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APRIL 2019 ISSUE 102


Reviving the farm Post-fire recovery in the west see page 6

Got a message you want dairy farmers in western Victoria to know about?

Advertising manager: James MacGibbon 0409 103 745 james.macgibbon



Chair’s message

Have your say on National Dairy Plan I’M IN for breakfast from the calf shed and my many months of rearing our 180-odd calves is upon me again. Don’t be surprised if you call me and you hear my babies in the background! By the time this hits print, hopefully the break will have arrived and pasture renovation is mostly done. I hope most of you have had a chance to read our Autumn Tech notes that are out now. They really are jam-packed full of useful tips and strategies to help you with your decision

making and offer ideas and advice. If you don’t have a copy, please call the office and we’ll get one to you. Our extension staff are more than happy to come and see you if you need a hand or some guidance in your business. By now, you will have seen and heard about the National Dairy Plan. The industry has held some farmer sessions in this region to ensure you can make your voice heard. If you couldn’t get there in person there is the

website where you can have your say. I strongly encourage you to have input. I know it seems like just another plan—but this is a whole-of-industry plan for the next five years and we all need to be a part of the solution and regain the strength and prosperity we’ve seen in the past. Years earlier at a dairy summit I attended, it was said that decisions for our future get made by those who get involved and turn up. Please don’t be shy to offer constructive sug-

gestions on this plan. As I say—it is your levy, let’s ensure we’re part of the future planning process. Feel free to catch up with me, give me a call and I hope Easter Bunny swings by your place. · Simone Renyard West Vic Dairy chair


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Work experience opens eyes to industry career paths WESTVIC DAIRY is always keen to see young people join the dairy industry — then excel in their chosen career. As well as encouraging and helping to educate through the Young Dairy Network, West Vic is offering work experience positions to tertiary students. Students may work with the staff for a period of time, or they may facilitate experience with one of their industry partners. West Vic hopes to provide the students with hands-on experience and give them an insight into the various career paths that are available in the industry. In 2020 West Vic hopes to see more interest from students majoring in Agribusiness in the Commerce degree at Deakin University, Warrnambool. Last summer is the second year that West Vic has offered this opportunity. Tom Herbert has been working with West Vic for the past eight weeks. Here Tom writes in his own words about his studies and his time at WestVic Dairy.

MY NAME is Thomas Herbert and my particu-

lar interest is working within the dairy industry. I am currently undertaking the Bachelor of Agriculture degree at the University of Melbourne, majoring in Economics. My agricultural studies have set up a range of potential work fields within the livestock and cropping sectors. In my first year I took the opportunity to study and live on the Dookie Campus near Shepparton. Dookie is a working property of approximately 5000 acres (2024ha) and provides livein student accommodation. I made many friends amongst the students

there and I am still close friends with them all. Dookie also gave me practical experience of different farming types which complemented the theoretical knowledge that the Parkville campus supplies. As a result of my experiences I would recommend agricultural studies to everyone. It plays such a significant role in all our lives, whether through continuing to develop sustainable ways to provide food and fibre, contributing to Australia’s economic growth or actually working on, or managing a farm. After my first year I spent six weeks working on a sheep and cattle station at Tambo which is two hours from Longreach, regional Queensland. It was a great experience, much different to any kind of farming that I had experienced before. During my time there the temperature was over 40 degrees every day. Most of the work involved mustering cattle or sheep on motorbikes in order to carry out routine husbandry tasks. Upon completing my second year I applied for work experience at WestVic Dairy because I was interested in building new experiences, skills and knowledge in the dairy sector. This placement has been very successful. All

of the staff are extremely friendly and I have assisted at a variety of events ranging from meetings in Warrnambool about current season’s trends and planning for the future, to service provider breakfasts, farm field days and travelling to Southbank to meet with the team at Dairy Australia’s head office. I have particularly enjoyed getting out on farm at the various field days I have been involved with, and talking to the region’s farmers. During my time at WestVic Dairy I was handed ownership of my own project which really pushed me and saw me interacting with different stakeholders such as local councils, real estate agents and the Young Dairy Network. This gave me a great insight into all of the different companies and organisations that work together to help promote the dairy industry. All these experiences have been very enjoyable and beneficial to my learning. I greatly appreciate the opportunity WestVic Dairy has given me and I feel better equipped to join the workforce in the agricultural sector in the near future. - Thomas Herbert, Univeristy of Melbourne work experience student


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Daniel and Michaela Meade have long-term plans to upgrade their rotary dairy.

Sowing the seeds for dairy success RICK BAYNE

GROWING UP on a dairy farm and later spend-

ing 10 years as a pasture agronomist sowed the seeds for Daniel Meade to become a farmer, and a Nuffield Scholarship helped those seeds to germinate. Daniel and his wife Michaela and their three

young children Seamus, Ailish and Cassidy are about to celebrate their first anniversary of leasing her father’s farm north of Noorat. The 32-year-old admits he’s found farming inspiration from all walks of life; his parents, Gerard and Dianne, father-in-law Bryce McSween, study at Glenormiston College, his many agronomy clients and his fellow Nuffield scholars.

“We always hoped to end up running a dairy farm; that was the goal,” Daniel said. In 2013 Daniel and Michaela bought 50ha at Garvoc to run young stock and do contract heifer rearing and grazing. On April 1 last year they started a five-year lease on the Kolora farm and Daniel is keen to put his stamp on what was already a good operation. They now use the Garvoc property for their

young stock. Bryce’s 150 Jerseys came with the farm lease and Daniel has added about 150 mixed cows over the past year. “I like a bit of a diverse herd,” he said. “Crossbreds are good for hybrid vigour and breeding, and they’re suited to a grass-based system, Friesians have benefits in surplus offspring for export and cost advantages if culling.”


WEST VIC REGION // 5 Ideally the herd will grow to 350 as Daniel seeks the most appropriate stocking rate for the land, potentially increasing the level from 1.2 to 1.35 milking cows per hectare. “Having a pasture agronomist background, I try to target home-grown feed as much as possible,” he said. “I learnt a lot from clients about general farming practices and grazing management, pasture allocation, appropriate nitrogen and fertiliser use, over-sowing short-term rye-grass for feed gaps and trying to improve the pasture base with modern perennial species. “It was a two-way street. I went to a lot of farms and picked up things along the way.” About a third of the farm is barrier country, the rest flat and arable. Daniel has embarked on a rotational summer crop program that will cover all the flat land over five years, but the stone-crushed areas also serve a purpose. “It’s handy to have that 250 acres over winter because the warmth stays in the stones and the regrowth is quick. We’ll be grazing the stones a month before we graze the flats. “It’s a good mix to work with.” With pastures, Daniel aims to “keep it simple” with a selection of diploid perennials with early to mid-heading date to suit the climate. “We try to keep a simple system with everything, one calving, one joining. It’s about maximising home-grown feed and trying to limit brought-in feed, by having the appropriate stocking rates per hectare to match dry matter yields.” Daniel and Michaela also aim to be ruthless with empty cows and continually improve herd fertility as a key principle to their farming practices. This year the cows have each received just under one tonne of grain with no brought-in hay or silage. They aim to further reduce grain by increasing pasture utilisation. “We had a good November and December and got about 1300 rolls of silage and we’re cautiously confident that should be enough, depending on the break,” Daniel said. The farm is on the northern edge of the dairy district but by setting the right stocking rates, it’s good for dairying. “It’s our first year and we don’t have the full figures but we’re happy with production,” Daniel said. “With the home—grown feed system, you’re not going to get the same production per cow as someone who has a higher percentage of imported feed, but that was our choice from the start, the model aims to have profitable production.” Daniel is optimistic about the industry, and is

particularly buoyed by Bega’s $34million investment at Koroit. He joined Bega last July. “There is a reduction in milk supply around the country and I feel we are a very fortunate dairying area here in south-west Victoria,” he said. “We don’t have to rely on buying water and our seasons are relatively reliable, I’m confident we can produce an increasing percentile of Australia’s milk here.” The farm has a 40-unit rotary dairy with automatic cup removers, with plans for auto-ID and auto-draft to improve animal husbandry and ease of one-person operation. Bryce had re-subdivided the paddocks, making them smaller and adding tracks and troughs. As part of his Nuffield Scholarship, Daniel studied farmer engagement with agricultural representation. A former WestVic Dairy Board member and current Moyne Shire councillor, Daniel wanted to see how organisations could better engage with farmers and how policies and research could better reflect the wider agriculture base. “Farmers want to be satisfied their levy money and rep group dues are being well spent,” he said. The support of family and herd manager Charlie Fortescue helps Daniel to find time for his council work and the scholarship. “You can do both roles if you have support, and it’s good to bring an agricultural perspective to local government. Agriculture is the major local industry and dairy is the main contributor to that.” Daniel encourages farmers who maybe interested to apply for a Nuffield Scholarship which took him on worldwide study tours and conferences. “It was great to meet like-minded agricultural people from all around the world,” he said. “Being around people who are keen to challenge themselves means they then challenge you back. I was very fortunate to have such an opportunity and I learnt a great deal from it in many ways. I’m very grateful to the William Buckland Foundation, Nuffield Australia and Michaela for the experience.” Some of Daniel and Michaela’s farming model was inspired by their time in New Zealand and Ireland. “There are also a lot of ‘Kiwi grazers’ in the UK adopting the New Zealand system, and in Ireland I found the TEAGASC research organisation profitable farming model with a pasture focus to be very good.”

Daniel has expanded and diversified the herd over the past year.

The farm’s dairy complex is in an idyllic setting.


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Proactive comeback RICK BAYNE

Bonnie and Wayne Johnstone: “We love travel and camping and there’s more of that to come.”

WHEN WAYNE and Bonnie Johnstone surveyed their burnt paddocks after last year’s St Patrick’s Day fires, it didn’t take long for revival mode to kick in. On the Sunday morning after the blaze which destroyed 75 per cent of their land near Terang, they weren’t sure what to do, but pretty soon a clear direction emerged. “On Monday a crew came in and said, ‘where do we start cleaning up’,” Wayne said. “They were just people going past. It was happening everywhere and it was so uplifting. From that day on, I realised I had to be organised so I started buying posts and buying wire and working out a plan.” “Every time you’d get a bit down, someone would be knocking on the door saying what can we do?’” Bonnie said. Wayne warned Bonnie that the feed bills might be horrifying but he was determined to be proactive and get the farm back to full capac-

ity as soon as possible. Bonnie agreed: “In the long run you’ve got to make milk to make money.” On Tuesday, Wayne organised a nutritionist, bought 400tonnes of hay and sent 150 cows to South Australia on agistment. “There were two ways we could go and I picked maintaining production. That was possible because we had good support from staff and friends and volunteers,” he said. “We couldn’t be more appreciative of footy clubs, cricket clubs, Lions clubs, racing clubs and everyone. It set us up to be well on the road to recovery.” As soon as the fire became a threat, the cows were yarded in a safe zone. “I had a bit of luck,” Wayne said. “I had forgotten about 100 cows, we went down the next day expecting to find them dead and they were just standing there. “We were strip grazing the dry cows, which is good summer management, and the paddocks were so bare the cows could stand on a dry area and the fire went around them.”


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WEST VIC REGION // 7 The farm was lucky compared to some, losing land and fences but all major infrastructure, three houses, 300 bales of hay and all cows were saved. About 323ha of the 485ha property was wiped out. “Everything died in the paddocks, not even the capeweed lived,” Wayne said. Because the capeweed died, it was easier to regenerate pastures. “I don’t know how many tonnes of grass seed we planted; we did the whole lot,” Wayne said. “It meant we couldn’t graze those paddocks until they got established. We only milked from one paddock for May, June, July and had to spend a lot on bought-in feed but I didn’t want to let them slide and never catch up.” By the middle of August, milk costs and production matched the previous year. “That’s when we had grass, grain levels were back to normal and cows were back to normal production,” Wayne said. Twelve months after the fires the Johnstones have a positive outlook as they continue dealing with their insurance company for compensation and plan a 2020 European tour that had to be postponed because of the damage. “We had 70mm of rain a fortnight ago that sparked it up and we’re fairly confident moving into the next season,” Wayne said. At 59, Wayne is planning to reduce his load, though the fire set back those plans. Their son Daniel plans to return to the farm next year. Wayne bought the farm 34 years ago, when he was just 25, and has tripled its size over the years. “We had a goal to run a farm that made a profit and enabled us to live the lifestyle we wanted to achieve,” Wayne said. “It’s still a full-on job and I love it but we love travel and camping and there’s more of that

to come.” They have four full-time staff and 700 mostly Friesian cows; which Wayne describes as “the easiest cow to look after”. Milk production is stable, bringing in about five million litres a year. “Now that we’ve reached where we want to be with per-cow production, we want to focus on cost of production more than volume,” Wayne said. They plan to grow more home-grown grass and cut back on inputs. Grain has been a huge input since the fires. They are well advanced in this shift and the cost of buying hay has dropped substantially. “If it’s affordable and accessible we buy it, but it has to be a win-win,” Wayne said. There is a strong focus on fertilising pastures and tighter rotations. “We’re getting better at cow management around the farm and working more diligently on rotations,” Wayne said. “We’ve been able to subdivide enough that farm pasture management is a lot easier. We now have 90 paddocks of about 12 acres and we can better manage them.” The farm grows more permanent rye-grass than annuals. Another focus is tightening the seasonal calving which starts late April and normally covers 10 to 12 weeks. Wayne and Bonnie have bought new out-paddocks in the past 12 months and are open to further expansion. “Never say never when you have a 23-yearold son very keen to come home on the farm,” Wayne said. “I love the farm and farming so hope to set it up so I can continue to take an interest, but the farm is ready for the next person to drive it.”

The mainly Friesian herd produces 5 million litres a year; now the focus is on reducing costs.

A map showing how much of the farm was burnt last year.

The Johnstones have endured another dry summer but have plenty of feed on-hand.



Reminders for April 2018 Establishing a wedge of pasture after the autumn break ■

Plan your grazing rotation without including areas of renovated or oversown pasture as these areas may take some time to become available if rainfall comes late in autumn. Have a plan for wet soil conditions should they occur; stand-off paddocks and suitable feed sources may be required this winter. Use nitrogen fertiliser to boost pasture growth if required. Remember some nitrogen will become available after the autumn break through soil mineralisation and so an application of nitrogen may not be profitable until three to four weeks after the break. For more information, see bit. ly/2Y5YZcP or find the Autumn Tech Notes booklet at

about whether to use blanket dry cow therapy or selective dry cow therapy. Ensure experienced staff are involved in the procedures.

Young stock Investing in feeding young stock properly provides a return to your business in more than one way. : ■

Establishing and managing new pastures Feed Planning ■

Have a plan to feed all the stock on your farm. If your hay and silage has been feed tested, you will be able to more accurately formulate diets for young stock and the milking herd to meet their feed and nutrient requirements, leading to more efficient use of supplements and more profitable milk production.

This is very important for young stock that are often underfed during autumn and winter, particularly in the current challenging seasonal conditions. Due to dry conditions, think about doing an updated stocktake/feed budget of current feed stocks and plan for purchase where there are shortfalls.

Check new pastures for pests such as red legged earth mite and lucerne flea; if found they will need to be controlled as soon as possible to reduce damage to the seedlings. Do the ‘pluck test’ to check newly sown pastures are ready for a first grazing. The plants need to be well anchored in the ground so they will not pull out. Sometimes just waiting until a wet soil has dried out is enough for the plants to stay in the ground during grazing. When grazing newly sown pasture for the first time, if possible use a large mob of animals that are light weight (young stock) for short periods of time to lightly graze new pastures to a 4–6cm residual. Do NOT overgraze these pastures! Follow the first grazing with broadleaf weed spray if it’s required to. Consider the use of nitrogen to strengthen the plants and grow more dry matter after the first grazing, if seasonal conditions are favourable.

Water issues ■

The Victorian Government has now established the On-Farm Drought Infrastructure Support Grants. Grants of up to $5 000 are available to eligible farm businesses. Eligible farm businesses are required to provide at least dollar for dollar matching funding cocontribution. The program is available to eligible farm businesses in the following local government areas: Northern Grampians, Horsham, Buloke, and Yarriambiack, The grants will assist farm businesses implement on-farm infrastructure that improves drought management and preparedness. Eligible infrastructure improvements will improve drought preparedness and better position the farm business into the future, including:

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Once complete take the time to check your planned cash flow against your GST for the third quarter. Plan your tax with your accountant or make the appointment to do so. Prepare to plan next financial year’s budgets, take into account the current milk price and input costs and consider the things you want to do on the farm in the next 12 months.


We’re backing AUSTRALIAN AGRIBUSINESS Northern Victoria Gippsland South West Victoria

When drying off cows’ hygiene is key. Ideally dry cows when producing between 5–12litres/day. Do not dry more than 20 cows per hour, and do not dry too many cows off in one day. Speak to your vet

Make a note in your diary of irrigation trouble spots that need maintenance. Farm channel maintenance, irrigation stop maintenance and pump maintenance need to be planned and ready for the next irrigation season. Assess your current water supply needs and capacities; if upgrades or maintenance of them is required, make plans for development and plans to manage the system as it is for the period before development.


Drying off

Get back in calf more easily as first calvers in the herd. Produce more milk than undergrown heifers. Contribute to a more predictable calving pattern as they are calved down at 24 months old rather than 30 months old. Prepare your calf rearing facilities, consider disease and ease of operating as priorities. For more information, see

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Items to construct a new or upgrade an existing stock containment area Reticulated water systems using pumps, tanks and troughs for livestock Irrigation system upgrades Grain and fodder storage Farm monitoring technology Feeding system upgrades



Dairy woman is finalist A WESTERN District farmer is among the top

contendors in a competition testing the results of topping up trace minerals in cattle and sheep. Animal health company Virbac Australia says over the past 12 months, seven livestock producers have been competing in the 12-month program, designed to test the benefits of Multimin, an injection used to top up trace minerals in sheep and cattle prior to high demand periods. The program has seen improvements in everything from pregnancy-test rates to conception rates and immune function. Dairy farmer Renee Murfett has been named as one of Virbac’s top three challengers along

with Ryan Willing (WA) and Don McConnel (QLD) and they are now in the running to win an overseas study tour tailored to their farming system, and free Multimin for a year, a total prize value of more than $20000. Renee runs two dairy farms in Framlingham, Victoria with her husband Alister, comprising a 145 hectare home farm, Springlea, which has 220 Frisian x Red Dairy milking cows, and a second 183 hectare farm, Merton Park, with 250 Frisian x Red Dairy cows. Renee’s goal has been to increase the immunity, health and productivity of their livestock, and she describes how she saw significant dif-

Renee Murfett with mentor Dr Susan Swaney.

ferences as early as the first 12 weeks. “The treated calves didn’t seem to suffer from the usual gastric signs that the untreated herd had at the time of weaning. Multimin helped with the adjustment to weaner rations, and they went straight on to the new diet without any issues.” Ryan Willing and his wife Elisha run Carnigup, a 1,050-ha property that’s home to a 300

breeder self-replacing herd east of Esperance, WA. Facing issues with copper and selenium that were impacting the fertility, weight gain and overall health of their herd, their goal has been to increase fertility, conception rates and productivity.

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Lilli and Josh Philp and son Archie enjoy the lifestyle of farming but running a successful business is their first priority.

Consulting for success RICK BAYNE

JOSH AND Lilli Philp like to know where they’re heading with their farm near Garvoc. They rely heavily on their experience with the farm and the industry but they also call in the experts to make sure they’re moving in the right direction. Josh’s parents Barry and Vicki were staunch advocates of using consultants and Josh and Lilli are happy to continue that policy. “Some people might say we have an overkill of consultants but I don’t think we do,” Josh said. “We source what we believe are some of the best at what they do to help us out with nutrition,

pastures, soil testing, agronomy and whole-farm planning,” he said. “It keeps us ahead of what’s happening,” Lilli said. As an example of this successful approach, just before grain prices soared last year, the Philps assessed their feed needs and purchased 200tonnes of hay. Josh and Lilli, with son Archie, 3, and another baby on the way, are two years into a lease with Barry and Vicki. The young couple has bought the cows and plant and machinery from Josh’s parents, who are no longer involved in the day-to-day running of the farm. Josh, 34, came home to manage the farm

The cross-bred herd mixes Jersey, Red and Holstein genetics.

about eight years ago after working as a merchandise manager and on a beef feedlot in Western Australia. “I could see the lifestyle benefits and the career opportunities and how successful Mum and Dad have been. I saw it as a good career path for me and my family,” he said. The UDC suppliers have a clear vision of being successful dairy farmers and aren’t afraid of making investments. They farm on 440ha, split by a railway line and Princes Hwy but connected with underground access. They bought land north of the highway about six years ago, added a smaller block south of the highway about three years ago and this year introduced a new 85ha out-paddock

at Naringal, about 10km away. “When I came home the farm was fairly higgledy-piggledy,” Josh said. “The second year I was home we ripped out all the internal fences and re-fenced the whole place, using GPS mapping.” At the time they were milking about 600 cows. The new paddock layout was designed to make it easier to manage the farm on a 40–45day winter and spring rotation. This year they will calve down about 720, a similar number to the past few years, but with the new out-paddock that could grow. “Everything gets carried on this farm at the moment, including the young stock and milkers,” Josh said. “The idea with the out-paddock is we’ll take all the young stock off this place in

Wide, well-maintained tracks and new fencing help to protect herd health.



A good season has allowed the Philps to build-up feed stockpiles and a new out-paddock will further free-up land to produce more fodder.

August or September so we will be able to cut a lot more fodder here. “Our consultants predict we’ll end up with a fair excess of feed. We’re consistently buying 100–150tonne of vetch most years so we’ll cut that out. The plan is to be self-sufficient apart from a little bit of cereal hay to calve cows down with.” Over coming years, they plan to gradually increase to 750–800 cows. “We’ll cut the feed and see how much we use and if we have any feed leftover, we’ll step it up over time. We don’t want too many cows that we have to buy more vetch,” Josh said. The farm’s 48-unit rotary dairy is more than 20 years old and may be a limiting factor.

The herd is cross-bred, Jersey, Reds and Holstein, favoured for their hybrid vigour. Barry and Vicki had a Friesian-Jersey cross herd using mainly LIC semen. About 10 years ago, to increase the cow size they introduced Reds through Viking genetics, which now cover about 90 per cent of the herd. “It seems to work pretty well,” Josh said. “Traditionally we have a reasonably low cell count for the size of herd, an average of just under 100000 for the year, and herd health is good. Last year we lifted only five cows’ feet for the whole year. We don’t run sick herds.” They produce about 500–510kg/MS litres per cow on about 1.2tonne of grain per cow. The figures have improved over recent years

as the bigger cows came into the herd. “We wanted around 490–510 mature liveweight cows, but we were getting down to 440– 450 and that was a bit small,” Josh said. The farm is fully perennial pastures, oversown as needed, although this year renovation is less than normal because of good rain. They summer crop about 14–15ha of dryland and about 9ha of irrigated land. About 109ha of the 335ha milking platform is under irrigation. The heifers were due to start calving on March 18 and the cows on April 1, with the calving season going through to May 31. The farm has two full-time staff and two parttime milkers and Josh and Lilli said their focus

on running an efficient, sustainable business was the key to their success. They’re in the process of introducing a 99.6kW solar power system on top of the calving/hay shed. “No-one is sure what’s going to happen with power prices and we wanted to cut costs,” Lilli said. “When you look at it as a business, you’ve got to scrutinise all your costs and this was a long-term opportunity to save money on power.” Lilli said knowing your farm cashflow was essential.

Taking Stock Dairy farmers are still able to access a free, one-on one, session with an experienced farm consultant through the Taking Stock program.

Topics could include:

The sessions are confidential and personalised to address the specific needs of each farm business, including any physical, financial and people issues that are identified.

› Managing your farm team

The program will result in an Action Plan that identifies the next steps needed to navigate the season ahead.

› Feed options › Managing a fodder shortage

To register contact:

› Herd health

WestVic Dairy on 5557 1000 or email

› Cash budgeting › Meeting the bank.

The team will answer any queries and connect you with a consultant of your choice where possible.

Farmers that have completed an initial Taking Stock are also entitled to a follow-up session. All consultations must take place before the end of June 2019 so call soon to register.

Proudly supported by:

Southwest Dairy Services

Profile for Dairy News Australia

Dairy News Australia - April 2019 - With West Vic Region  

Dairy News Australia - April 2019 - With West Vic Region

Dairy News Australia - April 2019 - With West Vic Region  

Dairy News Australia - April 2019 - With West Vic Region