YOUNG dairy farmers from Mardan, Lucas and Kylie Licciardello, managed to put into words last week what a lot of dairy farmers have felt since the shock price drop of April 28, 2016.
Speaking at the South Gippsland Dairy Expo, as part of On-Farm Consulting’s Matt Harms’ annual panel session, they said it was the sense of powerlessness that hurt most.
“The number one rule in dairy farming is that the market never lies. It’s simple, you can’t go against it when making decisions or it will come back and bite you,” said Lucas Licciardello.
“There’s always ups and downs and responding to the market, you have to back your skill sets to make the right decisions in a timely manner but on that day someone took our power away from us, to control what we could control, and threw it in the bin.
“That’s why people have been angry, not because of the market factors.
“They took away our decision making, our ability to respond in time.”
The outcome, they say, apart from the hardship it has caused, has been a reduction in loyalty and a more hard-nosed approach to the business of dairy farming.
“This year really made us wake up,” he said.
“In the last seven years we’ve seen two droughts, two extremely wet seasons, two with extremely low milk prices and two price drops.”
Does that dampen your enthusiasm? Asked Matt Harms
“It did initially. We still love farming. I still love growing grass and I still love milking cows, but at the stage we are at now, I don’t get up milking cows seven days a week because I absolutely love it.
“Yes I love it and that’s our driving force and our passion but we’re running a business and that’s how we are looking at it.
“We want to make money. You can call be arrogant or a pompous ass or whatever. At the end of the day I get up in the morning to milk cows to drive a profit to make our business and try to expand our own little empire, not so I can go to bed at night with a smile on my face and say I put two litres of milk on someone’s table today.
“We love what we are doing, but we don’t want to do it for free.”
Kylie provided the home-front perspective, describing how difficult it has been for the family, the budget and the bills since the shock reduction in price and she expects it to get more difficult around Christmas time, after the silage and fertiliser bills come in.
Kylie and Lucas have been on fast learning curve in the past decade, going from traineeship to share-farming, to herd ownership and finally, property owner, four years ago, but it’s been a bumpy ride.
They now milk 250 cows, are rearing 70 calves and have been involved in dairy farming for 18 years.
There was a lot more to hear during the well-attended session that was one of the stand-out highlights of the expo.
Why feeling powerless made dairy farmers angry