I spent five hours yesterday feeling like I was living the Christmas story of Mary and Joseph’s quest to find somewhere to stay.

I thought I was going to have to make like Baby Jebus and crash in a stable, but luckily I managed to find the last bed in a ‘quaint’ (aka pokey, grotty and over-priced) hostel.

Keen not to relive the experience for a second night, I’ve scarpered Melbourne a day early and made my way to the next stop of my Nuffield chum tour.

Graeme Nicoll is a dairy farmer from a place called Fish Creek, which is a couple of hours east of Melbourne.

Fish Creek

Having only really ever formed my mental images of Australia’s landscape though Crocodile Dundee, episodes of Neighbours and reading an obscure book called Walkabout as a teenager, I was surprised to drive through countryside which more than a little resembled Yorkshire or parts of Devon.

Graeme’s place is pretty similar to a dairy in the UK too. Farming in partnership with his wife Gill, Graeme milks 265 cows, each producing 6000 litres a year.

The cows are a cross of Holstein, Friesian, Jersey and Aberdeen Angus – a mixture Graeme knows won’t appeal to lots of breeders, but which provides the best yields for him on his pasture-based system and allows him to finish cull cattle to a standard which still appeals to picky beef markets, like those in Japan.

The milk his cows produce is sold to Australia’s largest dairy co-operative, Murray Goulbourn, for 39 cents/litre – well above his 22 cents/litre cost of production.

Other processors offer at least 1cent/litre more than the co-operative, but Graeme says he, like the majority of dairy farmers, are aware that the co-op’s presence in the market is what keeps dairy prices where they are. If they left the co-op and it became less powerful, processors would just drive down prices.

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2 Responses to “”

  1. Graeme

    Hold on, hold on…
    There is a very good reason I don’t talk to the press without a proof read.
    1. We don’t milk the Angus X cattle they are raised as dairy beef. We have some Aussie Red in the dairy cross though.
    Crossbreeders are working long and hard to help the wider industry understand crossbreeding is about milking the best genetics.

    2. 39c/l milk price is a today price not a season average price so it can not be compared with cost of production. As we talked about, I don’t work in cents per litre and so not totally sure of that cost of production figure, we work in $/kg of milk solids.

    Prom looks like you got some great weather, you must have been just in front of the storm all the way to Rows. We got another 25 mm here last night.
    Great to catch up.

  2. Caroline Stocks

    Touche. Was relying on memory for the breeds, I knew in my own head I meant 39c as a current price, and I must’ve got my head mangled around the production figure. Not doing much for my argument am I?

    Not a great fan of driving in the rain, if I was in front of the storm then I definitely wouldn’t like to have been caught in it, it was pretty torrential.

    Off to make up numbers about Row’s farm now so you don’t feel like I’m just targeting you…