It hasn’t been an easy ride for Damian and Diane Daniel since they purchased their Waaia dairy farm in 2008.
The couple has experienced drought, milk price drops, the global financial crisis, floods and storms.
Country News first visited the family in 2009 after the milk price drop and then again in 2010 to see how they were fairing and despite their rocky road they have managed to hang on and keep doing what they love, farming.
Careful budgeting, advice from industry professionals and being honest with creditors about repayment have helped the couple keep their business afloat, and while there may be only small gains at times, the couple focuses on these and uses them as motivation to move forward.
“This is our seventh season and my advice to anyone out there is to don’t give up. Back in 2009 when things turned really bad we had two options, get out with absolutely nothing or run the risk of going bankrupt and still leave with nothing - we took the latter and here we are today still hanging on,” Mr Daniel said.
The couple has accumulated equity through their dairy herd which they now own and earlier this year they purchased a 50 ha block across the road that they had been leasing for the past two years.
The purchase will help their business grow more green grass and hopefully help keep expensive truck loads of hay away.
“When we first began leasing the block we had an agreed value but we didn’t know how we were ever going to raise a deposit. We decided to purchase some young calves and rear them with the idea of selling them on the point of calving. We had a bit of luck with an export order and were able to sell the animals at seven months of age instead and that worked out very well for us.”
The couple is currently milking 150 cows on 95ha. The heifers are all agisted off farm.
This year with another tough season approaching, the couple enlisted the help of their agronomist who told them to spray out their shaftal and rye paddocks and plant more lucerne.
Initially Mr Daniel thought the idea was just plain stupid because he was envisaging cuts of silage and hay, but as the season progressed he has realised he wouldn’t have been able to afford the water to irrigate the grass anyway. Spraying it out and sowing an additional 16ha of lucerne has been another good management decision.
The farm now has 32ha of lucerne and the 104ml of rain the farm received in a storm in November was just perfect.
The couple has no permanent water but they do have a couple of spear point bores with a 375Ml water license.
All the lucerne plantings have been sown in paddocks that can be directly irrigated from the bore.
“If the spear stops we are in a lot of bother, it only pumps slowly but it ran for most of the irrigation season last year,” Mr Daniel said.
Looking to the future, the couple like many other farmers in the region are worried about what is going to happen with irrigation water.
“The water issue really needs to be sorted out. We have beautiful soils and can grow anything we want, but we do need water to do that. I mean how stupid is it we pay $13 000 a year in water fees for a system we can’t afford to use, I mean who is the stupid one here.
“The water issue is not transparent and the little family farm is being pushed aside. I appreciate that is business, but if you want to have farmers in the area generating money and spending it in regional communities then farmers are needed,” he said.
Last season the business used 278Ml of temporary water but this figure is reducing each year as prices continue to rise.
“Ten years ago we were wasting water and improvements in delivery have been great, we all want to be as water efficient as we can, but the inbalances in the system really needed to be sorted out.”
Mr Daniel believes that every investor that owns water must have associated delivery shares so they are helping to pay for the upkeep of the system too.