Dairy farmer Greg Antcliff from Toogoolawah.
Dairy farmer Greg Antcliff from Toogoolawah.

How dairy farmers are being milked dry

A TOOGOOLAWAH dairy farmer says more needs to be done to support the industry with a lack of rain and pay rises forcing people out of farming.

Greg Antcliff has been a dairy farmer for more than 26 years and said he's watched as one farmer after the other has walked away.

"It's been really tough," he said.

The dairy industry was deregulated 20 years ago, which meant the discontinuation of regulated sourcing and pricing of drinking milk.

"When it deregulated, that's when we lost everything," Mr Antcliff said.

There used to be more than 26 dairy farmers in Toogoolawah, now there is only three left.

Mr Antcliff, who works from 4.30am to 7.30pm seven days a week, said he had also considered walking away from it all.

"I hit a wall about six months ago and I had had enough of it. I turned to my son Anthony and I said 'boy, I've had enough of this, let's get out'," he said.

"Because we're a family- run farm, we don't hire labour, we do it ourselves, we can sort of survive through these times, but we don't make any money.

"We pay our bills and that's it.

"At the moment, I think the average age of a dairy farmer is 65 years of age.

"For a young person to start in dairying, they've got to borrow at least $3 million to buy a dairy farm and you can't pay a dairy farm back at $3 million if you've got any debt.

"If you've got debt, the noose just gets tighter and tighter."

He said it's not just the farmers who felt the financial hit, but the local economies too.

"It flows on to the towns too," he said.

"Every dairy farmer goes out and we buy a lot of stuff locally.

"Now we've got to tighten our belt up and we've got to look for the best price we can and sometimes you've got to go outside of your town."

Mr Antcliff said the situation would only become more dire if something wasn't done soon.

"We need the public to buy branded milk for starters," he said.

"I don't blame people for buying a dollar a litre of milk because these days it's so tough for families and I understand it.

"We need another 10 cent rise straight away now, straight across the board, otherwise more farmers will cease dairying."