Dairy farming and the future

Today I spoke with my cousin Ray Stefani – a business owner, husband, father, brother, son, cousin, friend and a Dairy Farmer.

We have always had farmers in our family spanning across Dairy, Wheat and Sheep across many generations as most farming families do. We were the city family who thought it was so cool to spend all our time in Fish Creek or Korong Vale with our cousins hanging out and doing farming things. Ray’s brother John is a farmer, my Uncle Tony and his brothers are farmers, my Great Uncle Terry was a farmer and so it goes on.

Honestly most of my memories from childhood are full of all the amazing times we had being just kids playing in the hay shed, cricket in the summer, football in the winter, séance’s at night and of course murder in the dark. There  were no iPhones or iPads we just made our own fun from day break until it was dark – we would come back and raid the kitchen from time to time but we were busy and full of mischief.  As we grew of course things changed and we would head out to the local night-life (don’t be surprised) the Tarwin Lower Pub was totally cool I will have you know and the Fishy Pub was pretty great as well. Of course by then I had realised that my cousins had grown up and so had all the boys at the local footy club – but that’s for another blog!

I suppose for our business where we make hampers; we focus on working with farmers and producers and sourcing our produce direct so our customers are assured that their hampers are filled with amazing produce. The money our customers spend with us goes right back to the farmer/farm-gate/producer.

I therefore was interested to speak with Ray and get an understanding straight from well the Cows Mouth as to the impact it is going to have on their business and family.

Ray and his lovely wife Bec have four beautiful children on 300 acres in the South Gippsland town of Fish Creek; which has a population of around 200 and is located around 165kms from Melbourne. They milk 280 cows twice a day every day rain, hail or shine. In fact today Ray had been out in 80km an hour wind and rain pumping effluent into a field. Ray said to me “I was talking to the guy that works for us saying far out what are we doing this for!!!!” They have no choice they have to do it as no one else will – the cows have to be milked and we have to look after the land we need to keep going.

 

So what did I learn and why is it important for you all to understand:

  • Milk Solids – is the term used for the fresh milk.
  • They were being paid approx. $5.60 a month per kilo of milk solids.
  • It will drop to around $4.75 – $5.00 moving forward.
  • The cost to produce 1kg of Milk Solids is approx. $5.00 – $5.20.
  • This reduction will see them loose around $10,000 per month over the coming months.
  • When you are calving depends on what you get paid for milk and how hard you will be hit by the price change.
  • If you are calving now and producing all your milk, your loss is higher but if you are drying out your cows the impact is less.
  • This impact will affect small business in the local districts, the suppliers of grain and other farm required goods and that impact for them is happening now.
  • Did you realise that only 6% of Fresh Milk becomes drinking milk with the remainder going to Cheese, Yoghurt, Powdered Milk and Baby Formula.

I asked Ray what we could do as consumers to try and support them and he said – by purchasing branded products and where possible check where it comes from. Purchase the branded milk, the branded cheeses, branded yoghurts etc. Take a stand and make sure that the supermarkets understand that we will not be dictated to as to what we can purchase. Lets ensure that as we move forward people understand where and how they get their produce.

I suppose all those times spent on the farms has had an enormous impact on us and that is why we started our business – understanding where produce comes from should be paramount to all of us.

Lets all stand up and make sure that an industry that has helped to underpin this country continues to get the support it deserves – lets be clear that it is not hand outs that farmers want – they just want to be paid for what they produce.

Ray and I talked about the future and how they were going to navigate these next three years and he took a moment to respond and then he said “you know Nicole I was really angry and totally let down initially but we will fight on because of our families and our cows of course but my real worry is for the future for the young farmers who have started out now – how will they carry on and who will be the farmers of the future if they can’t continue now.”

Come on everyone get on board ask the question of where do the products I buy in the Supermarket come from – look up – that’s where the small guys are on the top shelves – look down as they are there as well – and lets support the grass roots of this country.

Love you Ray what an inspiration you are and all the other farmers out there xxx

The Food Purveyor xxx