Dairy farmer Stew Wadey said he nearly cried when he drained 4000 litres of milk into his effluent ponds yesterday morning.

The Matamata farmer's milk was not picked up by Fonterra on Tuesday night and he had to empty a large vat to make way for the milk to be collected today.

Fonterra shut 15 processing plants in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Northland on Tuesday because of a fault in supply from the Maui gas pipe in Taranaki and is not collecting milk until the facilities are operating again. Dairy Co-operative Tatua in Morrinsville has also been affected.

Mr Wadey estimated he was one of about 4000 farmers in the Waikato who had to dispose of their milk.


"I would hate to think how many tonnes of milk was disposed of in the last 24 hours in my area alone."

He ran a modest dairy farm and said the larger farms would be much harder hit.

He got rid of 4000 litres in ponds on his property and could dump one more batch before having to dig holes and bury the milk away from waterways.

"The one thing that hits you in the guts is the amount of work it takes to put the milk in the vats and then tipping it out. It's not a very nice feeling to see all that milk go down the drain.

"We can't store it and the cows need to be milked or it's an animal welfare issue. If the milk doesn't get picked up the responsibility is on us the farmer to best dispose of the milk."

Most farmers did not have effluent ponds they could pour their milk into and would be using the land-based effluent disposal system. Fonterra is recommending the milk is diluted and then sprayed on pasture.

Fonterra will still be paying farmers for the wasted milk and the only impact on Mr Wadey's business would be the impact on Fonterra's next payout. The leak is costing Fonterra about $20 million a day.

Open Country Dairy chief executive Steven Smith said the company was taking as much milk as it could from Fonterra and Tatua to its sites in Waharoa and Wanganui as the co-operative had been unaffected.

Waikato Regional Council said limited gas supplies had been restored to Fonterra dairy factories yesterday and there would be less risk of surplus milk polluting waterways. Fonterra hoped a significant percentage of farmers would have their milk collected in the Waikato last night.