Tough season for dairy

26 Nov, 2013 01:00 AM
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IT would be fair to say 2013 was a season that most WA dairy farmers would rather forget.

Despite a slight increase in farm gate prices, cost of production remained a significant concern and erratic weather wreaked havoc in the South West proving frustrating for producers in the region.

Dairy Australia market analyst John Droppet said WA was down on production by about two per cent by the end of September and the expectation was this year would be similar to last year.

"There does seem to be some disappointment through the spring in terms of milk flow," Mr Droppet said.

"Milk prices at the farm-gate are up, but I think there has been some challenges with production, which is similar to what is happening in the rest of the country in that the price is there, but some of the other factors aren't lining up."

Mr Droppet said the situation was similar throughout Australia, with the difficulties experienced in the 2012 season carried over to this year.

"While things like the farm-gate price have improved we haven't seen the milk flow from that," he said.

"We were less bullish to begin with in our forecast for WA, with the rest of Australia we were talking about a one to three per cent increase in milk production and we will probably see that come down to being in line with last year.

"Farmers are again looking at a good milk price but they have another few issues to clear up in terms of paying down creditors, getting pasture in and improving cow condition in places like South West Victoria, where they struggled to feed cows through the second half of last season."

Western Dairy chairman and Harvey producer Dale Hanks said the 2013 spring had been one of the toughest ever.

"The most important thing to note is that August, September and early October were probably the toughest we have ever had in the State," Mr Hanks said.

"Early winter was fairly dry before the skies opened at the end of July and basically everyone has been waterlogged for almost all of August and September and into early October as well.

"Now we've gone from water-logged to summer within three weeks.

"It has basically been two seasons in one year."

Mr Hanks said a lot of producers couldn't apply fertiliser due to damaged paddocks, and that had an impact on growth throughout the spring.

"I just think it has probably been hard mentally and physically," he said.

"Financially most people have probably got through it alright, but it has been tough on a lot of people.

"I think a few guys are down on where they want to be in silage and hay.

"Quality is also a bit all over the place, there is some good and some bad.

"The implications are they are going to have to work a bit harder on rations to get things balanced up.

"The good thing is that I think grain prices will come back a fraction, which will help."

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