The cost of feed – whether fodder or irrigation water – is driving a sell off of dairy cows in Northern Victoria.
Momentum is increasingly towards culling as dairyfarmers watch soaring feed costs driven by drought and dry conditions throughout much of eastern Australia hit returns.
Cows are heading to either the saleyards or direct to the works.
Waaia, Vic, dairyfarmer, James Dillon, said he would be culling as many cows in the next six weeks to the end of September as he normally would in a year.
Feed cost was the number one driver of the sell off, he said.
“I wouldn’t normally send so many cows at this time," he said.
“We are trying to make it through without having to buy too much feed.
“I’m going down to a core number.
“Depending on the season, we may have to go a bit deeper.
“With the price of feed, you can’t justify milking that extra cow.
“To milk the extra cow we have to get feed for under a maximum of $387 a tonne for that cows to be profitable.
“Grain’s already over that; hay’s already over that.
“Unless we get good rainfall, that’s not going to change.
“Everyone’s extra cow cost is going to be different.
“I’m fortunate that I own a bit over half of the water I need.
“But I still have to buy around 250 megalitres each year."
Mr Dillon said the herd was split calving with 25 per cent in autumn and 75 per cent in spring.
When calving finished at the end of September, the herd would peak at about 240 cows (255 last year).
He said the autumn calvers would be pregnancy tested in the first week of September and empty cows would “be seriously looked at”.
“There’s cows we wouldn’t normally sell that are going,” he said.
Cows were culled on temperament, production – “they are the easy ones to get rid of” – and slow milkers.
“All the ones you’d like to get rid of but never normally do,” he said.
HW Greenham and Sons group livestock manager, Graeme Pretty, said the three works – Tongala, Moe and Smithton (Tasmania) – were killing 1400-1500 cattle a day.
He said the dairy cow kill at Gippsland and Tongala was running about 25 per cent ahead of a normal year.
“There has been a fair bit of inquiry for kill space for the end of September,” he said.
“September is a key time and if there is rain during the month it will make a big difference to supplies.”
Mr Pretty said many crops in the north of the State had emerged and were about 15 centimetres high.
He said with some rain in September, crops in the north of the state should be suitable for haymaking.