League star loses his football for­tune

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - JACK MORPHET

BE­COM­ING a dairy farmer has lost for­mer Can­berra Raiders sec­ond-rower Ian Hind­marsh all the money he earned in eight years as a pro­fes­sional rugby league player.

The fa­ther-of-two wishes he had gam­bled his earn­ings away in­stead of pur­su­ing his dream to be a dairy farmer. He would have had more fun as the money van­ished.

He bought the 160hectare prop­erty in 2002 dur­ing his first stint with the Par­ra­matta Eels and built him­self a dairy, be­fore the in­dus­try soured.

“I may as well have gam­bled away the money from play­ing football, be­cause at least I would have had a life away from the farm,” Hind­marsh, 42, said.

“If I didn’t build a dairy on my farm, I’d be debt-free and I could have a life.”

The drought has in­creased costs on his Cowra farm in the Cen­tral West of NSW by 40 per cent. With 330 milk­ing cows, it is still run­ning but he ex­pects the bank will fore­close on his busi­ness be­fore he’s able to re­turn to profit, un­less the su­per­mar­kets greatly in­crease what they pay for milk.

The Hind­marsh fam­ily has been con­tin­u­ously milk­ing cows in Aus­tralia for more than 170 years and Ian main­tains dairy farm­ing is in his blood, but un­der the cur­rent mar­ket con­di­tions he doesn’t want his chil­dren Dekota, 13, and Flynn, 12, to con­tinue the fam­ily busi­ness.

Hind­marsh has taken out a bank loan to fi­nance feed for his cat­tle for the next 12 months be­cause there hasn’t been enough rain to grow pas­ture.

In an av­er­age year, he would not need to buy any an­i­mal feed be­cause he would typ­i­cally grow enough rye grass, wheat and lucerne.

The price of grain has sky­rock­eted 80 per cent and hay has dou­bled in the past 18 months as the drought wors­ened, al­though the price for milk hasn’t in­creased.

Un­like other fi­nan­cially stressed dairy farm­ers, Hind­marsh can’t af­ford to sell his milk­ing cows and rein­vest in beef cat­tle or crops be­cause any earn­ings won’t cover his debts.

“Things are pretty well f…ed,” he said. “There’s just no cream in dairy.

“I can go on as long as my bank man­ager can keep look­ing after me. One day I’ll crack it and walk away.

“My wife and I have too much debt to re­tain our farm, so we’ll have to sell ev­ery­thing and we won’t have the money to buy back in.”

Valu­able milk­ing cows be­ing sold to abat­toirs for meat re­veals the dairy in­dus­try’s dire prob­lems.

Hind­marsh has sold 70 milk­ing cows “over the hook” for meat. On pa­per, the value of his re­main­ing milk­ing cows has plunged $500,000 in 18 months.

A flood of farm­ers in the Cen­tral West are ex­pected to cash in their chips and leave the in­dus­try if and when milk­ing cows re­gain their pre­mium.

In the cur­rent cli­mate, Ian does not wish to see his kids Dekota and Flynn en­ter farm­ing de­spite the fam­ily’s 170-year legacy.

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