Family forced to leave dairy farm hoping for a miracle

Family forced to leave Cooriemungle dairy farm hoping for a miracle

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Gaylene Childs snuggles with one of her favourite cows on the farm. Photo by Anthony Brady.

Gaylene Childs snuggles with one of her favourite cows on the farm. Photo by Anthony Brady.

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Gaylene and Kerry Childs have been through more than most in their bid to remain in the dairy industry.

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Gaylene and Kerry Childs have been through more than most in their bid to remain in the dairy industry.

They left their home state of Queensland in search of greener pastures, have endured four droughts, survived the global financial crisis and operated on a shoestring for months on end due to the low milk price.

"We moved down here because regulations were pushing out a lot of farmers up there," Mrs Childs said.

"We came down with 18 milkers and 45 head all up."

Over several years they were able to purchase more stock, to take their herd to about 240.

But now the couple is facing one of their greatest challenges ever.

The farm they lease in Cooriemungle has been sold and they have until the end of the month to leave.

They are desperate to remain in the industry but have not been able to find another farm to house two of their sons, 240 head of cattle, chooks, cats, peacock and dog Daisy.

Mrs Childs said the frustrating thing was that with the price of milk increasing, they finally had a chance to get ahead.

"The past spring we've been working really hard and we've cut down our debts but we can't find anywhere to go and that's so feeble," she said.

The couple isn't afraid of hard work, deciding to do it all themselves instead of hiring someone to help out.

Mr Childs, who has been milking cows since he was a young boy, said it would break his heart if he had to exit the industry.

He said he believed the future of the dairy industry in Australia was uncertain, with banks tightening restrictions on lending after the royal commission and many farms being converted to beef or lamb operations.

"There's one local real estate company that has sold 18 dairy farms in the last six months or so and only four of them have stayed as dairy, the others have gone to sheep or beef," he said.

He said the couple had tried to loan funds to buy a dairy farm, but had been knocked back.

"Most of them tell us we're just short on equity," he said.

"They tell us we will have no problem making the repayments, but we're just slightly short on equity."

Mr Childs said he feared the country's milk supply would dwindle and corporations would buy up dairy farms, giving them a monopoly and making it near impossible for young people to enter the industry.

"There are a lot of people just like us," he said.

"Friends of ours sold their herd 18 months ago because they couldn't find a farm.

"I've heard one milk company has 16 people looking for farms to lease or share-farm."

Mr Childs said he believed the issue would eventually result in milk having to be imported into Australia.

"The milk supply will dwindle and there will be no family farms left," he said.

"It will just be corporates."

Mrs Childs said the couple faced the prospect of being homeless when the last day of the month rolled around.

They have a sale scheduled for February 24 - one they hope they can cancel.

Mrs Childs said it would break her heart to have to part with their beloved stock.

"We're not the kind of farmers who treat our cattle like numbers, they're our family," she said.

"It's so stressful.

"We look at our beautiful cows and wonder how long we will have them."

Mr Childs said he had not given up hope of finding a property, but he knows time is running out.

He is sad he may never get the chance to hand over the reins of a dairy farm operation to his son Matthew.

The stress of the prospect that their hard work to put them in a good position to enjoy a successful future is almost too much for Mrs Childs to bear.

The story Family forced to leave dairy farm hoping for a miracle first appeared on The Standard.

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