Sucking farmers dry

20:16, Nov 16 2012

My cows have ticks.

Ticks are a good example of freeloading at its worst. They sneak on to the unsuspecting cow and discreetly attach themselves somewhere unnoticeable, then they sink their horrible little suckers in and proceed to suck at her blood supply until they are blown up and sated, hanging like shiny black olives.

That's when I sometimes notice them and pick them off, drop them on the ground and stomp on them with my gumboot - but of course their tick-ish damage is already done because all that blood on the ground came out of my cow.

It is the height of grossness. I've heard that apart from the obvious benefits the blood supply gives the cow, blood also plays a major role in milk production, so this infestation of ticks is robbing me and the cows in more ways than one.

I had a hollow laugh when I received an invitation from Fonterra recently informing me that, as a "Friend of Fonterra" (someonewho has a valid farm/party number), I am allowed to buy some units in the Fonterra Shareholders Fund. The price is yet to be disclosed, but I'm not too worried about that because with the amount of money I owe I can definitely say I will not be participating in that offer. Not that I wouldn't love to.

Sadly, I have spent all my money on cows so I could participate in the fabulousness of the New Zealand industry and, although not a landowner and therefore not a Fonterra shareholder, I have always thought that if I worked hard enough and stayed positive and did it for the long haul, eventually I would be rewarded financially for investing in New Zealand's rare successful story.


I remember when Taf (Trading Among Farmers) was first floated as a possibility. There was a lot of negativity and fear within dairy farming circles that if we (dairy farmers) shared our pie, some clever, greedy bastards would turn up and pinch it off us. Personally I thought that if the CGBs put in their share and made the pie a whole lot bigger through adding value to our milk by prudent investment, then we would all be better off. Back then as a sharemilker I was receiving a share of the (then-called) value add in my payout.

But, as it has transpired since then, the value add is now a dividend and paid to sharemilkers only at the farm owners' discretion . . . and since then I have not seen one red cent of it. I now work for the milk price only.

I'm leasing a farm and I will tell you now, for free . . . paying 100 per cent of farm costs on milk price only and an advance rate of $3.85 is a financial nightmare I would not wish on anybody.

So I am not buying any units in the FSF because I am more concerned about my daughter having lunch to take to school before the 20th when my paltry milk-price-only Fonterra cheque arrives and disappears into the burgeoning bill pile. But someone who has discretionary income from avenues other than dairy farming can now jump in on the proceeds of Fonterra value-add investments which come into their own when commodity prices and hence the milk price are low.

Suddenly a low milk price will be in many people's best interest and the life blood of the dairy industry - people owning and milking cows - will be sucked dry.