Rodney Thomas was the last milk producer in his extended family, until drought and high grain prices forced a decision.
At 47 and single, again, the thought of a cold beer and warm sun spoke to him a louder than 4am frosty starts for less than break-even money in dairy. So he has pulled the pin.
Milking has been in the family’s blood before Australia was discovered. Rodney’s grandfather’s grandfather cleared rainforest scrub on the Alstonville Plateau and helped found the district’s second dairy co-operative.
Rodney’s own father, John, was an ambitious farmer who worked all over the eastern seaboard. At each location the struggle to survive in dairy was apparent.
Can’t say they weren’t warned. Back in the ‘70s it was a grandfather who warned about supermarkets and the demise of fair trade. “He was right,” said Rodney, reflecting on last Friday’s complete herd dispersal at Dorrigo. “I can’t see it turning around in my lifetime.
“If you can’t pay off your farm what’s the point?” he asked. “The structure lets us survive but there’s no surplus for the bad times.”
Dorrigo Holstein dispersal to $13k
The complete dispersal of Dorrigo dairy Instyle Holsteins, 220 head in total, resulted in a 100 per cent clearance and a top bid of $13,000 which bucked the trend in recent months as more and more milkers are given their marching orders.
Deervale vendor Rodney Thomas is exiting the industry on his own terms, ready for the change and Elders national dairy manager Dean Malcolm gave him credit for presenting what the market wanted in terms of top genetics, imported and domestic, plus sympathetic 12 month terms with just 25 per cent down.
Three year old lot 34, Instyle Windhammer Auromie by Gillette Windhammer sold for $13,000 to Rodney’s son Brenton who is out on his own. Lot 16, the youthful rising 10 year old Leader Shottle Sugar by Picston Shottle, who was reserve champion at the 2016 Dairy Spectacular in Lismore, sold for $10,000 to Warrick and Andrew Marks, Dorrigo. Lot seven, sold to the Chesworth family at Dubbo for $7000.
Dorrigo plateau’s largest dairy, belonging to the Billings family, were volume buyers taking home 40 animals.
Cows were sold to Victoria and Queensland as well.