When the first round of milk price bad news came in April, Michael and Michelle Axford kept calm and carried on.
The Outtrim farmers, who milk 255 mainly Holsteins on 142 home hectares, were as disappointed as anyone else in the industry, but knew that rash decisions were not going to provide any relief.
“The first thing we did was not panic, because we have had price drops before,” Mr Axford said.
“I wasn’t going to race out and cut the grain off or something stupid like that.
“When the news came the first thing we did was sit down and write out a monthly income estimation and the budget we did was on $4.60, which wasn’t pretty — and that included Michelle’s income,” he said.
“But since then we have dropped $70 a tonne on our grain price going from pellets to grain mix as well as a few other things we have tweaked.”
When the news came through from Murray Goulburn in late April, Mr Axford may have been one of the few farmers with bigger issues to worry about.
His already low water reserves were cut off that day by a blocked pipe which took some effort to get flowing again. As he said, milk price doesn’t really matter if the cows can’t find a drink.
Once the short-term problems had been solved, the issue of how to deal with a lower than expected milk price was at the front of their minds.
Having bought and leased more land during the previous 12 months, the Axfords’ fodder supplies stretched out into April, which was longer than for many other farmers in the district.
From the day the fodder ran out, it was a matter of calculating budgets to get through until spring.
Already having a handle on price of production meant the Axfords were well placed to know exactly where they stood in a financial sense.
“We’re in Matt Harms’ discussion group, so every month you are working out what your feed costs to return ratio is,” Mr Axford said.
“We’ve been getting pellets through Ridleys and, through that, we’ve been able to have their nutritionist come through a couple of times a year.
“That means you are sitting down and double checking what you are feeding, how much it is costing and what your return is for that feed cost.”
Mr Axford said long-term data collection had also helped to keep them focused on what they did well and where they could improve.
“We’ve been doing the Dairy Farm Monitor Project for lots of years, so we get a good handle on a yearly basis on where we are spending too much and where we have saved money.”