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Miriam Vale farmer talks about surviving in dairying

IMPRESSIVE OPERATION: Wayne Bayliss on his property.
IMPRESSIVE OPERATION: Wayne Bayliss on his property. Dr Peter Budd

IN HALF an hour, Wayne Bayliss produces almost the same amount of milk that the average Australian drinks in a year.

The dairy farmer runs a business with 250 cows on his Miriam Vale property, about 67km south of Gladstone, where his dad milked his first cow in 1963.

The family dairy farm produces about 1.6 million litres of milk a year, or 5000 litres a day, which they sell to dairy brand Pauls in Rockhampton about 170km away.

This year marks 20 years since Pauls entered a partnership with local dairy farmers, with 35 Central Queensland producers now supplying milk to the dairy brand through their Rockhampton factory.

This allows them to supply locally produced milk to the region, and also means their pay is more predictable.

While Wayne said conditions had improved since the Pauls partnership, he admitted they were struggling at the moment.

He said two years ago they were getting about 62 cents a litre, whereas they now got about 56 cents.

"The dollar-a-litre milk just about crippled the industry," he said.

"We're struggling at the moment. We're not getting enough for our milk."

After stints as a council worker and turf farmer, Wayne returned to the dairy he grew up on and has run it for the past 20 years.

While he said dairy farming was a pretty good life, it involved lots of early mornings and lots of late nights rearing calves, checking cows, milking twice a day as well as conducting all the normal cattle work.

Wayne said, in his experience, many people thought big-brand milk wasn't sourced from local farmers, but he was one of many local producers who sent all the milk they produced to be processed at the Pauls Rockhampton plant.

Cows at the farm are put on a 300-day rotation before they dry up and have a calf.

Just this week they sat down to talk about cutting down the number of cows on the farm, and are sending 20 cows to the meatworks next week.

They're also preparing for the El Nino that is predicted, and have been making sure they have enough feed and stock water in place.

Wayne first started working on the farm when he was a teenager, and now his three daughters - aged eight, 12 and 15 - help out after school.

MILK MATH

In 2012/13 the average Australian drank about 107 litres of milk.

Each year cows on the Bayliss farm average about 7000-8000 litres of milk.

The 35 CQ dairy farmers who produce milk for Pauls have sold them about 22 million litres in the past year.

Australian milk production fell by 280 million litres in 2012/13.