Dairy News Australia - - MANAGEMENT -

Ris­ing land prices and a de­cline in avail­able farm work­ers are two is­sues fac­ing Cana­dian dairy farm­ers, ac­cord­ing to fourth gen­er­a­tion Al­berta farmer, Cregg Ni­col. “In this ir­ri­ga­tion area, you’re look­ing at about $10 000 an acre. There is a lot of com­pe­ti­tion from feed­lots start­ing to move east. We call the Pic­ture Butte area ‘feed­lot al­ley’.” Pic­ture Butte is 27 km north of Leth­bridge and has claimed the ti­tle of Live­stock Feed­ing Cap­i­tal of Canada. Cregg said the fall­ing num­ber of dairy farms in Al­berta — there were an es­ti­mated 1200 dairy farms in Al­berta 20 years ago and about 490 to­day — has con­trib­uted to em­ploy­ment is­sues. “One of the big­gest is­sues we deal with is find­ing guys that want to milk cows,” he said. “Agri­cul­ture doesn’t have the ap­peal it used to. When we had more farms in the past, that pro­vided a large group of kids that knew farm­ing and were will­ing to work on farm. All of a sud­den, there are less kids who want to work.”Con­sumer per­spec­tive is another challenge, ex­ac­er­bated by in­ci­dents like that in neigh­bour­ing prov­ince Bri­tish Columbia, where a video showed work­ers mis­treat­ing cows. They were re­cently charged in court. “I have noth­ing to hide here, but in­ci­dents like that af­fect us all, even the guys do­ing it right.” Cana­dian dairy in­dus­try milk quo­tas en­able farm­ers to be paid around 80c/litre for milk. There are no govern­ment sub­si­dies, but farm­ers must pay for quota and not ex­ceed this. The sys­tem al­lows them to pur­chase more at times through the year. Cregg said the low­est the milk price has fallen was about 75 cents a litre.

The Ni­colls pro­duce their own silage and aim to car­ry­over 10-15% of each com­mod­ity each year.

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