Milk will go down the drain thanks to floods

by admin on July 14th, 2018

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Floods in Forbes have cut the main access to the town. Photo: Wolter PeetersMore than 300,000 litres of milk destined for supermarket shelves has been tipped out by farmers in central-western NSW as trucks struggle to get through to some of the country’s largest dairy farms in a natural disaster zone.
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Flooding across highways that are set to be closed for up to six weeks has crippled some farmers who say they are already doing it tough after supermarket price wars brought milk down to as little as $1 a litre.

Colin Thompson, whose farm Silvermere Holsteins sits just north of Cowra, had to tip out 12,000 litres in a single day after floods cut off all access to his property.

“There are guys down there who are going to lose a week’s production, that is a big cost, we are talking many thousands of dollars,” Mr Thompson said on Wednesday.

His comments came before another 17 millimetres of rain battered the central west and wind gusts of up to 70 kilometres an hour pushed through the region on Thursday.

Flooding is expected to continue in the region for at least the next week.

The affected area, which stretches from Parkes to Cowra, is at the heart of the NSW dairy industry.

A spokeswoman for Dairy Australia said that she estimated up to 350,000 litres of milk had been tipped out so far.

While supply chains are cut, dairy cows still have to be milked or risk getting an infection, forcing farmers to continue production despite having no hope of their product landing in supermarket shelves.

Colin Thompson with his Holstein Friesian cattle at his farm in Cowra. Photo: Wolter Peeters

“They are used to being milked twice or three times a day, if you suddenly stopped the milking process they could get an infection in the udder which could kill the cow – they’ll either get an infection or dry themselves off and we couldn’t use them any more,” said Mr Thompson.

“The farmers don’t miss one milking for anything.”

The floods have also impacted on the ability of farmers in the area to feed their cows, after they wiped out tens of thousands of dollars worth of crops. Some cows that are used to consuming large amounts of feed have been unable to stand up after receiving smaller than usual meals.

“It really does becomes a logistical nightmare just to do the daily basic things,” said Mr Thompson.

For the 55-year-old farmer, the floods that cut off his property come on the back of punishing cuts to his income, as retail giants Coles, Woolworths and Aldivie for customers with low milk prices.

“It makes situations like this worse,” he said. “When you are selling milk for $1 beside the branded milk which is $2.30 or whatever – it takes sales away from branded products, and that’s our profit.”

In August, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission would investigate the milk price cuts.

Woolworths declined to answer questions about the welfare of farmers.

“There is no impact on supply,” a spokesman said. “Customers can continue to purchase a variety of milk products at great value from their local Woolworths store.”

An ALDI spokeswoman said the supermarket chain did not support the introduction of pricing levels that are unsustainable in the long term and may put pressure on the supply chain. She said the German company would continue to support the dairy industry, but did not outline how it would do so.

Coles did not respond to requests for comment before deadline.

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