FONTERRA workers were in tears on Wednesday afternoon after management told them the dairy giant's Dennington factory would close in November.
While many left in tears, others expressed shock and some remained indignant and tight-lipped.
One worker, who did not want his name published, said the news had hit the workforce hard.
"A lot of people walked out in tears because it's been their whole life," he said.
"They've been here 30-plus years, and now they've got to go and tell their families that they've got no more job."
The worker said he had been through "a lot" at the company, working under former owner Nestle and during a transition period when Fonterra bought the site in the early 2000s.
"I'm not happy about it, 22 years of my life I've given to them. I've been through a lot here," he said. "I've seen four redundancy packages myself here, the only thing that kept me here was that I did shift work."
Some guys have been here since they've left school, 40 or 45 years of service.Fonterra worker
He said while the news had surprised some, many believed it had "been on the cards" for the past three years.
The worker said most of the 98-strong workforce were aged between 50 and 60 years old.
"It's all they know. When you're hitting near 60 you're not going to get a job anywhere else," he said.
"Some guys have been here since they've left school, 40 or 45 years of service."
He said management told workers that production would cease on Thursday and reduced production would likely resume at the weekend.
Australian Manufacturers Workers Union organiser Tony Hynds was at the factory negotiating an enterprise bargaining agreement when management called the site-wide meeting.
"They were saying the drought has had a big effect, ongoing supply of milk, and also the loss of the Nestle contract," Mr Hynds said.
He said many of the workers had taken the news "badly" while managers had assured him they were "going to do the right thing" by the employees.
"There is a lot of people with long service here, and sometimes it's generational, people have had many members of their families working here," Mr Hynds said.
He said the union, one of three representing workers at the site, would now enter further discussions with the Fonterra.
"We have an older workforce here of both maintenance and production people which is going to be hard for them in the region to find employment." Mr Hynds said.
"We hope they are going to do the right thing by their employees, not just provide a redundancy but also provide out placement, and after people exit the company, they also look after them with counseling."
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.