Young farmers question their future

By Dairy News

STEPHEN FISICARO and Emily Brown purchased their first dairy farm three years ago — and they have been on a rollercoaster ride ever since.

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

The Katunga farmers started out as Murray Goulburn suppliers and had to deal with the heartbreak of the price drop in their first year.

This year, high water prices and the low availability of fodder have got them questioning whether or not they will be here next season.

They 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 last couple of weeks,” Mr Fisicaro said.

He said carrying the water over was more good luck then management, but the couple was certainly happy to be in a position to at least get the 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?” he said.

They have maintained fertiliser application, and Mr Fisicaro said the growth difference had been quite dramatic.

“You can certainly tell where I haven’t put fertiliser,” he said.

The couple said feeding young stock and dry cows had been an issue.

The blocks they were agisting on have been sold and it has been a struggle to feed the dry cows, whose 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 last three years we have managed to break even or a little bit better with no major improvements to our property,” Ms Brown said.

“To this point we have been okay but buying water or hay this season is going to be a huge issue and we don’t really know where we are going to be in six months’ time.

“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.”

Ms Brown said even though the milk price had increased this year, it came nowhere close to covering a 300 per cent increase in the price of water compared to last year.

The couple chose to be dairy farmers and, at 35 years of age, are 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,” Ms Brown said.