by By Sophie Moeller
THE past 12 months have been possibly the toughest in a decade for our dairy farmers and yet the quality of cattle showed at The North Coast National could not have been at a higher standard.
It was a gratifying sign for The National's chief steward of the Dairy Spectacular, Peter Graham, to see the resilience that remains amongst our rural producers.
"I was just so pleased to see how our local farmers from Dorrigo to Beaudesert came out and supported the show,” he says.
"Dairy farming is challenging at the best of times, but given the variation in the weather we've had this year, it was incredible to see how locals came out to support the show.
"It takes a year to raise a cow to be ready for the judges, and they'd all done a tremendous job.”
Mr Graham said the recent rain "had turned things around” for many farmers in the past month but the cooler temperatures now needed to lift to ensure good feed supply going forward. He wasn't complaining, though. This time last year, local farmers were barely able to plant at all due to no rain.
Increased prices across all areas of farming from energy to labour to grain means 2018 will, again, present challenges, especially if supermarkets continue to sell milk at a dollar a litre on the shelf. Mr Graham remains hopeful things will improve with the demand for dairy in this country, and particularly in China, at an all time high.
"There is a huge shortage of dairy in this country, which we need to supply,” he said.
Mr Graham has a medium-sized operation based in Coraki on 100 hectares supplying milk from 230 head of cattle. This is his year in review:
- November: driest spring we have ever - little planting for summer.
- December: good season for grain farmers in the west which meant grain prices went down.
- January: heatwave affected milk production
- February: rain came, grass grew and stock recovered
- March: Cyclone Debbie hits - farmers and stock hit - intensive and expensive land cultivation required
- May: Another 350mls of rain falls affecting newly sewn crops - cows are held off the paddocks
- June/July: sun shines and grass grows
- Aug/Sept: no rain - country dries rapidly speed creating hard crusted top soil. Expensive Irrigation required. Local stock suffer greatly. Feed prices go up.
- October/November: rain finally comes but temperatures are unusually cool.