Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Not A Struggle Street Story

There's a column on Stuff today by Lyn Webster - a Northland Dairy Farmer - in which she says she has no sympathy for 'Struggle Street stories' because the reduction in the milk payout two years ago to $3.90 per kg of milk solids (kg MS), left her 'skint' but she just gets on and works every hour there is, and manages. 

There's the obligatory dig at the current Government whose 'misguided plans to make agriculture in New Zealand pay for the world's climate change woes" could 'screw over' her 'marginal business.

The column is a thinly disguised appeal to those who like the simplistic Kiwi Battler: Kiwi Bungler/Bludger dichotomy.

Webster leases a farm and runs 210 cows.Her 2 children are adults. She says she works every hour there is milking, but has written a book, writes a column for Stuff and does all the self-sufficiency activities that she details on her Facebook page, which has 6000 followers.

Like all farmers, she has the ability to provide herself with a lot of free food and she entered into her current situation with, and retains, a lot more control over her life than the average 'Struggle Street' resident - despite debt and the vagaries of the market and the weather.

So how about her claims of having it so hard?

The average NZ dairy cow produced 4,259 litres of milk in the 2016-17 season, yielding a total of 381kg MS.  

210 cows on average would produce 80,000 kg MS. 

Even at $3.90 a kg that’s a gross annual income of $312k.

At the 2017-18 rate of $6.90 it’s gross annual income of $552k. (1)

You would have to have a very low yield herd and/or pay very high rent for the land and/or be paying exorbitant interest rates to the bank to not to be able to make ends meet on those figures - especially in light of how much personal expenditure can be offset against business costs. 

Or am I missing something?

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