South West Fires Interrupt Milk Production

Signs warning shoppers across Perth about a milk supply shortage have been common in the past few days. Picture: supplied.
Signs warning shoppers across Perth about a milk supply shortage have been common in the past few days. Picture: supplied.

THOUSANDS of litres of milk were dumped this week as farmers struggled to with deal with the tragic south west fires that have claimed the lives of two men.

Along with the destruction of the Yarloop township and burning of more than 71,357ha of land, primary milk producer Harvey Fresh was forced to close its processing plant in Harvey.

Road closures, danger to workers and loss of electricity resulted in the plant’s shutdown from January 7 until this Monday, with recovery mode still in effect.

Producing more than 150 million litres of milk and supplying roughly 20 per cent of the State’s milk, the factory’s closure has sent ripples throughout WA.

The WA Farmers Federation said the road closures also resulted in both tankers and farmers being forced to dump thousands of litres of milk after the tankers were unable to reach many farms until Monday.

With cows still requiring milking, farmers quickly ran out of storage space, causing many to dump the milk.

“Relationships between dairy farmers and authorities have been strained over the last week as farmers try to do what’s best for their dairy cows while, at the same time, dealing with a backlog of milk,” WA Farmers Federation Dairy Council president Phil Depiazzi said.

“The dumping of uncollected milk was a necessary action for many farmers.”

Processing at the Harvey Fresh plant recommenced on Monday morning, with milk tankers gaining full access to many farms again – however it is likely to be a few days before supplies recover.