Another Brownes supplier quits

Rueben HaleCountryman
Busselton dairy farmer Ruth McGregor said the Brownes price would not be viable for producers.
Camera IconBusselton dairy farmer Ruth McGregor said the Brownes price would not be viable for producers. Credit: Gordon Becker

The failure of Brownes to offer dairy farmers a better price for their milk has forced one supplier to leave the industry after 45 years.

Northcliffe farmers Michael and Francis Armstrong, whose contract with Brownes will expire on March 12, said the company’s offer of a three-year fixed agreement of 45c/l (average) price was not a price they could accept.

The departure of the Armstrongs will mean there will be four million litres less milk collected from WA dairy farms each year.

This is on top of the millions already lost after out-of-contract Brownes milk suppliers TonyFerraro, Dale Hanks and Graham Manning were forced from the industry after the company refused to collect their milk inlate October.

“Imagine if I went back to them and asked if the Brownes management were happy to revert to a pay rate they had been on 16 years ago,” Mr Armstrong said.

“That is what Brownes are asking me to do.

“I don’t entirely blame Brownes for this situation because while the major supermarkets continue to sell $1 milk, dairy farming in WA cannot be sustainable.

“The supermarkets now have majority share of the market with their generic milk, which is holding the entire industry down.”

Mr Armstrong said he had already started to convert from dairy to cattle farming.

“I have already mated 150 of my Friesian heifers with Murray Grey bulls and starting a artificial insemination program with about 100 dairy cows with Angus seamen,” he said.

“Northcliffe is highly fertile with an abundance of good grasses well into the warmer months of the year, which means there will be very good cost advantage by breeding cows here in comparison to the very slim margins I am making from milking each day.”

Meanwhile, Busselton’s Ruth McGregor said she is also considering her future as a dairy farmer.

Mrs McGregor and husband Ian have about 300 cows and produce three million litres of milk a year for Brownes.

“We have been offered about 42c/l, which is unsustainable and would not provide our farm with any incentive to move forward and expand,” she said. “We can’t avoid the fact that we must consider our future as dairy farmers.

“We haven’t made a decision about whether we continue on the way we are or whether to explore alternative options, but that time is coming very soon.

“The whole proposition is making us feel kind of trapped at the moment, which is making myself and my husband extremely anxious and depressed.”

WAFarmers dairy section president Michael Partridge said he was extremely disappointed Mr Armstrong had decided to stop producing milk.

“The loss of the Armstrong family by the WA dairy industry means that we have also lost a great amount of potential for the next generation of dairy farmers,” he said.

“Michael is highly respected as a quality milk producer who has invested a lot of time and money to establish a very modern diary business.”

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