Letter from Jamie Drury, dairy farmer from Emmie-R Farms, Attunga, Peel Valley, New South Wales.
My name is Jamie Drury. I’m a seventh generation dairy farmer in the Peel Valley, NSW. We probably haven’t met, but I’m one of the farmers who provides the milk and other dairy products in your fridge. I’m writing on behalf of many more farmers to ask you to help us by choosing Pura and Dairy Farmers milk when you next stock up.
Our milk processor partner – Lion Dairy & Drinks – has added 10 cents per litre to the wholesale price, with every cent going to the farmers providing the milk. We don’t like asking for help, but we do really need the support. Our story is a pretty common one for dairy farmers.
My family has been milking cows in country New South Wales for almost 150 years and we currently have 300 cows on 540 acres. I work about 100 hours a week – up at 2.30am home by 7pm. That’s Monday through Sunday, every week.
Our family’s first farm was in Singleton in the Hunter Valley and we’ve changed farms and breed of cows three times to be progressive and innovative in our industry. The next generation was never expected to stay on the farm, but every generation has chosen to take it on and has innovated, improved the land, invested in new technology, and adapted to ensure the farm stays viable. You have to move with the times.
Farming is a tough business and we rely on the weather to provide for us. We came into this drought about two years ago. Back then we had two years’ feed stored. We were as prepared as we could be, but this has gone on for so long that like most other farmers, we’ve run out.
Our water bill is now five times higher than before the drought. Hay is four times more expensive and grain prices have doubled. It’s not just the cost of the feed though, it’s being able to source it. Even though we’re surrounded by grain farms, we have to bring grain in from WA now because so many drought-affected farmers couldn’t even put a crop in to the ground. It’s been 50 years since they had a failed crop. We’re hoping like heck we get some rain for their summer crop.
“There’s very little water in the storages. We have rainfall records for the farm dating back to 1900. In those 120-odd years, the lowest recorded annual rainfall was 360mm. So far this year we’ve had 165mm – less than half the worst year on record. Most of the rain has been ineffective – a few millimetres that evaporate as soon as they hit the ground. Not the steady, soaking rain we need.”
It’s a day-to-day slog with no real end in sight. The long range forecast last summer was for a cooler wetter summer. That didn’t This hasn’t happened. In fact, it’s been was the opposite – very hot and very dry. We’re in uncharted territory – and it seems the computer models can’t predict the weather patterns anymore.
In the next 12 months we’ll just keep trying to come up with new ways to keep going. Most decisions we’re making are forced on us by the drought: weighing up which option is going to cause less pain. It’s tough going.
To give you an idea of what it’s like, imagine turning up to work every day knowing you’re not earning a wage. Not knowing when things will improve, but that you’re at least 12 months from things getting better. And knowing that you have no option but to stay the course. We all have high debt loads. Selling is impossible – no-one will buy a farm right now. Farmers are trying to reduce stock, but no-one wants extra cattle.
This drought doesn’t just damage farmers. Suppliers, employees, and plenty of businesses past the farm gate are also hurting.
When you buy Dairy Farmers and Pura-branded milk, you’re directly supporting farmers. The extra 10c per litre you pay really helps. We spend that money with local shops and local suppliers and that helps to support the whole community – there’s a multiplier effect.
Please keep buying Dairy Farmers and Pura-branded milk. 100% of the extra 10 cents per litre goes back to dairy farmers. It also shows farmers that people know we’re doing it tough and are prepared to help.
I can’t tell you how much that means to us.