Trapped on a roller coaster

By Riverine Herald

STEPHEN Fisicaro and Emily Brown purchased their first dairy farm three years ago – and have been on a roller coaster ride ever since.

The joy of owning their own farm has been soured by tough times in the industry that haven’t been of their own making.

The couple started out as Murray Goulburn suppliers and had to deal with the heartbreak of the price drop in their first year and now high water prices and the availability of fodder have got them questioning whether or not they will be here next season.

The couple are confident they will make it through spring, but what happens after that is anyone’s guess.

“We have carried over enough water for one full watering of the farm, which does take some of the pressure off – along with the rain we have had over the past couple of weeks,” Stephen said.

He said carrying the water over was more good luck than management but the couple are certainly happy they are in a position to at least get their milking herd through spring.

“We are looking at a half decent spring and we should be able to cut some silage but what is going to happen after that who knows?”

The couple said feeding young stock and dry cows has also been an issue. The blocks they were agisting have been sold and it has been a struggle to feed the dry cows – their condition is not as good as it should be because they haven’t been able to source quality hay.

They are considering selling some of their young stock but they concede it might be hard in this climate to even find a buyer.

“Over the past three years we have managed to break even or a little bit better with no major improvements to our property,” Emily said.

“Water is three times the price of what we paid last year and if we can’t plant summer feed because of the cost of water we are going to have to cut numbers and cull even harder.”

Emily said even though the milk price had increased this year it didn’t come anywhere near close to covering a 300 per cent increase on water in the same period.

Emily and Stephen chose to be dairy farmers and at 35 years of age, they were considered young by industry standards.

“There are so many people around our age exiting dairying.

“It is hard enough to make it through to farm ownership in northern Victoria in the first place, let alone be able to afford to buy permanent water with your property.”