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The Mystery of the Missing Dairy Farmers

Written by: Duncan B on 17 December 2020


It’s a mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot. Where are the missing dairy farmers?

According to a report in the “Weekly Times” 16 Dec 2020, one in four Victorian dairy farmers has left the industry since 2016, with 393 farmers leaving dairying since July this year alone. As the table shows the trend is Australia-wide with farmer and dairy cow numbers falling every year. (Only Tasmania recorded an increase in cow numbers.)

There are many factors contributing to the loss of dairy farmers. The 2016 price clawback by dairy processors led to many farmers leaving the industry. Farm gate prices offered by processors make it hard for farmers to make a profit.

Increasing costs for inputs such as electricity and fodder add to the burden. Dairy farmers in irrigation areas are finding it almost impossible to meet the current high prices for irrigation water, in competition with the agribusiness companies growing almonds, cotton and other crops that need a lot of water. In fact Northern Victoria has lost 21% of its dairy farmers since 2016. 

Many older farmers are taking advantage of record cattle prices and good selling prices for farms to retire and leave the industry with something to show for their years of hard work.

The corporates are moving into the dairy industry in a big way. In October, Aurora Dairies, owned by Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board,  paid $55 million for a 2500 hectare portfolio of dairy farms in Gippsland.

Perhaps it is not such a mystery. We will find many dairy farmers working as farm hands on farms that perhaps they once owned.



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