'You're virtually working for nothing' - support for farmers during tough dairy days

The organisation representing dairy farmers is starting a campaign to visit all dairy farmers during the next couple of months.

With record-low milk prices, Dairy NZ wants farmers to understand they are not alone. Source: 1 NEWS

The Dairy New Zealand Initiative is designed to support farmers through the record low returns for their milk, and share advice to keep their businesses afloat.

Eddie and Judy Rolfe have been on their Orini farm in north Waikato for 50 years, and have spent the past 26 years dairy farming.

"You're virtually working for nothing and a lot of people are going backwards fast," Mrs Rolfe said.

Phil Irvine of Dairy NZ said farmers in Waikato were losing $250,000 annually.

"[For] a farm owner in Canterbury, maybe $600,000 or $700,000 this year. You probably made a loss last year, perhaps a loss next year – you start getting painted into a corner."

Mr Rolfe said he can afford to stay on the farm due to some smart financial decisions in the past.

"When the good prices came there was a lot of expenditure that had to be done on the farm, for instance, we’ve spent over $100,000 on upgrading our effluent system when the prices were good," he said.

Mr and Mrs Rolfe were also able to pay of debt, which greatly helped their situation.

"Everybody's got to pare their costs right down as low as they possibly can," Mrs Rolfe said.

"Basically, you've got to go back to grassland farming – use what you can grow," Mr Rolfe added.