Dairy farmers in Australia are being forced to sell their top milking cows for slaughter to help pay their rising bills.
Low milk prices are also affecting farmers down under, so much so that the cows have to go to raise some much needed cash flow. In fact, according to current affairs TV show Four Corners, which airs on ABC Australia, one saleyard in Victoria has been selling 700 dairy cows a week for slaughter since May.
This area is prime dairy country and many of the cows arriving at the saleyards are pedigree dairy cows, bred for milking and hand-reared by their dairy farmer owners. They were once lucrative money making animals but once they enter the saleyard they are known as ‘choppers’ for obvious reasons.
Phil McVilly is a livestock agent who deals with abattoirs in the Camperdown region of southwestern Victoria. He said there is no sign of the sell-off slowing down. The reluctant decisions for Australian farmers to cull their cows began at the end of April when the country’s biggest milk processor cut the prices the farmers were expecting.
According to the show, farmers had been relying on the AUS$6/kg (€4.05/kg) they had been getting for their milk solids, but suddenly they were told by Murray Goulburn they would be getting well under $5/kg (€3.38/kg). Meanwhile, farmers themselves would have to pay back the difference, a total of around $200m (€135.01m) between about 2,500 farmers.
As with quite a few other countries in the world, the Aussie farmers were then selling milk for less than the cost of production.
The saleyards have been filled with dairy cattle for the past few months as the price drop affects farmers of all sizes.
One family told Four Corners how they were forced to quit dairying as they were going to lose around $70,000 (€47,255.10) per year if they continued.
The Johnston family, from southern New South Wales, supplied Murray Goulburn but quit when the prices fell.