Yalca dairy farmer has had enough

By Sophie Baldwin

The ‘for sale’ sign on Steven and Kristi Dalitz’s 200ha dairy farm at Yalca has been hanging on the front gate for the past year.

The majority of Mr Dalitz’s working life has been spent in the dairy industry but sadly it only took him 10 minutes to make the decision to sell.

‘‘There were so many little things but one morning I heard something negative on the radio about milk price and I said to my wife, ‘that’s it — I have had enough, I want to put the farm on the market’,’’ Mr Dalitz said.

‘‘She thought I was joking but the ‘for sale’ sign went up the next day.’’

And 12 months on he doesn’t regret his decision.

‘‘My feelings haven’t changed. If anything they have cemented.

‘‘I still don’t know what we will do when we do sell, but dairy farming is not for me any more and neither of my three boys want to take it on in the future either.’’

He said the financial strain today was just enormous.

At its peak, his dairy herd was sitting around 340 head, today it is about 240.

‘‘For the last four or five years we haven’t had any step-ups and we have had to borrow money to catch up.

‘‘There is only so many times you can keep doing that to clear your grain and hay bill from the year before.’’

Mr Dalitz said he could remember a time in the industry when the final step-up or bonus was spent buying new machinery like a rake or a mower, or if it was a really good year, even a new car.

‘‘In those times you could plan, budget and put some money aside for the bad years.

‘‘Over the last decade there hasn’t been any good ones — they have all been average or bad.’’

Mr Dalitz said he was seriously contemplating selling the milking herd in July, but a freak 20mm rain event has helped to defer that decision.

‘‘It was getting harder and harder to push the fence posts in the ground and the paddocks that I had irrigated were starting to look like those I hadn’t. There was a green tinge but that was about it.’’

The couple has already sold all the yearlings.

‘‘I would have had to buy hay and I knew water was going to be too expensive so I sold the whole lot to an exporter for pretty good money,’’ Mr Dalitz said.

‘‘I will be offloading all of my heifer calves at 120kg and will be keeping all of my bull calves instead.’’

Mr Dalitz said he had used all the Friesian semen in his tank and would be using his beef bull in the future.

He said even his positive dairy farming friends were starting to feel the pinch.

‘‘The dairy industry had been really good to us over the years and you used to be able to earn a decent living; the last few have been absolutely terrible and it is only getting worse.’’

Mr Dalitz blames greedy processors and increasing water cost as significant contributors to the industry’s demise.

‘‘Processors just don’t seem to get it. They are building more stainless steel but there won’t be any milk left to put in it.’’

He also believes the carryover rule for water needs to be abolished.

‘‘If the water authorities don’t want to get rid of carryover water, they should at least introduce an appropriate fees structure.

‘‘Some landholders are paying $20000 in fees before they even get a drop of water on their properties.’’