Dairy farmers supplying Norco will receive a boost to their farmgate milk price by 5 cents a litre to help with flood recovery and increased input costs.
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Maureen McDonald says milk production has halved on their dairy farm at Tatham following the floods.(Supplied: Norco)

“There’s certainly unprecedented costs in urea, all chemicals, feed and indeed production is down due to the prolonged and significant weather,”  CEO Michael Hampson said

While the additional payment is for May and June only, it will cost the co-operative  — which has around 200 member farms — about $1.7 million.

Mr Hampson said it was a record price for Norco farmers for this period in the milk season.

Michael Hampson in a blue and white check shirt leaning over fence.
Norco CEO Michael Hampson says the co-operative is trying to give more support to suppliers.(Supplied)

Mr Hampson has indicated that the temporary lift would extend into the new milk season, commencing July 1, and its suppliers could expect another increase.

“We know we need to do more, and we will do more,” he said.

“This is a start, and recognition of the Norco cooperative is certainly thinking of them through this particular time. We’re just trying to put a bit more support out there to help through some difficult and challenging times.

“We really expect that would be a significant uplift from where we opened on the first of July last year.”

Only way is up

Tatham dairy farmer Maureen McDonald has welcomed the temporary boost in the farmgate price and said it looked promising for the next season.

The record flood on February 28 caused extensive damage to their farm. Cattle were washed away, pastures, fences and infrastructure were destroyed, and then recovery was hampered further by a follow-up flood in late March.

A man and woman stand on a river bank with arms around each other.
Dairy farmers Maureen and Steven McDonald on their riverbank following the record floods.(Supplied: Norco)

“We were just starting to turn things around, things were starting to dry out, and the cows started to be recovering, but that second hit really impacted cattle health and nutrition and the farm itself,” she said.

“We’ve only got one way to go now, and that’s up, so that’s what we’re working on and concentrating on.”

Lucky to break even

A dairy farmer in the Mary Valley of Queensland said drought, now floods, had reduced his Holstein herd to 120, a drop of 30 cows and even with Norco’s price boost, he did not think he would break even.

Peter Rough said the price boost was a good start to help him off the back of the flood.

“But as was indicated in the letter we got from the cooperative, the good thing is they recognise that it’s only a start, and we need more.”

A dairy farmer in a cap on his property
Peter Rough says even with Norco’s 5 cent price lift he may not be able to break even. (ABC News: Owen Jacques)

The Moy Pocket farmer said fencing and laneway repairs would swallow up more than $100,000, the irrigation was still broken, and other inputs like fertilisers have skyrocketed.

Mr Rough said the milk price needed to lift by more than 10 cents for the industry to be sustainable.

Milk price ‘leader’

Norco has long claimed it is the country’s highest paying dairy processor, and the CEO said this increase confirmed it.

Maureen McDonald hoped that Norco would keep delivering on price increases.

“I think there’s strength in the dairy industry at the moment,” she said.

“It seems from all the indicators the dairy industry is going to be strong.

“We really need to push that at the market level and have the consumers recognise and reward all the effort that we put into the product that we actually put on the shelves for them.”

Four two-litre bottles of milk.
Norco flood recovery milk labels on bottles.(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

The dairy co-operative has relabelled its branded milk with ‘Flood recovery, every cent counts’ in an effort to remind consumers how tough dairy farmers are doing it.

“There’s a big rebuild that’s going to occur,” Mr Hampson said.

“We’ll come accustomed to droughts, and their long hard slog well floods are just as bad if not worse, and they’re devastating because they can change things overnight.”

Debra and Jim Allard in the dairy.
Flood affected Burringbar dairy farmer Jim Allard (pictured with wife Debra Allard) features on the new Norco labels.(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

The signature of the EU–New Zealand Free Trade Agreement by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen today – the last day of the French EU Presidency – is announced as a landmark in the five-year long process of negotiations so far.

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