Dairy

Milked dry by tough season

By Sophie Baldwin

Mark and Sue Woods were planning on milking 400 cows this autumn.

The Leitchville couple had spent some much-needed capital on extending the dairy yard and buying a bigger second-hand vat.

They had the stock numbers, the infrastructure and everything was looking great for them to kick their business into the next gear.

But instead of ramping up, there is a very real possibility they will be scaling their business back to the bare minimum.

If it doesn’t rain this autumn and water allocations continue to look dismal for 2019-20, they could quite possibly cut the milking herd back to 100 and their two employees will be looking for new jobs.

They are yet another northern Victorian farming family feeling the pinch of a tough season made even more impossible by high temporary water prices.

‘‘Water is just too expensive to buy. Normally we would buy around 400Ml a season, but we haven’t bought any this year,’’ Mrs Woods said.

The couple has instead bought and used 170tonne of hay and is desperately hoping the 100tonne they have left, combined with some home-grown silage, will be enough to get them through.

‘‘We are trying to make the best and most informed decisions we can; sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t,’’ Mrs Woods said.

‘‘If it rains and we get 100 per cent allocation we would certainly keep milking numbers up but we are just not prepared to go into any more debt to keep farming and it just doesn’t look promising any way we look at the moment,’’ Mr Woods said.

The Woodses still have all their young stock and are selling non-performing milkers.

‘‘Cows we would normally persist with have gone on the truck, we just can’t afford to carry anyone this year,’’ Mrs Woods said.

The couple is looking to cut costs wherever possible and that includes running bulls this autumn instead of buying semen.

‘‘If things stay tough we might be doing that in spring as well, but there aren’t too many more places left to cut costs,’’ Mr Woods said.

The couple is planning on sowing the whole milking platform, just with cheaper seed to cut losses if it continues to remain dry.

‘‘We have financial commitments and we can’t just stop milking or farming. On a positive, milk price is being talked up but it needs to be,’’ Mrs Woods said.