Jugiong herd to go under the hammer

By Sophie Baldwin

The Nicholson family has been dairy farming at Girgarre for 46 years.

Brothers Pat and Brendon have a proud history, love their Jugiong Jersey herd and the area in which they live.

But like so many other farmers in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District, the high cost of water has forced them into making some pretty tough decisions — the toughest of which has been the decision to sell 65 per cent of their milking herd which includes all their young milkers and last year’s International Dairy Week intermediate champion and champion best udder, Jugiong Belle 7279.

The herd averages 6000 litres and there will be 50 cows classified excellent among the 270 lots which will go under the hammer on September 30.

“We have had a lot of interest across Victoria and interstate regarding the sale, and good cows are still selling well,” Pat said.

He said the sale provided an opportunity for buyers to secure some of the best Jersey families in the country.

Pat said selling all the young milkers was something he never thought he would have to do.

“It hasn’t been an easy decision. We have put a lot of hard work and money into our genetics over the years but selling a portion of the herd will allow us to improve our equity, pay some outstanding bills and take a bit of the pressure off over another tough season,” Pat said.

Pat believes there is a good future for Australian dairy but poor water policy and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan have forced many northern Victorian farmers into a corner.

He said one lesson he had learned from previous drought scenarios was not to repeat the same thing two years in a row — the business had already spent a fortune purchasing fodder last year and it simply wasn’t an option again this season.

“We still have all our young stock and will be milking 150 of the older cows. There is nothing wrong with them, they just have a bit of age on them.

Our plan is to rebuild,” he said.

The family plans to continue on in dairying, subject to what happens with water.

“I believe there are things starting to happen in the water space but it just depends if they happen quick enough and whether we can hang on in the meantime.”

Pat said the family had tossed around the idea of moving but Girgarre was their home and they were entrenched in the community.

“It is just crazy that water has become too valuable to use on-farm and you can make more money out of selling it to the highest bidder.”

He said the water crisis was affecting everyone, even those families who had been on the land for generations. He said there had been farmers around him who had sold their cows and exited the industry, while others had turned to cropping.

“The industry might never return to where it was, but it has the potential to be good again if we just have access to irrigation.”

The auction will be held on-farm at 771 Curr Rd, Girgarre, on Monday, September 30 at 10.30am.

For more information visit www.dairylivestockservices.com.au