Last of Wagga's dairy farmers brought to breaking by zero water allocations

Wagga's dairy industry brought to knees by lack of water allocations


Feed Management
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Open market prices have soared above $600, forcing farmers to thin their herds.

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CUTTING BACK: Euberta, NSW, dairy farmer Glen Jolliffe has been forced to reduce herd numbers as irrigation water prices have soared.

CUTTING BACK: Euberta, NSW, dairy farmer Glen Jolliffe has been forced to reduce herd numbers as irrigation water prices have soared.

A second year without water allocations from the Wagga Wagga region's river systems has caused a significant downturn for farmers.

It has caused Euberta, NSW, based dairy farmer Glen Jolliffe to sell half his herd.

"I've had to cut down, reduce my numbers by about 80 so I can reduce the feed because I'm paying $500 or better and I'm going backwards," he said.

Under declaration of the state government, farmers who hold general water licences will be given zero surface water entitlements from the Murray, Murrumbidgee and Border systems.

The predominate reason is that the water systems are so dry currently, that there is not enough water to be shared.

But, it represents the latest blow dealt to an industry that has long since suffered towards ruin.

In the early 2000s, there were up to 20 dairy farmers in Wagga. Now only a few remain, and they are now suffering under the increased pressures of the drought.

Yet even as the profits have dropped and the herd has thinned, the workload has risen.

"My production has decreased enormously," Mr Jolliffe said.

"I'm employing [fewer] people. Usually, I've got some ag or vet students working with me, but I'm having to do without them.

"It means I don't get any days off, it's not like I can turn the cows off for the weekend."

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While some farmers have resorted to paying for additional water on the open market, Mr Jolliffe has been left without that option.

Costing up to $660 per megalitre, he says the payment would put him entirely out of pocket, and most likely out of business.

"I can't afford to pay that for water, I just can't justify it," he said.

"Once it's getting up over $150, it's well out of my viability. It's just not profitable."

Behind the politics in the situation though, Mr Jolliffe recognises the policymakers are at a loss to find a favourable compromise. Put quite simply, there is no substitute for a decent downpour.

"It just needs to rain," Mr Jolliffe said.

"More crops puts downward pressure on the price, and to grow more crops you need more rain."

This article first appeared on The Daily Advertiser

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