$500k job sending this guy broke
ON PAPER, Tony Wilson and his wife Jillian make a lot of money - more than $500,000 a year. As owners of Wilson's Robotic Dairy in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, their cows brought in a total of $63,640 for the month of August alone.
Sounds amazing, right. But the reality is quite scary.
The Wilsons spoke to news.com.au as part of our new money series, Cash Confessions, and revealed their spending costs for the month of August. They said bank payments, feed costs, electricity, insurance, maintenance and vet bills put them back in the red as soon as their pay landed.
"Our expenditure this month is $70,950," Jillian told news.com.au. "We have a loss of $7310 per month (plus our living expenses). So our total loss this month is around $11,927.
"You don't save … you just have a debt that floats up and down. It's just different for farmers."
Mr Wilson, a fifth generation farmer, has become well acquainted with the reality of not making any money for his 90-hour working week.
And while the income for each month often fluctuates, running his dairy this year has been one of the toughest yet.
"Our income numbers are big to the average person, but it's what is left over after the bills and the feed that matters," he told news.com.au from his farm in Kyogle.
"We go without lots of things to do what we're doing. But after 30 or 40 years you think, 'oh well'."
Mr Wilson, 60, has had the farm since the early 80s, and milks about 180 cows each day. But since the drought gripped the state, his monthly loss has only increased.
Each week, he and his wife work actively on their farm. Mr Wilson clocks at least 14 hours each day from feeding cows to growing grass, maintaining machinery and managing the herd.
Mrs Wilson spends about four or five hours working the land, feeding calves, cleaning the dairy, and managing their books. Their work is endless, thankless and seven days a week.
"This loss is a direct result of the drought as our feed costs for the dairy herd and heifers has increased by approx. $15,000 per month due to the increase in grain price and the need to purchase hay.
"We have also had a drop in income due to decreased milk production from the poorer quality feed available.
"We cover this with an overdraft, and this is likely to remain the same or get worse until we have good rain."
Mrs Wilson said their biggest spend was on feed, which - for the past month - exceeded $30,000.
"Insurance was $955, our electricity is $3290," Mrs Wilson said. "The feed is $34,000, fuel is $1496, repairs and maintenance $7354, mortgage and loans $14,995, labour is $2000.
"Vet bills are $500, while rates and miscellaneous expenses come to $5360."
Mr Hickey, who also runs a dairy farm in Kyogle, posted a selfie-style video to Facebook from his drought-savaged farm, explaining how he'd just received a cheque for the month of July.
"I'm a proud dairy farmer … I work very hard," he says to the camera.
"But I'd like to say that I worked this month [July] and we just got paid in August for a whole month.
"I worked for $2.46 an hour. Something has got to change. You can't keep this sh*t up.
"People can't expect farmers to continually work for nothing. That's basically slavery."
Mr and Mrs Wilson have five adult children and 12 grandchildren, three of which have followed in the family's footsteps.
"We have three kids in farming, and one who would like to be," Mr Wilson explained. "In it's in our blood.
"The three eldest ones have seen us through other droughts. They have heard our arguing and the stress it causes a family. We are around $500 a day worse off than this time last year, so it's stressful."
The Wilsons, who estimate the amount of money they make from each cow lingers around $3000 to $3300 annually, said the base rate for their milk had only increased 2.5 per cent since 2009.
"That's nearly 10 years and in that time all other expenses, like labour, fuel and grain have risen," Mrs Wilson said.
"We have had no increase to our base rate milk pay since 2015. We need our milk price to lift to a level that would cover our expenses each month, allow us to continue to invest in our farm, and have some time off … and so our family can continue working this family farm.
"If family farms are not commercially sound then this country will not be able to feed itself in the not too distant future."
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