Tuesday, 27 September 2016

I want to be a dairy farmer in France........

I have not posted since May. As I said before I am sure I am the world's worst blogger. It is not that I have had nothing to blog about, in fact it has been the complete opposite.
The farm has been busy, we travelled to France for a 6 week holiday (we had this all organised before the milk price drop) and I have been flat out trying to keep up with my rope baskets, bags and bowls for Dungog by Design. Add family, quilting and the dreaded flu since my return from holidays and like all of you, life has been very busy.
So this blog will be about what is happening on the farm. Well our milk prices are disgusting and our processor, Murray Goulburn, has continually been in the news over the past few months as I am sure you are aware of. What it has meant for us is a drop of about 6 cents per litre for each litre of milk Murray Goulburn pays us or put differently a drop of about 12% of our gross milk income. I do not know too many people who would like to take a cut in their annual income of 12%. It will mean watching the bottom line very carefully over the next year to see how viable milking cows will be for us. Thank goodness that we also have beef cattle and that the beef market has remained at a historic high for the time being and looks like it will stay this way for a while yet. So like usual ,we will tighten our belt where we can and carefully monitor our costs before making any major life changing decisions (like giving up milking cows). One big positive is the amount of fresh feed we have on the farm at the moment. The pastures look fresh and lush. It won't be long and silage will be being made again. The cattle are losing their winter coats and looking good.
Whilst DH Farmer and I holidayed in France we had the opportunity to visit some French dairy farms and cheesemakers. The farms we visited milked Montbeliarde cows where all of the milk went to making the famous Comte cheese in the local villages. How different milking cows in France is to milking here in Australia. Where we milk between 80-90 cows ( a fairly small herd by Australian standards)  the French dairy farms we visited milked only 30 and 40 cows. They barn their animals in winter where as our cows remain outdoors all year.
 DH Farmer checking out the Montbeliarde herd on the French dairy farm.

The cave of Comte cheese which is produced from Montbeliarde herds.

DH Farmer, Denis (owner of the French Farm) and myself on our farm visit.

Beautiful Montbeliarde cows on Denis' farm.

The huge hay sheds on the farms were full ready for the coming winter.

One of the girls on the farm. She is a lead cow , hence the bell.

More of the beautiful girls on the farm. Very happy and contented cows.

It was haymaking season in France in August.

The younger girls - well bedded and fed.

 The biggest difference however is the income and subsidies that the French dairy farmer receives. One of the farms we visited had taken a 10% cut in their EU farm subsidy in the past year. That cut was worth 25,000 euros to that farmer. That means that that farm received an annual EU subsidy of 250,000 euros originally. They now receive a subsidy of 225,000 euros annually. They also receive a premium price for their milk that they produce and sell for cheese making and not to mention the amazing prices they are selling heifers to China, Russia,Morocco and Saudi Arabia ( up to 2500 euros per head). DH Farmer and I worked out that their annual income would be in the vicinity of  $A 800,000. This for milking 40 cows. We could only dream of earning an income like this.
So whilst we are told that it is the global dairy market which is pushing down our farm gate price in Australia I would like to say that all things are not equal in the global dairy world. In Australia, we DO NOT receive any Government subsidy or incentives because we produce milk. The question is, how can we compete and make a living when farmers in other countries have their dairy industry propped up financially in such a massive way? Reality is, we cannot.
We would love to live in a country where those that produce the food for their country and for export was shown the same degree of worthiness as those farmers in France. I am not saying we want handouts and subsidies BUT I am saying a fair price for our milk is all we are asking for. We need to be paid a price worthy of the value of the food we produce and the time and costs we take in producing this food. We need to be able to make a good living and save for our retirement by being paid a fair and just price for our milk. I think it is time for those economists, price setters  and politicians to be honest about the true value of our milk in Australia. The global dairy market is NOT a level playing field so they need to stop using it as the reason we cannot be paid a just price. I am not an economist, a politician, a processor, I do not have a degree in business management. DH Farmer and myself ARE dairy farmers and have been for over 40 years. We know how to keep a farm financial and in the black. We know how to dairy farm. We know when we are being price screwed for our milk. Maybe in Australia we should be more like the French - when we disagree with what is being forced upon us , we should protest more and fight for our rights!!! How important is fresh milk really in our country I wonder???

Until next time......

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