editors letterAs the debate about the Kernot Milk Factory heats up, I would like to point out that the root cause of welfare issues on dairy farms is economic pressure.

Most dairy farmers are caught between the bank and the supermarket. If the retail price of milk doesn’t support the expense of operation, farmers have to endure the cost themselves.
People get into this industry because they are animal focused.
The common business model for dairies in this area is family ownership and operation by people who grew up on farms.
No farmer has a business plan that includes “be mean to cows and passers-by”.
The daily plan starts with plant maintenance, vehicle repairs, dam and pipe inspection, fencing, track repairs, grain supply, hay distribution, weed control, calf rearing, animal husbandry and movement of herds before hopping onto the quaddie to get the milkers.
In summer they’re out there in the flies and the dust and the heat. In winter they’re in the dark. Paddocks get boggy and the cows go missing. No one plans to have a calf disappear. No one wants to have a cow slip over or get its head stuck in the safety rails. Or calve on the side of a road.
Farmers don’t want to treat their animals poorly; they can be as traumatised as other people by injury to their animals. In the heat of the moment they have to make an economic decision as well as trying to do the right thing for the animal and keep themselves safe.
There’s a psychological impact on owners and operators.
Sleep deprivation is just the starting point. There’s also a physical toll.
If you live your life in gumboots you can’t afford a day off.
Been kicked, or squashed or stepped on by a 700kg milker? Soldier on! All those “minor” bruises and aches and pains add up over the years.
If you see someone limping around town they could be one of the two legged victims of low milk retail prices.
Geoff Ellis, Wattle Bank.