TWEED dairy farmer Pat McDonald with some of his cows which the NSW government says will have to learn to milk themselves.
TWEED dairy farmer Pat McDonald with some of his cows which the NSW government says will have to learn to milk themselves.

It?s udderly amazing

By PETER CATON

TWEED'S dairy cows may be few in number but they face a high-tech future, in which they must learn when to milk themselves, according to a state government "vision" for the industry.

NSW Primary Industries Minister Ian MacDonald yesterday described the futuristic milking process to a handful of Tweed's remaining 15 dairy farmers in a milking shed outside Murwillumbah.

Mr MacDonald said the NSW government, in partnership with just over 1000 dairy farmers statewide, was investing $11.2 million in researching the high-tech milking process.

He said the system would allow each cow to enter a custom-made milking system where "suction caps automatically attach while fodder automatically dispenses".

Cows would "voluntarily walk in to be milked" at a time of their choosing which he said was more natural and would take the traditional pressures of milking times off farmers.

Mr MacDonald was launching a strategy the government has drawn up in conjunction with the Queensland government and dairy farmers for the future of the industry.

Farmers and others however were sceptical about what the government could do for them.

Pat McDonald, who hosted the launch on his farm opposite the Murwillum-bah race course where he milks 125 head of cattle, said he would wait to see the detail.

He said one of the major concerns of remaining local dairy farmers was a push to have them sign contracts to deliver a certain amount of milk, with financial penalties if they under-or-over-produced.

Robin Dawes of Piggabeen said he had already reduced production because he was surrounded by acreage residential blocks and unable to get bigger.

"If I was going to stay in it, I'd have to go somewhere I can get bigger," he said.

"I'll probably end up with beef."

Tweed Labor MP Neville Newell lauded the government help for the dairy industry. Lismore National Party MP Thomas George said any government support for the industry was welcome but he wanted to see "real detail".

Earlier in the day local farmers met with the minister and other politicians to voice their alarm at proposals for higher Tweed Shire Council rates and a ban on subdividing rural land.



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