The UDV is critical of response times during power blackouts prior to Christmas.
Powerful storms buffeted Victoria on December 19, leaving a trail of darkness behind them.
Dairy farmers in northern Victoria were left without power for more than 24 hours, with cows suffering from two missed milkings in a row, while power was restored to towns around them. One dairy farmer in northern Victoria missed a milking for the first time in 35 years due to the blackout.
The increasing prevalence of blackouts, compounded by the growing delays restoring power afterward, is creating apprehension about the future.
UDV president Adam Jenkins was critical of the crisis line’s response to farmers’ inquiries.
‘‘To tell a dairy farmer that they won’t be getting power back until the nearby towns have their airconditioning on is just not good enough,’’ Mr Jenkins said.
‘‘Power is an essential service. If the government can’t guarantee reliable supply, and farmers have to put in diesel generators, then there should be a subsidy to offset that cost.’’
The unreliability of energy supply has been an increasing theme during the past few years. Farmers are questioning whether there is underinvestment in essential services, and what steps are being taken to remedy the situation.
Mr Jenkins also highlighted the significant cost that was often overlooked in media coverage of farm blackouts.
‘‘It’s an issue of animal welfare; in this heat, lactating cows can drink up to 200 litres a day. Without power, we can’t pump any water — which is a real animal welfare concern. Combined with the distress, discomfort and physical toll from missing or delaying a milking, it can take some time for cows to fully recover.
‘‘It also has a biosecurity risk component; the physical toll on the cow brings up the cell count in the milk. We have robust systems in place to ensure the quality of milk going to market, but it’s an indicator of problems that could grow if the energy reliability question is left untended.’’