It’s as iconic as Vegemite and the sausage sizzle.
Dairy cows have been producing milk for generations of Australians since colonial times and making sure there is white goodness for the morning cereal.
But dry times, and a huge drop in the milk price, has left the Hunter’s dairy farmers struggling to stay afloat.
They need your help, so this Australia Day do them a favour and buy some milk.
Matthew and Emily Neilson are among the most optimistic young dairy farmers around, but even they are barely making it through.
The lack of decent rain since September and record summer temperatures has left their farm at Bendolba, north of Dungog, barren and their herd struggling to find enough feed.
The 40-plus degree temperatures force the cows to spend the day in the shade and the heat reduces their appetite, which means they produce less milk.
The Neilsons are losing almost 3400 litres of milk every week – that’s equivalent to 43 bathtubs.
Add a milk price drop from 52 to 46.7 cents per litre and staying afloat is a real challenge.
So this Australia Day they are asking shoppers to think of the farmers and buy dairy products.
Mr Neilson said it didn’t matter what brand shoppers took off the shelf. He supplies to Murray Goulburn, which has the contract to produce Coles $1 and $2 milk, and some of their milk ends up in those bottles.
“Buy milk, please buy any milk, as long as people are buying milk there is a future for us,” Mr Neilson said.
If the Neilsons don’t get decent rain next month the grass won’t flourish in time to give them enough forage for the winter months.
“We are just keeping our head above water, and that doesn’t allow for break downs or being able to buy in feed or do maintenance jobs,” Mr Neilson said.
“We can’t afford to buy in any feed.
“It’s hard to bear on top of the milk price, we’re down six cents a litre now and we won’t get a review of the milk price until the end of the financial year. We are really hoping it goes up.”
The Neilsons are milking 60 cows and are losing $2000 a month. They milk very early in the morning and late in the evening when it is a bit cooler.
“We spray them off with water when they are leaving to try to cool them off a bit,” he said.
“They are starting to struggle, they can usually battle through one hot day but when they have two or three of them in a row it runs them down.
“They just want to sit in the shade all day and they’re not as hungry so they’re not eating a lot to produce a lot of milk.
“We’re going to need a good soaking for the kikuyu to get going.”