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Drought affects King Island Dairy -

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ELEANOR HALL: King Island is known for its rich cheeses and other dairy delicacies.

But now milk has become a precious commodity and drought has forced the King Island Dairy to shut
down part of its factory.

The dairy is still making cheese but it has had to stop making cream, yoghurt and desserts.

Felicity Ogilvie has been out to one of the drought affected dairy farms.

FELICITY OGILVIE: It's 6.30 in the morning on King Island - milking time at Gary Strickland's dairy
farm.

GARY STRICKLAND: Up to the end of April we were about, I reckon about, specially from early
November, we are about half what we budgeted on in production.

See we don't farm for a drought so that we think we don't conserve an awful lot of fodder here so
you don't think it is going to happen and what we consider a drought over here, probably on the
mainland, they consider quite a reasonable season.

So it is like New Zealand at the moment. They were in drought because it hasn't rained since
Christmas time, well, we go through a similar sort of thing that if it doesn't rain over here, we
are not geared up for it not to rain so that it makes it very hard management wise.

FELICITY OGILVIE: King Island is a place where the grass usually grows up to your knees so when the
rain stopped it sent everyone into shock - including the cows.

Normally the 19 Dairy farmers on King Island supply the dairy with 27 million litres of milk a
year.

That milk supply has dropped after two years of lower than average rainfall. The island became so
dry that last September the Federal Government decided King Island had a case for drought relief.

The rain started to fall again last month but the cows are still adjusting and there's still not
enough milk to supply the dairy.

Trevor Stone is the dairy's Operations Manager

TREVOR STONE: We advise that our Dairy foods range would be taken, we would stop producing which
was a big, a big thing for us. That was our creams, our sour creams and our yoghurts and our
desserts.

Predominantly because they use a high level of butter fat so we could utilise that butter fat in
our cheese making and concentrate on those during that period.

FELICITY OGILVIE: And is that the first time that you have had to stop making a particular product
because of the drought?

TREVOR STONE: I don't think it would be the first time where we have had to stop making a product
however it was significant that we have stopped a whole department and there is always a peak and
trough within the milk supply of most areas and this season has been especially bad after Christmas
so milk to our forecast was much lower than we expected and the farmers have really had to do it
tough in the last few months.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Should people be worried then if you have had to shut down one area of the
factory that they won't be getting their King Island cheese?

TREVOR STONE: Not for this year. I think the milk is on the way up again so hopefully the season is
going to continue to improve but there is always that issue on King Island if it is affected by
drought in the future that potentially, that may occur again.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The temporary shut down hasn't affected the 90 people who work at the dairy -
they still have a job making cheese.

The King Island Dairy hopes there will be enough milk to re-open it's dairy foods section next
month to start making cream and desserts again.

ELEANOR HALL: Felicity Ogilvie reporting from King Island.