Fourth generation may be final

Rueben HaleCountryman
Fourth generation may be final
Camera IconFourth generation may be final Credit: Countryman

Fourth-generation Waterloo dairy farmers Dean and Ellen Barbetti’s milking future looks bleak as they prepare to sell off their herd.

The Barbettis, who have supplied Harvey Fresh with about 1.5 million litres of milk annually for the past eight years, are among nine dairy farmers to be told by Harvey Fresh and Brownes in recent months their milk is no longer needed.

The WA dairy industry remains in crisis with no resolution in sight as the industry grapples with ways to cope with 53.5 million litres of excess milk, which floods the market during spring.

The shock news has shaken the couple, who have three young children, and left the family with the grim prospect of having to sell their 230 milking cows for a very low price before January next year when their daily milk collections will stop.

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The news also couldn’t have come at a worse time for the couple after deciding to spend $270,000 upgrading their dairy on the back of positive price signals give to them by their processor.

Mr Barbetti said they had invested the money because they had confidence in the WA diary industry.

“Our contract expired at the end of the last financial year, but we felt safe, as we’d done in previous years, to supply out-of-contract until we negotiated a new agreement,” he said.

“On the strength of positive price signals we made the decision to invest in the upgrade of the diary and if we knew what was actually around the corner for us there is no way we would have spent the money, preferring to invest the money into my superannuation.”

The Barbettis say they remain hopeful their situation will change before it’s too late.

“If we can’t find a resolution for the milk we may have to look at switching over to producing cattle and once that decision is made it would be very difficult to change back,” Mrs Barbetti said.

“The industry doesn’t seem to be the same as it was in years gone by, where people worked together for the benefit of the industry as a whole in the good and bad times,” she said.

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