IT’S the dairy goodness that makes your bones strong, but regional milk production has taken a hit due to hot, dry weather, and dairy farmers, in their own words, are “battling”.
The statewide feed shortage means hay is trucked in from Victoria or South Australia, with the cost of freight sometimes being as much – or more – than the cost of hay.
Some dairies are destocking, streamlining their businesses and keeping the bare minimum of milking cows.
Wes Brown from Juleanwes Holsteins has already sold a few head and will sell more if the drought worsens.
He’s down to 190 milkers and 48 heifers with calves.
“The heifers have been on agistment. They would usually be sent back after calving, but there’s just no feed, so we’ll have to handfeed them,” Mr Brown said.
“We usually produce our own silage, but with no help from above you’re limited with water.
“We planted corn and burnt several thousand dollars’ worth of diesel last month just watering it.”
The property has received 30mm of rain in the past few showers, but Mr Brown’s looking for at least five or six inches spread over a couple of months to bring the dairy back to full production.
Hot weather has been the biggest trouble for the dairy, but standing the cows under irrigation sprinklers has been a novel method to keep the milk coming.
“I need to keep them cool, because as soon as they get hot they stop their milk production,” Mr Brown said.
“Milk is down slightly from last year, probably two litres per cow each day.”
Mr Brown’s trying to sell heifers and calves, with the long-term forecast not looking good.
“I’m rearing the calves. I would sell the calves as well, but no one wants them with the way the weather is,” he said.
“The milk that’s feeding them should be going in the vat.”
Peel Valley Milk hasn’t taken a hit to production, but it’ll get increasingly difficult to source roughage going into winter.
“At the moment it’s not too bad, but we haven’t hit winter yet. Having a storage of winter feed is nearly impossible,” owner Malcolm Rose said.