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M'boro milk business turning sour as drought bites

Dion Burton is concerned the cattle will suffer if they are forced to stop irrigating.
Dion Burton is concerned the cattle will suffer if they are forced to stop irrigating. Robyne Cuerel

THE future of Burtons Fraser Coast Milk is uncertain, as the Maryborough dairy prepares for the possibility of having its irrigation water turned off this week.

The water comes from the Maryborough Barrage which fills Teddington Weir and as dam levels shrink in the drought, the conservation of water becomes paramount.

Jenny Burton runs the business with her son Dion and they're facing troubled times.

"It's getting very drastic I can tell you that," she said.

"We probably have enough feed to last a week and that would be all."

The family is taking it one day at a time and doesn't want to stop farming.

"I hope not - we want to keep going," Ms Burton said.

"We just don't know.

"It all depends on if we get rain or not."

The Burtons are looking for help from the Fraser Coast to keep going.

"Buy our milk when we've got it available," Ms Burton said.

"I've also made Warren Truss and Anne Maddern aware of what's going on."

A SunWater spokesman said the Burtons were medium-priority customers.

"Without significant rainfall, access to water from the Mary Barrage for medium-priority allocation customers will cease when Mary Barrage reaches EL (level) 1m," he said.

Based on current water use, SunWater predicts that level will be reached early this week.

"This interruption to medium priority supplies will continue until Mary Barrage receives a significant inflow from rainfall in the catchment area," the spokesman said.

The Burtons have a few hundred head of cattle and supply milk across the Fraser Coast.

They use the water from the Maryborough Barrage in their new irrigation system.

"We've spent more than $30,000 on an irrigation plan over 18 months," Ms Burton said.

"We rely on the irrigation water."

Although disappointed Ms Burton understood the reason for turning off the water was to preserve it for Maryborough residents.

Thanks to the expensive irrigation system, the land in which Dion Burton's cattle roam is looking healthy.

But where he hasn't irrigated?

"Where he hasn't been doing the irrigation, it's just so bare and dry," Ms Burton said.

Their irrigation bill for the past three months was $13,000.

Ms Burton said she wanted to keep the business going and pass it on to the grandchildren.

Dion Burton watches the cows feed.
Dion Burton watches the cows feed. Robyne Cuerel

Topics:  burtons fraser coast milk drought irrigation maryborough water



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