Electricity failures pose big threat on dairy farms

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

Power outages from severe winds and lightning strikes this summer storm season have caused considerable stress among the state’s affected dairy farmers. Dairy businesses rely on electricity supply for the acute and vital jobs of milking their cows and often keeping thousands of litres in vats on farm cool.

Many acute dairy farm activities rely on electricity such as milking and milk cooling. These procedures are essential and there is a constant necessity that cows be milked every twelve hours with that milk being cooled immediately. Milk processors quite rightly have very high standards for milk quality which includes milk temperature at farm pickup. So when the power goes out on-farm, these standards become quickly compromised and emergency milk pickups are rare for many given the sparsity and spread out nature of Queensland’s dairies.

Several times already this year dairy farms have had to wait long periods of time, sometimes more than 24 hours, to regain their electricity supply after a thunderstorm. This has directly resulted in financial losses of stored milk as well as animal health issues by associated diseases cows can develop when they are unable to be milked.

QDO knows that in the case of major natural disasters, such as Cyclone Larry and the 2011 floods, power supply can be interrupted for days. During these events QDO has worked alongside governments and Emergency Services to get alternative power sources such as generators for affected farmers. Unfortunately, some proactive farmers who had already installed generators on their farms also suffered the consequences with their equipment failing to start when the power outage occurred.

Installing a reliable on-farm generator should be seriously considered by all Queensland dairy farmers. Milk processor Norco has been operating a generous interest free scheme for their suppliers to purchase and install a generator with payments made out of their milk cheques. But most importantly we need Ergon Energy and Energex to give their every effort and resource into prioritising the reconnection of dairy power supply, as well as keeping affected farmers updated on the restoration progress.