FEED costs have risen to “stupid” prices in recent months, creating increased stress to the bottom line of Adelaide Hills, SA, dairy farmer Rick Gladigau.
“Feed costs have never been so high in my life, even during the millennium drought, they were not this high,” he said.
“The cost of feed almost starts to make electricity seem cheap.”
Mr Gladigau said autumn rain and feed growth had been minimal at Mount Torrens, SA, leaving him handfeeding through winter.
“The past 12 months have been the driest in my memory,” he said.
“By September I was really concerned about where we were going to be.
“At that stage, there was maybe one month of feed and I thought we’d be handfeeding again by October.”
Mr Gladigau said rain in September helped ease some pressure, but he expected to be feeding again this month.
In August, despite starting the season with excess hay, feed availability and cost concerns lead Mr Gladigau to cull his older dairy cows and some beef cattle.
He cut numbers about 10 per cent.
If conditions do not improve, he will need to cull again.
“It’s a bit of a gamble about how much of the herd to carry through and how much feed we have,” he said.
“If someone is charging $140 for a round bale and I use five in a day, it gets expensive and there is not a return on that.”
He has also begun irrigating earlier than before, to try and minimise risks.
As well as the rising hay costs, he is also concerned about the availability and price of grain in coming months with so much of the state’s crop cut for fodder.
Mr Gladigau supplies milk to Adelaide Hills cheesemaker Udder Delights at a "good price” and says in a year like this, he is grateful for that buffer.
“Had I been on the standard exporters' price, I’m not sure I’d still be milking cows,” he said.