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Deniliquin family tells of dairy struggle

By Olivia Duffey

The plight of struggling local dairy farmers will be highlighted when a national television series is screened next month.

Deniliquin locals Barry and Rosey Warburton will feature in the SBS show, Struggle Street, which will focus on issues of disadvantage in rural and regional Australia.

The couple caught the attention of SBS and were given the opportunity to share their story about struggling in the dairy industry.

They were filmed at their property from January to April.

Barry, 54, and Rosey, 49, were approached by SBS and while hesitant at first, decided those living in the city needed to know exactly how the drought is affecting their business and lives.

‘‘We got 28 bales of some very old hay donated to us and somehow or other, the SBS group made contact with that drought organisation and we had our names exchanged,’’ Barry said.

‘‘My wife was extremely hesitant, I wasn’t as much but I had never heard of the show before to be honest so I just thought it would be a good way to get through what is actually happening out in the country.

‘‘It is quite a big thing to be open but that is what we needed to be. We didn’t try and hide anything.’’

And according to Barry not only did the story need to be told, but it was therapeutic for the family.

‘‘Doing the show was probably a bit like therapy to me, it really was a way to share what we have been experiencing.

‘‘But being a dairy farmer, because we are always so busy, we don’t have as much time to let things get on top of us or think about how that really makes us feel.

‘‘If you are not doing anything that is when your mind can get on top of you, but with no workforce, there is no shortage of things to do.

‘‘We virtually haven’t been able to get any Federal Government support, but we have been using the rural financial counsellor to sort of help us get through and the only other support has been the NSW rates subsidy.

‘‘So there has not been an awful lot of government help.’’

Barry comes from a dairy farming family that can trace its heritage back over 150 years, but their farm is on its knees with escalating costs, fixed price milk, no government water allocation and a crippling drought.

With their two young children the difference between today’s drought and the one Barry remembers from 10 years ago, times are tougher than ever.

‘‘Everyone in the Deni area is well and truly aware of what the problems are, and that it is with the Murray Darling Basin Plan,’’ Barry said.

‘‘Being a dairy farmer, the effects of the drought are hitting home a lot quicker than some of our neighbouring cropping farmers.

‘‘It is a perfect storm because we even had a drop in the milk prices three years ago, so we have had two years of extremely low milk prices heading into this. There is just nothing left in reserves to cope with this drought.

‘‘We have pretty much got to the stage where we are on that knife’s edge and the only sort of thing that would keep us going is if hay price become relatively cheap. If not, we will just have to stop, even though our milk prices are going to rise.

‘‘So, I am just hoping that the city people will see what the consequences are of having this Murray Darling Basin Plan.’’

The drought isn’t just affecting their business, but their family too.

‘‘From the family point of view, we rarely do things as a family anymore.

‘‘Currently we have no workforce so for us to go off and do something; one of us needs to stay home to run the property and milk.

They are just one of a dwindling number of dairy farms left in the Riverina, with few left in the local area.

‘‘The sad thing really is that this Riverina area, you could hardly say it is a dairy area anymore because there are so few dairy farms left,’’ Barry said.

‘‘We did the show purely to reach the city audience so hopefully they can become aware of what it is like and what the reality of being a dairy farmer in this area is.’’

The four-part series premieres Wednesday, October 9 at 8.30pm on SBS and continues weekly.