After 100 years, Felton farmer to close family dairy
ROWAN Mengel is a third generation dairy farmer and it breaks his heart that for the first time in almost a century of his family farming their Felton property he is looking to close the dairy.
His 680ha (1700 acre) property to the south of Felton is so dry it hasn't been able to grow crops for feed for his herd and the cost of bringing feed onto the farm far outweighs the money they make from milking.
"We're losing about $1000 or more a day," Mr Mengel said.
"Five years ago we took a hit of $80,000 a year when the supermarkets started the $1 milk, we're just not getting a fair price for our milk.
"Normally the farm produces 60% of the feed and we buy in 40%, we used to be self sufficient.
"But because it's so dry and we have no crops we've had to buy in 100% of the feed.
"It's costing about $150,000 a month for feed and we're making less than $100,000.
"And that's not counting the mortgage (repayments), electricity, wages, rates and general maintenance.
"Our electricity bill is between $11,000 and $14,000 a quarter.
"Dairying is just not viable under these circumstances."
Mr Mengel and his wife Isabel have been left with little option but to sell their 310 milking cows in order to save the farm in the short term.
"This farm has been in my family since the 1920s," Mr Mengel said.
"This will be the first time we've had to shut down the dairy and it breaks my heart, it's my life.
"I think it's criminal to be selling good milking cows to the meat works and I'd rather see them sold to other dairies but in the end if we can't sell them to other dairies then we'll have to sell them to the meat works.
"We have 310 milkers which is down from 450 four months ago. We had to sell off some just to pay the bills, we've been culling cows to pay the bills.
"By selling all the milking cows it would save the farm but we'd have no cash flow."
Mr and Mrs Mengel had six staff on the property but they have had to let two workers go and another one is about to finish up.
Mr and Mrs Mengel hope by selling their milking cows and hanging on to some of the other stock, they can wait out the drought until better conditions arrive and they can rebuild the farm again.
Even then, they will be left with having to sell off some of their land to cover initial costs.
A page for donations to help Mr and Mrs Mengel has been set up and for those who can help are asked to go to chuffed.org/project/rolling-in-the-hay