The devastated feeling Ken Robinson had when he walked off his farm is etched in his memory. It had been in his family for 70 years.
“I have two sons and they’d probably liked to have taken it on. But it came to the point that I had to say, ‘if I can’t make a profit, why past it on to the next generation?’.”
Mr Robinson sees government deregulation as his farm’s final demise.
“Suddenly instead of getting 70 cents per litre, you’re getting 30 cents. The cost of electricity, the cost of vet bills, it’s all going up and you just can’t make enough.”
Then in 2006, Mr Robinson recalls there were more than 20 dairy farms in Wagga. Now only a few farmers, like Neil and Simone Joliffe, remain.
The Joliffe’s family farm has been operating since 1994.
As a the director of the Australian Dairy Board, Mrs Joliffe is committed to helping dairy farms become future proof.
“It’s always sad to see when a farm has to close because there hasn’t been someone there who’s willing to buy it and keep the business going,” she said.
Dairy farmers around the country are quietly hopeful things will change after two of the nation’s biggest distributors began a bidding war.
Currently milk solids fetch a price of $5.60 per kilogram but Saputo last week announced it would pay $5.68. Fonterra followed up with a $5.85 bid.
Even though she is happy to see the price increase, Mrs Joliffe’s primary concern is safeguarding the industry against this kind of rising and falling market volatility.
Robert Collier from Riverina Fresh agrees, and sees fixed contracts as the industry’s saving force. Irrespective of the changing market value, for the past five years the company has offered $6.25 per kilogram.
They have managed to insulate against outside pressures by supplying milk to specialty coffee houses around the Riverina, Albury, Melbourne, and Sydney.
“Dairy farming is tough at the minute, no-one’s making a mint, but you have to give farmers some certainty.”