Will it be devastating? We’re all wondering and worrying.

On top of all this came the Murray Goulburn announcement that it had overspent this year and will have to claw money back from farmers for the next three years. None of it makes sense. Many farmers had hailed the MG plan as visionary, something that would transform our industry to create sustainable prosperity. But the loss of so much money in so little time is incomprehensible.

It’s a blow from left field that will leave barely a Victorian dairy farmer untouched. MG is the pacemaker for the entire industry. Processing half our state’s milk and 38% of Australia’s, it sets the benchmark for the southern farmgate milk price. When it falters, we all do.

In the face of all this, the message from last night’s speaker was simple: seek help, watch out for your neighbours and don’t lose sight of the vision for your farm. Good advice.

8 thoughts on “Despair, anger, disbelief.

  1. What we need is a GROUP effort as an entire industry to change the game , the perception of Dairy Farming.
    We have enough skills and brains to WORK TOGETHER to deliver the consumers of Australia a MESSAGE FROM DAIRY FARMERS, not a fractured state or brand message a message from ALL OF US.
    Dollar milk means that the perception is that the product is cheap so lets not blame the city folk for buying it , lets REALLY educate them on OUR industry.
    This SHOULD be about DAIRY


  2. Pingback: Farming – Its a truly noble profession surely it should not be this hard | Clover Hill Dairies Diary

  3. That sounds like what the Co-Ops used to do. What a great idea! They are working well in the UK. They used to stop milk being sold below the price of production in Australia too. But try getting more than a handful of modern Aussie farmers to agree. That’s ‘socialism’ don’t you know? The Woolies-Coles Duopoly is preferable apparently.


  4. Despair and anger is understandable. As an ex dairy farmer I really feel for all those involved in the dairy industry. What has gone on over the last few days is gut wrenching.

    Can you tell me in layman terms what price/litre the dairy farmers are averaging now and going forward, and what they were averaging 20-30 years ago? The $/kg of butterfat or protein is hard enough for me to grasp neither alone anyone who has had nothing to do with producing milk. And what does it cost the average Australian dairy farmer to produce that milk/litre? These are the figures that we need to get out to the consumer to raise awareness of the farmers plight.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Steve and Dairy farmer’s son have hit the nail on the head. We need to work together to get a message across, to get rid the despair that has slowly crept into this industry. We need to think as THE Australian dairy industry, not as state based industries if we are to have any impact against the supermarket duopoly. Every state is important, no matter the size, to the overall success of all Australian dairy farmers. The first line in the sand is the $1/lt milk. Farmers need to get together and state, to all the processors, via a coordinated approach via state industry bodies, that for ethical and social license responsibility reasons within the Australian agriculture communities, we no longer wish to have any more of our milk sold as $1 milk. But, as you said, try getting Australian farmers to acknowledge each other and work together! We still think we’re working together like our forefathers, but we’re not.



  6. How many industry associations and representative bodies are there in the dairy industry in Australia? From the outside looking in it seems like there are many and they are everywhere and yet not one of them seems to punch above its weight in Canberra, as evidenced by Barnaby Joyce’s lack of sense of urgency for this part of the agriculture community, and they all seem to speak in different languages with different industry aspirations and all in isolation of each other.

    Someone said get dairy farmers to work together? A challenge in itself but perhaps a clean-up of the various industry and representative bodies might be a start, besides who pays for them (I suspect I know the answer but not too many city folk would) all as they can’t all be voluntary organisations.


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