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Sister act

Teamwork brings the milk in at Cooriemungle see page 6


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Chair’s message Springing into new season WITH SPRING here, it is a better time to be

out on the farm, with green grass, contented cows and longer, sunnier days. However, not quite as enjoyable if you are a hay fever sufferer like me! Of course, it also means harvest/silage season for many of us and plenty of ferrying food to hard-working hubby for me, as he spends most of his time going round and round in circles.

the very best in their future endeavours, both personally and professionally. Taking up the challenge of joining the board are farmers Daniel Parkinson from Kirkstall and Brad Collins from Dixie. I would like to welcome them both to the team and I look forward to working with them and hearing more ideas of how we can further improve our services to our region’s stakeholders.

New faces on board

Dairy winners to share story

The WestVic annual general meeting took place in September. This year saw us farewell two board directors, Mark Billing and Jessica Howe. They have both been incredible contributors with their ability to have in-depth discussions, challenge ideas and speak with conviction in the boardroom. I sincerely thank them and wish them both

The WestVic Dairy staff have been out and about delivering various workshops and events. Looking at the upcoming events calendar, the sharefarmer field day, which will take place on-farm in Alvie on Tuesday, November 19, looks like it will be very interesting. The day will look at the journey that has seen Clint Theodore and Brooke Lane progress

through the ranks from non-farming backgrounds to sharefarmers of the year at the 2018 Great South West Dairy Awards. They have since gone on to win The Weekly Times Coles 2018 Dairy Farmer of the Year Award and now lease their farm, with plans in place to start purchasing it in the near future. It is great to hear these stories of young people entering the industry, working hard and seeing rewards for their effort. Whilst the amount of equity required to run your own dairy business can seem quite daunting, Clint and Brooke’s story shows other young aspiring farmers that it is possible to progress through the industry.

Thinking caps on for awards The Great South West Dairy Awards will be returning in autumn. You will be hearing more about

this prestigious event over the coming months but please start thinking about who you feel deserves recognition for their excellence in the industry − remember you can nominate yourself!

Help at hand As always, the WestVic Dairy team is here to help you. Please feel free to give us a call on 5557 1000 with any queries or concerns. We also welcome your ideas and suggestions as to how we can improve the service we offer to you, the dairy farmer. We are always happy to hear your feedback, both positive and negative, so that we can continually evolve and ensure you are receiving information and services that assist you and your business. · Simone Renyard WestVic Dairy chair

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WEST REGION Return on total assets and VIC milk price

In 2018-19, 19 of the 25 participants in the South West had a positive EBIT


2017-18 2018-19

$149k $150k




$9.00 $8.00

10.0% $7.00 Return on total assets (%)

DAIRY FARM MONITOR REPORT Average earnings before interest & tax nalysis



Adapting to conditions Average net farm income

1.9% 2.3%

Average return on total assets

-1.1% -0.8%

Average return on equity

AVERAGE SPRING conditions in the South

DFMP in 2017–18, 12 farms produced less milk y farms in enabled many farmers to capitalise on on a per on average, total milk solids reduced by West uce 2.01 billion improved dry matter yield and to build fodder 5 per cent to 187 000 kg Farm profitability was influenced by of milk production ounting for reserves. Approximately 60 per cent duction.Dry conditions prevailed from November occurred between July and December. through to May when autumn rains across most On a per hectare and per cow basis, milk of the region provided a good start. production per cow decreased with from 502 kg MS/ Average seasonal conditions Participating farms in the South West received cow to 492 kg MS/cow while milk production 93% of long-term average rainfall 93 per cent of their long-term average annual per hectare decreased from 569 kg MS/ha down rainfall with the most significant falls occurring to 553 kg MS/ha. Feed costs increased 10 per cent to $3.20/kg in August 2018 and May 2019 and a drier than MS from $2.90/kg MS and were the major variaverage period over summer. West Milk production decreased 2 per cent from 14%ableincost purchased feedfarms, costs to on South West accounting for e farmers, $2.09/kg MS as prices increased 502 kg MS/ cow in 2017–18 to 492 kg MS/cow in 51 per cent of total costs this year. 2018–19 reflecting individual decisions to manage Average earnings before interest and tax seasonal risk. (EBIT) and net farm income increased from the Some farmers reduced milk production as a previous year but were the fifth lowest on record risk management strategy, by changing calving 000 and $27 000, respectively. 25%at $150  in homegrown feed costs to patterns or reducing feeding levels. The timing Average return on total asset (RoTA) increased $1.13/kg MS as greater pasture harvested of this decision was important, with those who to 2.3 per cent from 1.9 per cent the previous made it early (in August 2018) at an advantage year and return on equity remained similar at to those who waited until February 2019. -0.8 per cent. Of the same 24 farms that participated in the Crossley dairy farmer Chris Gleeson said milk

me grown feed f metabolisable gy consumed

// 3





$3.00 $2.00

2.0% $1.00

Milk price (net,$/kg MS, includes inflation)

ustry and veloping


price this season was looking positive as there 550-cow herd. 0.0% $0.00 was a lot of catching up to do from last season. “I think there will be a shortage of milk in 06-07 07-08 08-09 09-10 10-11 11-12 12-13 13-14 14-15 15-16 16-17 17-18 18-19 “As an industry we need two to three good the second half of the year, milk is still to cheap years to rebuild confidence,” Chris in supermarkets and doesn’t Return onsaid. total assets Milk price (net) reflect the quality He said his goal this year was to grow and and freshness of the product and the high cost conserve as much fodder as possible for his to produce,” he said.

Future expectations 2019-20


92% of farmers expect farm profits to improve

Issues ranked in order of importance as reported by farmers:


6% in milk price to $6.15/kg MS

Milk price

Input costs


ed with funding and support from the Victorian Government and Dairy Australia. en the Agriculture Victoria, Dairy Australia and service providers.

ject Victoria Annual Report 2018-19 for further information -

9. Unless indicated otherwise, this work is made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia licence.

e credit to the original author who is the State of Victoria.

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established dairy farm is being converted to beef by its new owners. It is estimated up to 20 farms and out-paddocks in south-west Victoria have gone from dairy to beef in recent years. While the industry’s troubles in dry, northern areas have been well documented, the shift from dairy is also happening in the good rainfall zones

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of southern Victoria. The sale marks the end of 33 years of dairying for Mike and Dawn Waite and while Mr Waite says it’s disappointing, they had to take the best offer. “We were trying to hold out for it to stay dairy but the offer came in and it was done in a day,” he said. Mr Waite blamed a lack of confidence in the dairy industry on the Murray Goulburn and

Fonterra clawback disasters. “We originally tried selling the farm a few years ago and the auction was two days after the Murray Goulburn announcement,” he said. “That killed the market; before that farms were at a realistic price. “It’s probably one of the best dairying areas around but two other farms sold way under market which lowered the price of the whole area.”

Selling agent David Falk of Falk Real Estate agreed, saying traditional dairy land with good rainfall should be fetching top dollar, and there was still good potential for dairy in the region. The Waites bought the farm 15 years ago but it had been a dairy operation for decades before that. Mr Waite, 55, worked off farm for the past six years, originally to raise extra cash to buy a neighbouring property.

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WEST VIC REGION // 5 An illness in the family stopped the expansion plans and Mr Waite decided to concentrate on his work as area manager for livestock improvement company LIC. “Generally, the 45 to 55 age group should be the ones buying the neighbour and growing but most of them have an exit plan to get out of dairy, which is a shame,” he said. “You should have enough equity at that stage to be able to grow.” Mr Waite said the Ecklin region was still good for dairy. “People don’t understand how much more grass we can grow. “It’s probably the best time for a young couple to be buying into dairy with low interest rates and reasonably positive signs for the industry, but the confidence isn’t there.” He said problems facing dairy included the loss of equity in farms and the ongoing need for infrastructure upgrades. “Farms got up to highs of $7000 to $8000 an acre, now they’re down to $4000s and $5000s. It’s such a beautiful farm. “We spent a lot subdividing and planting trees but because the equity has gone out of farms, it’s hard to justify doing capital improvements if your family isn’t going on and our kids weren’t interested.” The Waites paid $4000 an acre 15 years ago and sold for $5100. “You sell to what the market is but I reckon it should have been around $5500. We’d spent more than $500 000 on improvements,” Mr Waite said. “When we bought, we were competing with trees; now because of the demise of dairy there’s no one out there chasing the land.” Mr Falk said beef farmers see the area as exceptional value compared to their land north of the Princes Hwy. “Not very far north of us they have to pay $4000 to $4500 an acre; therefore $4500 to $5000 in our rainfall represents fabulous buying. “Beef, sheep and cropping have been going extremely well so they’re in a good position to buy,” he said.

Mike and Dawn Waite wanted to see their farm remain a dairy operation but opted to take the best offer.

However, Mr Falk said he was confident of a good future for dairy in south-west Victoria and that owners should seek a premium for their land. “I believe we in the higher rainfall areas undervalue our land, and I think we have for a long time,” he said. “In general, owners in the area undervalue what they’ve got.” Mr Falk said there had been several people interested in the Waite farm and it would have been ideal for out-paddocks. “Some said it needed work but if they were looking at it for out-paddocks it didn’t need anything,” Mr Falk said.

“The farm is well fenced, it has a house, good sheds and a dairy that works. It was set up like a Taj Mahal for an out-paddock but they still wanted to talk it down. “In reality, it was a bargain.” Mr Falk said prospective buyers needed to think longer term. “Absolutely dairy is still worth it in this area. I believe we need to go back to the old-fashioned way of sharefarmers. That’s how you get young people into the business.” There have been other recent beef-to-dairy conversions at Scott’s Creek and Castle Carey.



Sophie and Alicia Blain: Sisters are doing it for themselves on the family farm, and they say teamwork is the key to success.

Sisters stepping up SISTERS ALICIA and Sophie Blain know how

to step up and take on a big challenge. With their father Darin’s ability to do physical work limited by a back injury, Alicia, 21, and Sophie, 19, are now the backbone of the family’s Cooriemungle farm. Along with older brother Jayden who returns to help on breaks from university, the sisters are doing the bulk of the work to keep the new-look farm running smoothly, and they’re achieving great results. Alicia graduated with a Diploma of Nursing from South West TAFE in 2017 and combines her farm role with part-time work as a nurse at Cobden Health. Sophie was studying health science in Geelong but has returned home to play her part on the farm while studying nursing at Deakin University Warrnambool. The new-look farm started last November after a split from a larger family operation. They

now milk 154 Friesians on the 72 ha home farm, supported by two out-blocks. The sisters’ interest in nursing reflects their nurturing side, and that extends to their farm work where teamwork and caring for cows are high priorities. “We love our cows and have names for half of them,” Alicia said. “They’re like our pets,” Sophie said. “Dad loves them too; I’ve never seen him yell at them or push them.” The farm has recorded improvements in production and in-calf rates under the new management system. The sisters said teamwork had made the difference. “We AI all cows and those that don’t get pregnant go under the bull,” Sophie said. “We’ve had a really good year with 49 heifers out of the older cows and we also got 15 heifers that were joined by beef.” Sophie and Alicia Blain say they love their cows, and the feeling seems to be mutual.



The decision to add beef is proving successful. “Dad wanted more cows so he bought 15 joined by beef. He’s glad he did and we want to keep rearing and selling them,” Sophie said. “There’s a good market at the moment.” They keep all dairy heifers and retain the current stocking rate. Darin, who is a director of Australian Dairy Farmers Corportation and Cowbank, has asumed the role of teacher, mechinery repairer and books manager. “We’re the labour,” Alicia said. “We milk and feed and do everything around the farm while Dad is teaching us, though we all learn from each other.” Both sisters want the farm to stay in the family. Their Friesian cows are responding well to loving care, with production up since November. “Since we took over we’ve had a better milk production outcome,” Sophie said. “I guess it’s because we’re all part of it. We all have our ideas and try to work smarter. It’s a bit more of a team now.” Alicia works four days per fortnight along with other casual shifts at Cobden Health and Sophie works at a Port Campbell restaurant. Both sisters play netball and enjoy good social lives. “Mum (Sally) and Dad are Sunday morning milkers,” Sophie said. “It’s all fair; everyone works together. There were 264 cows before the split but 154 is ideal for our land and to suit our lifestyle.” They have moved off farm and built a house about 10 minutes away at Scotts Creek because of Darin’s bad back. “We know Dad can’t do all the labour so that’s why we’re here,” Alicia said. “He fixes the machinery, does the books and we do all the feeding and the heavy lifting. “We love it and this is what we want.” It’s a democratic style of farming with everyone contributing ideas. “We want to do it as one, not just one boss telling you what to do,” Alicia said. “Not only is Dad an excellent teacher and mentor, he also fosters our indivdual thinking and decision-making around the farm. “We recently built a new shed for storing hay and machinery, of which we all had a say of its location in regards to its practicaility. “Our paddocks were too big for 154 cows so we brainstormed what we should do; then we halved the paddocks, re-did all the fences together and decided where we should put the feed bins.” The farm is in a high rainfall area and gets very wet, although 60 per cent is drained and there’s a feed pad to protect paddocks. Each morning over winter the cows are milked and then go to the feed pad where they are fed silage and hay mostly from the out-blocks, and some brought-in vetch. The 22-a-side herringbone dairy has been recently upgraded with a new vacuum and feed system and suits the herd size. “We have seven runs and it takes about an hour on a good day when me and Sophie are working,” Alicia said. Combining care for cows and people is an interesting mix for Alicia. “My nursing career is very important to me as I love working with people throughout the day, but there is nothing more enjoyable then coming home to the family farm to nurse and care for my own cows and animals. “It’s a great balance, I’m living the dream to be honest.” For Sophie working at a restataurant is a social outlet and chance to do something different. “If you love the lifestyle and love being outdoors it’s the way to go,” she said.

“I love working with people throughout the day, but there is nothing more enjoyable then coming home to the family farm to nurse and care for my own cows and animals.”

The Blain family farm is prospering this year, with improved production and in-calf rates.

Scholarship helps dairy farmer move ahead MOVING 700 KM from Woolsthorpe to Wagga

Wagga has been like moving to another planet for dairy farmer Matthew Roache. With support from a Gardiner Dairy Foundation tertiary scholarship, Matthew is in the third year of his Bachelor of Agriculture and plans to continue next year to complete his Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Charles Sturt University. The Gardiner Dairy Foundation has opened applications for its 2020 tertiary scholarships, with seven scholars to receive $10 000 annually over three years to contribute towards costs associated with their studies. For Matthew the course has opened his eyes to a potential career in agronomy and living in Wagga Wagga has opened his eyes to how many farmers are struggling. After completing his studies, Matthew hopes to return to south-west Victoria where he grew up on a family dairy farm at Woolsthorpe. “I want to return home and work in dairy,” he said. “It’s very dry up here. It’s awful when you tell mates that we’ve had a bit of flash flooding back home. “Something I’ve come to appreciate here is that if you want to make a change in cropping it takes weeks, but with dairy you can change something in two days and make a measurable

difference that you see in the fat and litres. “I still get the milk results sent to my phone and talk about them with Dad.” The Woolsthorpe farm has been in the family since 1929. Matt’s parents Linda and Noel currently milk about 350 Friesian cows and they have a small side operation with 200 sheep. Matthew, 23, worked on the farm for two years after school but found he was restless and wanted to try something new. “It’s a big leap to go so far away from home, but once you’re here it’s worth it. Initially, I never wanted to go to uni. The first year on the farm was great but the second year a lot of my mates had moved away and I needed to do something new. “This is a great way to do something positive for your future and make friends for life. The year off makes you hungrier to go and do something positive.” Matthew said he couldn’t have made the transition or continue on to a fourth year of study without the Gardiner Dairy Foundation scholarship. “The scholarship really helped because I’m so far away,” Matthew said. “The first two years I lived on campus, which was a big help because you stay in the loop and it’s great to have people nearby to help.

“Without the scholarship I wouldn’t have been able to stay on campus and get home on holidays.” Matthew has done casual work in bars and on farms but because of the scholarship hasn’t had to commit to a permanent job. “To support themselves, other students have to have consistent work which means they can’t go home for holidays or they might be working the night before an exam. I don’t have that sort of pressure which makes it so much easier. “I can be more flexible in my jobs. It doesn’t mean you do nothing, but it means you can focus more on your studies and that will help in the long term.” The support has prompted Matthew to plan another year of study. “Doing a fourth year will create more job opportunities,” he said. “It’s mainly a placement year which will be a great way to get some experience and try a few jobs and see where I best fit in.” During the course Matthew had developed a strong interest in pasture and crop agronomy. “Ideally after the course I’d like to be back home working in agronomy with a few pasture clients and a few cropping clients,” he said. The Gardiner Dairy Foundation will award seven tertiary scholarships to students from

Victorian dairy regions who are commencing study in 2020. Three scholarships are named in recognition of services to the dairy industry by Shirley Harlock, Jakob Malmo, Bill Pyle, Doug Weir and the late Niel Black. Gardiner Dairy Foundation chief executive Clive Noble said the tertiary scholarships were awarded to students who have been accepted into a course that will benefit the Victorian dairy industry or dairy communities. The program aims to encourage students to return to the dairy industry on graduating and to contribute positively through the skills they have gained. Dr Noble said a diverse range of skills were needed to ensure the Victorian dairy industry and dairy communities were resilient and adaptable. “Dairy communities need high-level skills in all areas of dairying as well as in essential areas such as health, education and finance. “However, there is a huge cost for students associated with relocating to undertake the higher education and training required to develop these skills.” For more information, visit http://www. or email Richard Meredith at

Focus Farms Expressions of Interest WestVic Dairy is seeking expressions of interest from dairy farmers across our region to participate in the Focus Farm project. Focus Farms operate over a two year period and are designed to improve farm business management practices.

Participants recieve advice from an experienced farm consultant of their choice, as well as a support group of local farmers and service providers. This helps to guide the on-farm decision making process. If you would like further information, or an Expression of Interest form, please contact Laurie Hickey on 0439 833 484. "Having a constant line to other farmers and mentors through the program has been very helpful. We've been able to draw on their varied experiences." Kenna's - Terang Focus Farm 2016-18

Profile for Dairy News Australia

Dairy News Australia - October 2019 - With West Vic Region  

Dairy News Australia - October 2019 - With West Vic Region

Dairy News Australia - October 2019 - With West Vic Region  

Dairy News Australia - October 2019 - With West Vic Region