Barry and Rosey Warburton have always gone quietly about the business of dairy farming on their Deniliquin property — until recently when they featured on the SBS documentary Struggle Street.
The documentary highlighted the southern Riverina couple's journey during summer 2018-19 as they battled to feed their Illawarra herd while they faced another year with zero water allocation.
The couple has allowed the Australian public onto their farm and given them a no-holds-barred look at their life on the land.
The couple was approached by SBS after receiving help from the charity Aussie Helpers.
It is fair to say Rosey was reluctant to participate from the very beginning, and on the first day the camera appeared she took off with their two children, Lincoln, 6, and Anabella, 2.
“I didn’t want the cameras here. Putting ourselves out there was just too confronting for me, but Barry agreed instantly because he wanted city people to see first-hand what is happening to our farmers,” she said.
The SBS crew consisted of one man who did all the filming and asked all the questions. He fitted seamlessly into their lives and made the process relaxing for the family, so much so that Rosey returned and ended up featuring prominently in the documentary.
During the four-part series we see the Warburtons struggle with the impact of being unable to feed their cows properly over a long and hot summer, the breaking down of their bore and the heartbreaking decision to sell part of their herd.
We get a glimpse of Barry’s love for showing cows at the Deniliquin Show and Lincoln’s first time in the show ring.
The couple relives the terrible moment Lincoln got stuck in the rotary and the possibility he might have suffered irreversible damage.
There are tears (mostly from Barry) and not too many joyous moments during the period of filming, but the couple makes it through.
“Somehow we survived, but I am not sure how and I still can’t believe how bad it really was,” Barry said.
They have found the documentary stressful to watch, especially the part about Lincoln.
“We both cried when we watched that. I don’t think we had time to grieve at the time and that was very hard to watch,” Rosey said.
It has also helped the couple make the hardest decision of all, to sell Barry’s beloved herd and move interstate.
“We decided we can’t go through that ever again, and even though circumstances were different last year with a lower milk price combined with exorbitant feed cost, we just don’t know how much longer this drought will go on for.
“There are no drought clauses in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to elevate water pressure and the Federal Government aren’t doing anything to help either, and it is just too stressful and hard,” Barry said.
The Warburtons have had a lot of support from the public and people have been grateful they shared their story. They even received a card in the mail from two pensioners with $20 addressed to Barry and Rosey (SBS Doco) dairy farmers Deniliquin, thanking them for producing food for the country.
“I think Struggle Street brings home to people just how tough it has been — and with this season shaping up to be the same, we have decided to exit and start again somewhere else,” Barry said.
It won’t quite be the end of dairying though, as Barry is planning on taking a few of his favourite Illawarras with him in the hope he can still share the joy of showing cows with his young family in the future.