The Dairy: Johns River farm opens its doors to the public for education

Liz Langdale
By Liz Langdale
April 11 2022 - 2:00am
The Dairy at Johns River aims to reconnect the consumer with milk production at the farm. Joseph Neilson enjoys patting the cows. Picture: The Dairy, John's River.

A Mid North Coast dairy farm is hoping to increase awareness about farming by opening its doors to the public.

The family-run farm is based at Johns River, south of Port Macquarie, NSW, where Emily and Matt Neilson live with their boys Joseph and Henry.

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The couple began dairy farming in 2015 with 55 cows going through an old eight bale walk-through dairy at Dungog.

They moved their cows and their family to the Mid North Coast at the end of 2021, to allow them to expand and make their business more sustainable.

Ms Neilson said there are many challenges facing farmers, which is having an impact on the financial side of the business.

Weeks of relentless rain have made the cows' feet very soft, and rock has been exposed on laneways.

"Put the two together and you end up with very sore feet for the cows," she said.

"Walking them to and from paddocks twice a day requires patience and empathy."

A cow and her calf lap up the sun.

The dairy farm is also experiencing a high level of moisture in the soil, which is impacting the nutrient quality of the paddocks.

"The cows can eat the grass all day and they're still starving," Ms Neilson said.

The wet and muddy weather has also led to an increase in mastitis cases amongst the cows.

Ms Neilson said it's important to reconnect consumers with the milk they are drinking, the place it has come from and the people who work hard to produce it every day.

She said majority of consumers know very little about where their milk is coming from, or the challenges faced by farmers in production.

Ms Neilson gave the example of when supermarket companies introduced discounted milk for consumers at just $1 per litre.

"Consumers were happily buying it, meanwhile the dairy farmers were going broke and struggling through intense drought," Ms Neilson said.

Ms Neilson said the price of milk should reflect the challenges experienced by farmers.

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"It shouldn't be a stagnant price," she said.

The Johns River farm's production is estimated to be running at two thirds of its capacity.

"The consumer doesn't have any idea that there's a shortage of milk, because of the weather conditions which have impacted dairy production for so many farmers," Ms Neilson said.

The farm runs an educational program called The Dairy, John's River to allow people to meet some of the animals and gain insight into life on a dairy farm.

The Dairy was awarded the Hunter Region Business Excellence Award for Tourism and Hospitality in 2021.

The farm is open for tours and bookings can be made via www.thedairyjohnsriver.com.

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