Forced out due to costs

By Country News

Deniliquin is now home to very few dairy farms as numbers plummet in the most challenging times the dairy industry has ever faced.

David and Kathleen Johnston and their daughter Kacee have been forced to make the decision to close down their dairy farm.

Mrs Johnston said the drought and not having any water had been the number one factor in their decision.

‘‘The government just not assisting us with any water is beyond comprehension,’’ she said.

‘‘We couldn’t grow any of our own fodder or anything, with no water we had to buy hay and it was getting harder and harder to get.

‘‘Paying three times as much for hay this year than we did last year is ridiculous, and yet the milk prices are staying the same.

‘‘We get 45 cents a litre from Saputo for our milk, but we really should be getting a dollar a litre to cover our costs. We are going one step forward and four steps back with our debts.’’

Mr Johnston said there needed to be an increase in the price paid if dairying was to remain a viable option for farmers.

‘‘Forty-five cents is not good enough, you need at last 50 or 60 cents (to make any profit),’’ he said.

‘‘The price we are paid hasn’t lifted at all, it has always floated around that price (of 45 cents) and we have been here for 10 years.

‘‘Normally we use about 600 megalitres of water a year, and it usually costs $100 to $130/Ml, but this year it would have cost $300000 instead of $60000 or $70000.

‘‘Look at it mathematically: to produce roughly a million litres of milk for 45 cents is about $450000 as our total turnover for the year.

‘‘If our water costs jump by $250000, that’s 25 cents to a litre. Hay and grain costs have jumped by $150000 and that’s another 15 cents a litre.

‘‘That’s 40 cents a litre in costs, so 45 cents per litre is just breaking even.

‘‘It’s beyond comprehension. The gap between what we need to be getting paid and what we are getting paid is so wide that it can’t be bridged.’’

While the Johnstons could see no way forward to keep their Deniliquin farm without succumbing to debt, daughter Kacee is confident the industry will be revived again in the local area.

‘‘At the moment the dairy industry is in such a mess that it can only go up from here,’’ she said.

‘‘As much as some people like to argue, it is going to be around for a long time yet.

‘‘I think the more dairies fade away the more people are going to realise how valuable they were.

‘‘I’m still super-interested in the dairy industry and it’s one of those things where it is not hard to get a dairy job and get your foot in the door, so I’m more than excited to go and just explore.

‘‘The difference is I have youth on my side. I still see it as an awesome industry; it sucks what is happening right now — don’t get me wrong — but I can’t see it fizzling up completely.’’

The Johnstons’ situation was featured on the ABC’s website recently, originally stating it was the last dairy farm in Deniliquin to close.

The ABC has since realised there are still others hanging on.