In one of Australia’s largest dairy regions, two friends were having a very tough time. With indomitable spirit, Sallie Jones and Steve Ronalds decided to fight for their livelihood and community their own way. Premium dairy brand Gippsland Jersey is the result. Kim Berry speaks with Sallie Jones.
Sallie Jones is a third-generation dairy farmer, growing up as a free-range kid on the family farm in Lakes Entrance. Steve Ronalds is the fifth generation in his family, and the third to be farming his Jindivick property, established by his great great-grandfather in 1895.
In 2015, the two largest milk processors in Australia at the time – Murray Goulburn Co-operative and Fonterra – slashed the farm gate price for milk to below the cost of production. Murray Goulburn also imposed retrospective price reductions demanding farmers reimburse it for what it called an overpayment for milk already delivered.
The impact was devastating, leaving many dairy farmers in crippling debt and little option but to walk away. Within a year, Australia’s milk production was at a record 21-year low.
While Ronalds grappled with a $170,000 debt, he had a motorbike accident that left him with multiple broken bones and a long, painful recovery. It was eight months before he could milk his herd again.