NSW Mid-North Coast dairy farmers Craig Ford and Lisa France face hard choices

Pipeclay dairy farmers Lisa France and Craig Ford are considering selling their beloved farm and herd because of the drought.

The couple, who bought their dream farm near Wauchope three years ago, face ruin as the big dry continues.

Feeding their 400 dairy cattle became cripplingly expensive as the price of grain and hay has rocketed.

They are now down to 300 cattle, which Craig looks after, while Lisa works in casual jobs in Wauchope and Port Macquarie to make ends meet.

"I desperately need the work. I was doing 12 to 15 hours a day on the farm, and now Craig has to do my jobs," said Lisa.

STONY GROUND: The Hastings River at Pipeclay now (left) and the same spot on New Years Eve 2018 just over a year ago. Photo courtesy of Lisa France.

STONY GROUND: The Hastings River at Pipeclay now (left) and the same spot on New Years Eve 2018 just over a year ago. Photo courtesy of Lisa France.

"It has put so much pressure on us. We cannot afford to buy feed, and we can't grow it, because the Hastings River has stopped flowing.

"We have to hand-feed our animals. We are trying to work out if there is any way we can somehow retain the herd. If we can't farm some of the girls out to some other farmers, they will go straight to the abattoir because we have nowhere to send them.

"Everyone's in the same boat with no feed and no water. The cost of producing milk is extraordinary, way past what we're getting paid. The situation is dire and it is going to affect the wider community around Wauchope. There is a knock-on effect.

"We have worked our socks off to get to where we are today, and the kindness the community has shown us has been phenomenal. We're praying for a huge dump of rain, but we need a month of an inch to two inches a day to get the water flowing in the river. If we don't have that, we're stuffed.

Craig Ford and LIsa France on their Pipeclay dairy farm.

Craig Ford and LIsa France on their Pipeclay dairy farm.

"It scares me about where this is going to end. We could all be importing feed, and jobs in agriculture are going to be scarce," she added.

Her partner, Craig is also hoping for rain.

"While we had water, we had hope. Now, that's gone. We all need rain," he said.

"Real Dairy Australia have been good and they are doing everything they can do. We've been speaking to them for 12 months. The lack of flow in the river is an ongoing concern for us all.

"We can't shut off farming. Everything is planned ahead. Nobody's buying cattle, so the only option is the abattoirs, and then they're gone forever," he said.

This story Dairy farmers in crisis as drought worsens first appeared on Wauchope Gazette.