Hunter farmers have their say on the 'adopt a cow' venture

QUIRKY CONCEPT: Dairy farmer Matt Neilson says an adopt a cow program could help smaller herds survive a drought.
QUIRKY CONCEPT: Dairy farmer Matt Neilson says an adopt a cow program could help smaller herds survive a drought.

Should Hunter dairy farmers start putting their herds up for adoption to help pay to feed them during drought? 

It worked for Picton dairy farmer John Fairley, who put the call out on Facebook to adopt his 130 cows on Monday and was overwhelmed as supporters opened their wallets to help. 

In return for parting with their cash supporters received a photo of their cow, named it, and could arrange a farm visit. 

But farmers are divided over whether it would succeed in the Hunter. 

NSW Farmers Association Dairy Committee chair Rob McIntosh - who is also a representative for NSW on the Australian Dairy Farmers’ National Council – said Mr Fairley’s private-brand milk Country Valley had helped his cause because he already had an audience to share it with. 

He noted some farmers would not feel okay about asking for help, while others would read Mr Fairley’s story and think they had missed out on an opportunity. 

“I applaud him for doing it, and for the public’s support, it’s a fairly drastic move though,” Mr McIntosh said.

“We’re surprised he has had so much success with it. It shows that people are keen to support the industry, but I don’t think too many people could pull it off.

“If every dairy farmer did it I think we’d soon lose the support of the public – there are lots of mouths to feed. I don’t see it as a strategy farmers could adopt all the time.”

Bandon Grove dairy farmer Matt Neilson (pictured) said adopting cows was a quirky idea, but farmers with a few hundred cows would need a lot of sponsors. 

“It’s like a version of crowd funding, I suppose there is a limited number of people who would be willing to sponsor a cow, and once you get to a few farms that are milking 400 to 500 cows it adds up to a lot of money,” he said. 

If you get to that stage when it’s that dry – and you need to feed them – then you would try everything.

Mr McIntosh said dairy farmers needed a higher milk price to be able to survive droughts and floods.

“If you can get ahead you can reinvest money back into the farm and be better prepared when you don’t get a good season,” he said.

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