90-year milk run at an end

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Millers owner Paul Miller.
Camera IconMillers owner Paul Miller.

A prominent Cowaramup dairy family sensationally quit the industry this week after 90 years.

Citing worsening conditions for the South West since the collapse of the Challenge Dairy co-operative last decade, Paul and Trish Miller announced an end to fresh milk production on Wednesday.

Although the Millers’ popular ice-creameries in Cowaramup and Margaret River will continue selling their locally made, award-winning treats, moves to continue bottled milk supply are finished.

Mr Miller, pictured, said after the collapse of Challenge, he and his family “embarked on the crazy idea of value-adding our own product by making ice-cream and bottling our own milk”.

“During the last couple of years, we have come up with many scenarios, but unfortunately one has stood out to us more than most and we have made the difficult decision to cease dairy farming,” the Millers said. The farmers will use local milk suppliers for their products, ending a 90-year run for the family.

“This will allow us the time to explore other avenues and expand our ice-cream business without the constraints of milking cows twice daily, seven days a week,” the family said.

“Unfortunately, this does means that we will no longer be bottling our own farm-fresh milk.”

Cowaramup dairy farmer Bob Biddulph said the South West industry was at “a critical juncture.”

“Things are tight still in the industry,” he told the Times. “The prices are reasonable, but the costs are killing us. The drought over east has really put the cost of hay up and now there’s more demand for fodder as well.”

Although major retailers had added 10¢ per litre for their discount milk — which Mr Biddulph said was a help — the near future for the South West industry looked dire. “There’s got to be an improvement in price to maintain the numbers (of operators) as they are, but that could turn around,” he said.

WA’s biggest dairy farmer, Scott River veteran and former Liberal candidate Ross Woodhouse, listed his holdings for sale in 2018 due to razor-thin margins.

In September last year, Mr Woodhouse inked a three-year deal for his 3000-cow, 20 million litre-per-year business with asset management company AgCap to support the farm and create a more efficient proposition.

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