Hoping for better prices

25 Jun, 2018 11:58 AM
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Disillusioned: Scotts Creek dairy farmer Alan Symons wants to leave the industry, saying opening season milk prices are not giving him hope it will deliver better returns than the past four to five years. Picture: Morgan Hancock
He said he remained in dairying because there were numerous dairy farms on the market but few buyers
Disillusioned: Scotts Creek dairy farmer Alan Symons wants to leave the industry, saying opening season milk prices are not giving him hope it will deliver better returns than the past four to five years. Picture: Morgan Hancock

South Western Victorian dairy farmer Alan Symons was hoping Saputo would announce an opening milk price for the next season that would begin with $6.

When Saputo announced it would open with $5.75 a kilogram milk solids, he asked himself what was the point of dairy farming.

Mr Symons, from Scotts Creek, was among the 28 per cent of south-west farmers surveyed in the recent National Dairy Farmer Survey who said they were considering leaving the dairy industry.

The 28 per cent figure was the highest for dairy regions surveyed throughout Australia.

Mr Symons said poor returns from more than four years of ordinary milk prices, a late autumn break that left him with little on-farm feed and numerous pasture pest problems have left him feeling negative about the industry.

Mr Symons, who supplies the Union Dairy Company, said he had hoped Saputo would set a price above $6 that UDC would feel compelled to match but had been disappointed.

He said he remained in dairying because there were numerous dairy farms on the market but few buyers.

The survey found the proportion of farmers nationally making plans to leave the industry had doubled from 10 per cent in 2014 to 20 per cent in 2018.

In the south-west, 16 per cent of those surveyed said they were in a winding down phase compared to the 11 per cent nationally.

In contrast to the 'intention to exit', 71 per cent of farmers felt committed to the long-term future of their farm.

Roberts One Real Estate principal Danny Roberts said there had no significant increase in the number of south-west dairy farms on the market.

WestVic Dairy executive officer Lindsay Ferguson said there was a long-term decline in the number of dairy farmers through farm consolidation but that decline had not been matched by a corresponding decline in milk production.

Mr Ferguson said some of the reasons for the high number of dairy farmers wanting to leave were likely to be retirement with many dairy farmers of retirement age, as well as economic and climatic conditions.

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