Owen and Todd Brown.
Owen and Todd Brown. Renee Pilcher

Low milk prices threaten farmers

IF the price of milk drops much more it will mean Todd Brown and his dad Owen will be forced to shut their Curra dairy farm - and they won't be the only ones.

News of a possible price dip is enough to dampen the spirits of dairy farmers around the state.

"If prices go any lower it will probably send us to the wall - everyone to the wall," Mr Brown said at the Gympie Show this week.

Dairy Australia has predicted south-east Australian farmers can expect opening farmgate milk prices to be weaker than last year's opening prices - from $4.75 to $4.80 per kg of milk solids to $4.05 and $4.40 per kg.

While exporting farmers were in a good position with strong competition, Dairy Australia Managing director Ian Halliday said Queensland farmers supplying the domestic drinking market have been static or in decline.

"Continued aggressive retail competition, disruptions caused by changes in private label supply contracts and uncertainty surrounding processor milk requirements have undermined farmer confidence and stifled production growth," he said.

In a statement, Dairy Australia said the price of milk was still the "single greatest" challenge and the reason why farmers felt negative about the future of the industry.

Since Coles introduced $1 a litre milk the industry has declined in the Gympie Region, with those already struggling to stay out of the red unable to stay viable.

The Browns are one of five Gympie Region dairy farmers showing at Gympie this week.

They've been doing it for 10 years; it costs $7.70 a head to show their cows.

"It's not cheap but we love doing it," Mr Owen said.

They think their jersey Jade May is a chance to win the three-four years milk production competition.

Todd, 17, who has the Grand Dream Jersey stud said the judges would be looking for overall balance and cleanliness of bone.

Back in February he told The Gympie Times he thought the cheap milk campaign was ruining the industry.

Mr Brown said back then, he was worried about his son's future in the milk business.

Since the price war on milk, the Browns have been paid six cents less a litre, but can get three cents more with bonuses for milk production.

An extra 10 cents a litre would make all the difference, but they are happy to stay in the industry for the next three years and see what happens.

Other farmers feel the same if the results of the 2012 Dairy Australia Situation and Outlook Report is anything to go by.

From 1002 farmers surveyed, only 45% felt positive about the industry's future, and investment planning for the year ahead was down 21% (last year 51% of farmers said they would invest).

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