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Issue 5, April 2013

A tale of two breeds Kaarimba’s Sprunt family enjoys success with Holsteins and Jerseys » page 8

UDV Conference wrap-up » pages 12–13, 23 Diversity brings ideas to the table » page 21 Planning is key » pages 26–27



Editor Geoff Adams


DAIRY • • • • •

Rubberware Milk filters Teat sprays Dairy hygiene Automatic washing

• • • • •

Writers Cathy Walker Laura Griffin Sophie Bruns

Milk metering Cow automation Cluster removers Automatic calf feeders Voluntary milking systems

Cover: Rohan Sprunt from Karimba Story page 8

Graphic designer Brendan Cain Riverine Herald production team Sales manager Jamie Gilbert

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Dairy Direct Industry forecasts seem to suggest milk prices are not going to get much better this season, but may improve the next. The big factors for Victorian producers seem to be the exchange rate and international demand — neither of which we can have much influence on. Better free trade agreements may help, but again, that’s largely out of the control of the average farmer — all they can do is lobby governments to move faster on improved access to overseas markets. Meanwhile, the other side of the ledger is all that farmers have to work with. At the farm level, rates, water and power costs are difficult to control but some costs and efficiencies can be found. In this edition we outline a few examples of where dairy farmers have acted to cut their costs, and we also offer up some advice on getting better AI results, finding the right feed rations and some practical tips on pasture growing. We hope the information will be useful. Geoff Adams Country News and Dairy Direct editor

Changing seasons bring opportunity Welcome to the April edition of Dairy Direct. As autumn progresses, many dairy farmers continue to face multiple challenges including tight cash flows. Efficient fodder production is a key component of dairy farming and successful pastures can help boost returns over coming months. Murray Dairy recently partnered with Dairy Australia to develop a package of autumn feedbase information to support efficient pasture establishment. Investment in and effective management of fodder production now will help boost returns over coming months and set the dairy business up for spring and summer. More information is available at autumn-feedbase Detailed business support is now available through the Dairy Australia-funded one-to-one Taking Stock business sessions with experienced advisers. These sessions provide farmers with the opportunity to take time out from their business to review their current situation and to further develop plans for the future. Interested farmers are invited to contact Murray Dairy for more information. Later this month the Murray Dairy Board will embark on its annual strategic planning process.

contents Doing Dairy with Sophie Bruns Dairy news

4 5–6

A tale of two breeds


Nigel Hicks on the farm


Key planning considerations focus on needs identified through the Murray Dairy Regional Priority Setting process. Examples include workforce development and labour management, business management skills, pasture management, water efficiency and animal nutrition. The extension activity around the findings of the research into irrigation flows onto bays will be delivered in the next few months. This project has worked to define optimal flow rates. It addresses the whole irrigation system including water on and water off. This project has been driven by Murray Dairy with funding from Dairy Australia and GoulburnMurray Water with collaboration from DPI Victoria. Further information will be available from the Murray Dairy website at www. Murray Dairy is pleased to see the National Health and Medical Research Council has acknowledged the strengthening of the science supporting the health benefits of dairy foods in the new Australian Dietary Guidelines. The evidence highlights a direct link between increased dairy consumption and reduced risk of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, hypertension and type 2 diabetes.

Conference covers key topics


Sustainability definition must work for industry


Dairy Australia feature – Getting the best results from AI – Program targets heifer replacement

14 16

One-on-one help for dairy farmers 


Decoding the Generation-Y puzzle


Financial help vital for young farmers 


Networking shows results


Networking offers benefits 


Food safety is everyone’s business


Minimise risks to get results


Tough times call for good planning


Next step for dairy genetics


New diet guidelines good for milk


Grass is always greener


Malcolm Holm Chairman, Murray Dairy

Solar investment aims to cut power bills 35 The ABCs of good grazing


Constitution under review


Make the most of drying-off


Audit shows where efficiencies can be made


Scholarship opens doors


Calendar of events


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Doing Dairy with SOPHIE BRUNS

dairy news Sophie Bruns is a dairy farmer from Gunbower with a husband, two daughters and a mortgage.

Ready to put the icy-poles away I can’t believe the run of hot weather we have had this summer (and autumn). As I stand out in the stinking hot sun, wilting as the dust swirls and the sweat pours off me as Rob and I sort out the unco-operative springing cows in a very friendly manner, a trip to Antarctica suddenly becomes very appealing. It has been a good summer for icy-pole and Zooper Dooper sales. These have been a staple part of our diet, particularly when getting the cows up in the hot sun — the dogs have even taken a liking to them. We are all looking forward to a change in the weather and dare I say the ‘R’ word, rain! It would be nice for it to actually fall from the sky and let us turn the irrigation pump off for a while. I don’t know about you, but our power bill is now bordering on the ridiculous.

What used to be something you just paid quarterly is now something you fear opening and, aside from investing in a billion solar panels, there doesn’t appear to be any immediate solution on the horizon. Power is just another one of those bills we have to worry about paying in a very tight season. The hot muggy weather we have experienced through February and into March has kept the millet growing a bit longer than expected and we have even had a bit of a feed glut — unusual on 72 ha! This autumn we will be calving down 80 cows and our focus is still very much on establishing a permanent pasture base. Rob will be over-sowing our summer pasture paddocks with more summer pasture due to the limited success we had in spring, and the rest of the farm will be sown down to shaftal and rye.

This coming spring our priority will be to re-grade 12 ha down the back and put in some more lucerne; we are keen to grow as much home-grown fodder as we possibly can. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few months. I’m sure there will be a lot of farmers taking a keen interest in milk prices and what falls from the sky. I have heard a few whispers we are in for a) a very wet winter, b) a very dry winter or c) all of the above. I am hoping it rains somewhere along the line, just preferably not when I am bringing cows and calves in from the calving paddock — that is hard enough on its own without skidding in mud up to your knees.

– Sophie Bruns

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Dairy income forecast to decline Dairy industry forecasters are predicting modest increases ahead for milk prices, but the Australian commodity forecaster, ABARES, has found what many dairy farmers already know — the current season is going to be tough. Farm financial performance is projected to decline in 2012–13 because of lower milk prices and some increase in cash costs. ABARES has found average national farm cash income for dairy farms was $139 230 for 2010–11. This increased slightly to $143 200 a farm in 2011–12 and is projected to decline to $95 000 in 2012–13. Projected farm cash income in 2012–13 is expected to be around two per cent below the average for the 10 years to 2011–12 of $97 000 (in real terms). Farm cash income is a measure of cash funds generated by the farm

business for farm investment and Dairy Cash Costs consumption after paying all costs Hired labour cost incurred in production, including interest payments but excluding Repairs and maintenance 2010–11 capital payments andHired payments labour cost 2011–12p Fuel to family workers. It is a measure and maintenance 2012–13y of short-termRepairs farm performance Fertiliser because it does not take into Fuel account depreciation or changes Fodder Fertiliser in farm inventories. A measure of Interest paid longer-term profitability is farm Fodder business profit, because it takes Electricity Interest paid into account capital depreciation $’000 30 60 90 120 150 and changes in inventories Electricity of p ABARES preliminary estimate. y ABARES provisional estimate livestock, fodder, grain and wool. $’000 30 60 90 120 150 In 2011–12 grain inventories p ABARES preliminary estimate. y ABARES provisional estimate were sold down although RATE of RETURN For farms in all states except continued increases in cattle Western Australia, fodder The rate of return, excluding and sheep numbers in all states expenditure increased as capital appreciation, is projected partially offset reductions in the farmers sought to increase milk to average 1.6 per cent, down value of grain stocks. production. Small increases were from 3.8 per cent in each of the recorded in most other categories previous two years. As in the With reduced crop production in of farm cash costs with the 2012–13, smaller on-farm grain previous two years, the average exception of interest payments, rate of return excluding capital stocks, combined with smaller and overall average total cash costs appreciation in 2012–13 is increases in livestock numbers for the Australian dairy industry than in 2010–11 and 2011–12, expected to be highest in Tasmania increased by two per cent in at 2.8 per cent and lowest in increased on-farm inventories are 2011–12 compared with 2010–11. Queensland at –0.7 per cent. expected to be small.

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dairy news

Milk price step-ups from two processors

Global prices for dairy commodities on the international market have been improving since the start of the year, as indicated by recent GDT results.

Two major dairy processors announced milk price step-ups in March. Fonterra Australia announced a farmgate milk price increase (or step-up) for the 2012–13 season of 8¢/kg butterfat and 20¢/kg protein for its suppliers in Victoria and Tasmania. The milk price increase will be backdated to July 1, 2012. “This has been a very challenging season all round, but we are starting to see improvements in trading conditions which enabled us to bring our review forward and ensure we could get cash out to our suppliers as quickly as possible,” Fonterra’s milk supply general manager Heather Stacy said. Managing director Gary “Global prices for dairy Helou said a drive to improve commodities on the international efficiencies in the business and market have been improving since lift value in markets had allowed the start of the year, as indicated Murray Goulburn to off-set by recent GDT results. low international dairy prices and a high dollar, and provide “This, combined with a strong its supplier-shareholders with a focus on keeping our operating third step-up in milk price for the costs as low as possible, has season. contributed to a positive result with this price review.” Mr Helou said the step-up was announced in an environment of This step-up brought Fonterra’s lower international dairy prices, current farmgate milk price to $4.90/kg milk solids (MS), which a high Australian dollar, difficult dairying seasonal conditions and is within Fonterra’s full-year price high feed costs. outlook of between $4.80 and $5/kg MS. “These challenges are due to external influences that are well Murray Goulburn announced outside MG’s control, however, a price increase of $0.08¢/kg we have continued to focus on butterfat and $0.20¢/kg protein driving harder in areas that are taking the weighted-average under our control. available price to $4.90/kg MS.

Heather Stacy

“Improving our business performance by generating efficiencies in our operations and value in our markets has enabled us to increase farmgate returns in an otherwise very difficult market environment. “Our big efforts during the last 12 months to lower our headcount and strip out $100 million in operating costs

is enabling us to generate the operational savings to fund this step-up.” Mr Helou said MG would continue to strive for further increases in the farmgate price but warned that this was in an environment of low international dairy prices, higher feed costs, poor dairying seasonal conditions and a high Australian dollar.

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YEARS Australia’s top dairy breeders were recognised by the Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme at an awards night in March to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the first publication of Australian Breeding Values.

ABV Excellence Award for Top Herds:

Rohan Sprunt says Jerseys from the Babe family have been big contributors to the infrastructure improvements he and his brother and business partner Graeme have made at Kaarimba. Tall and short: the Holstein cow is Kaarmona Shottle Marigold 2 (ET), VG87, who placed 6th in the Snr 3yo in-milk at IDW 2012. The Jersey cow is Kaarmona Legion Fantasy, Ex90. Story: Cathy Walker Pictures: Simon Bingham

A tale of two breeds The numbers must add up for former accountant Rohan Sprunt, who with his brother Graeme and their families runs a tight ship at Kaarmona Holsteins & Jerseys.

Dynasty: Kaarmona Maximum Babe 135, Ex90 (left) and her Valerian daughter Kaarmona Valerian Babe 183. Her son Babaxi is the latest Kaarmona sire to go into AI.

Excellence Award for Jerseys in the 2000s. Their milking herd of 320 cows is split almost 50/50 along the lines of the business title, and While notes from the awards night point to it’s a stark reminder of the difference in stature the bull Valerian, Mr Sprunt demurs that of the two breeds when you visit Beechwood at it’s probably a cow called Babe who was Kaarimba and see the dainty Jerseys dwarfed Kaarmona’s linchpin of the previous decade. by the giant Holsteins. “We paid $7200 for Babe at Dairy Week in “I want to breed bigger Jerseys and smaller 1994 — that was a fair bit then — as we were Holsteins — some of the big ones are too looking to invest in a US bull-breeding family,” property outright from their four siblings, they began with a 70/30 split of Holsteins and inefficient,” Mr Sprunt said. Mr Sprunt said. Jerseys. He has done the maths and figures some of Since 2004, seven Kaarmona-bred bulls have “The Holsteins have selectively moved the big Holsteins aren’t giving value for money graduated to proven status and apart from themselves out,” Mr Sprunt said. “Their when you compare their size and eating Valerian (2007) and Gainful (2011) the bulls fertility is nowhere near as good — we recently are all from the Babe family: CSCBerlest, capacity with their output: the Jerseys average preg tested the cows at eight weeks and the Rhumona, JEFestival, Jurace and JEJeep. 580 kg of milk solids annually, compared with Jerseys were 66 per cent and the black and Another Kaarmona Jersey bull, Babaxi, is a their much taller and heavier black and white whites didn’t break 50 per cent.” potential 2013 graduate. paddock mates that contribute 663 kg. Still, he conceded, the reason probably is that “In genetics you’ve just got to keep trying to However in the other branch of the farm the Holsteins (which get extra rations in the reinvent,” Mr Sprunt said. business — genetics and bull sales — the bails but have the same access to the feed pad Holsteins, including some red ones, definitely He said he and his brother were the two and pasture) “produce more litreage”. hold their own. “labour units” on the 184 ha property north Last year 105 Holsteins each averaged of Shepparton that proudly bears a sign Recently Kaarmona Holsteins & Jerseys’ 10 028 litres and 160 Jerseys recorded a remembering their great-grandfather William efforts in the world of genetics were 6670 litre average. Galt Jnr who established the property in 1874. recognised by the Australian Dairy Herd With the split of the herd, he said Kaarmona Improvement Scheme when it awarded When Rohan and Graeme formed their was “a classic case study” of the two breeds. the Sprunts an Australian Bull Breeding partnership in 1994, later purchasing the 8

APRIL 2013

• Number 1 Holstein herd for Australian Profit Ranking 2012: Stewart and Nita McRae, Nambrok, Vic • Number 2 Holstein herd for Australian Profit Ranking 2012: Bill and Brian Anderson, Kongwak, Vic • Number 3 Holstein herd for Australian Profit Ranking 2012: Bryan and Jo Dickson, Terang, Vic • Number 1 Jersey herd for Australian Profit Ranking 2012: Daryl and Lani Hoey, Katunga, Vic • Number 2 Jersey herd for Australian Profit Ranking 2012: Con Glennen & Co, Terang, Vic • Number 1 Australian Red Breed herd for Australian

Profit Ranking 2012: Jan Raleigh, Timboon, Vic • Equal Number 1 Ayrshire herd for Australian Profit Ranking 2012: NGW Farms Pty Ltd, Cobram, Vic • Equal Number 1 Ayrshire herd for Australian Profit Ranking 2012: Rob and Lynne McCartney, Tatura, Vic • Number 1 Illawarra herd for Australian Profit Ranking 2012: Jim and Glenda Carson, Irrewillipe, Vic • Number 1 Guernsey herd for Australian Profit Ranking 2012: Keywyn Farms, Angaston, SA • Number 1 Brown Swiss Herd for Australian Profit Ranking 2012: Kevin and Jenny Fiechtner, Clifton, Qld

Australian Bull Breeding Excellence Awards: • Holstein 1980s: Robin and Lowis White, Luccombe Holsteins, Finley, NSW • Holstein 1980s: Mr & Mrs Rathjen, Glenjoy Holsteins, Springton, SA • Holstein 1980s: Murray Sowter, Murribrook Holsteins, Moss Vale, Vic • Holstein 1980s and 1990s: Faye Bail and Ken Main Kenron Holsteins Cohuna, Vic • Holstein 1990s: Ray Kennedy, Strathaire Holsteins, Cobains, Vic • Holstein 1990s and 2000s: Roger and Helen Perrett, Hill Valley Holsteins, Kongwak, Vic • Holstein 1990s: Adrian and Cheryl Dee, Clydevale Holsteins Cohuna, Vic • Holstein 2000s: Robert and Lynette Johnston, Glomar Holsteins, Bundalaguah, Vic • Holstein 2000s: Croft and Lambalk, Topspeed Holsteins, Port Campbell, Vic • Jersey 1980s: Greg Bryce, Green Pines Jerseys, Nullawarre, Vic

• Jersey 1980s: Gordon and Robyn Gilmour, Ganbeer Jerseys, Waaia, Vic • Jersey 1990s: David Mathew, Claydon Park Jerseys, Milton, NSW • Jersey 1990s: Robert and Kerrie Anderson, Kings Ville Jerseys, Drouin West, Vic • Jersey 2000s: Rohan and Graeme Sprunt, Kaarmona Jerseys, Kaarimba, Vic • Jersey 2000s: Daryl and Lani Hoey, Beulah Jerseys, Katunga, Vic • Australian Red Breed: John Williams, Bosgowan, Meningie, SA • Illawarra: John Savage, Venvale, Cambooya, Qld • Ayrshire: Max and Jenny Hyland, Rockvale, Shepparton East, Vic • Guernsey: Dallas and Juliet Clark, Michael and Paula Grey, Kookaburra, Wallalong, NSW • Brown Swiss: Bill, Judy and Ben Govett, Tandara Brown Swiss,Tandara, Vic

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APRIL 2013


Nigel Hicks on the farm

Raising his hand to co-ordinate Farmer Power’s northern group has propelled Wyuna farmer Nigel Hicks into the limelight. In this issue Sophie Bruns talks to the man juggling farming and representation in the new lobby group.

Nigel Hicks at the podium at a Farmer Power meeting.

Nigel Hicks has been involved in the dairy industry for 30 years. In that time he has ridden the roller coaster that is the industry as he has made his way from former townie to farm apprentice, to sharefarmer and farm ownership. He milks about 160 cows on 153 ha at Wyuna. He also works offfarm four days a week one week and two days the next. Nigel loves cows and has always taken pride in his herd, but like so many other dairy farmers across the country, he is feeling the pinch as continuing tough times and low milk prices erode his equity and create severe financial pressure. “We are living the dream but at the end of the day it’s not really a dream. Physically we work hard to get ahead but then we have to take two steps backward and then it takes 10 years to claw your way back. We are all getting really sick

of it, our industry is in crisis.” Nigel has decided to take some action and has become the Northern Victorian representative for the newly formed Farmer Power group. Since they held their meeting in Tongala on February 13, Nigel’s phone has been constantly ringing with calls from people across the country wanting to get involved and help. “I have been surprised and encouraged by the response — there is a lot hanging on this and we are motivated to fight for an outcome. Our paid representative bodies haven’t done enough and it is desperate times for us all. “It is easy to just say bugger it and give up but someone has got to make some noise and get people to listen. There are so many people out there who are really hurting and this issue is not just affecting dairy farmers but whole communities too.

a lot of satisfaction out of that. “We are getting paid 40 per cent less today than we were in 2008. “We used to be heavily involved in In 1992 we got paid $5.20 kg breeding and showing our stock for our milk solids and we aren’t but that has fallen by the wayside even going to make that this year as things have gotten tougher over and it’s 2013. All our inputs have the years. gone up drastically and many of “As dairy farmers we get to work us are struggling. outside, we are never short of “Some people are getting to the variety and we produce a product point where they can’t afford to that is something of value and I get out but they can’t afford to am proud of that. We look after stay in either — there are a lot of the environment and you would people out there who have lost be hard pressed to find a dairy hope at the moment.” farmer who didn’t.” When asked if things are so tough, Despite the tough times Nigel is why he hangs in there, Nigel’s hopeful of better times ahead. answer is simple. “I have always hoped things will “It’s in my blood. I tried to get out improve and I guess I am fairly for six months and it was driving stubborn. The overriding issue is me nuts. Dairying becomes a part we need a better milk price, it just of you. keeps coming back to that. We can’t keep having high expenses “I just love the cows and the and not enough income to pay industry. There is nothing more them. It has gottten to the point rewarding than improving the where we need some action or production, type and appearance of your herd over the years. I get there won’t be an industry left.”

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Conference covers key topics

Story and picture: Laura Griffin

Story and picture: Laura Griffin

Milk pricing, international market access, advocacy and attracting young people to dairy farming were the key topics at this year’s UDV conference. VFF president Peter Tuohey told about 100 members that farmers and advocacy groups could not control milk prices, but they could influence rising production costs. He said savings could be made through farming systems and advocacy. “Without a strong farmer lobby group, we would be at the mercy of many supply chain costs and regulatory impacts,” Mr Tuohey said. He said the VFF had successfully lobbied for silage wagon road use changes, cow

underpass funding, primary producer registration, B-double access, diesel fuel rebates and young farmers’ stamp duty exemption. He said a unified approach was critical for effective advocacy, which was why the VFF had invited Farmer Power to join. West Goulburn branch member Wade Northausen said stronger representation from farmer lobby groups was needed on water issues, particularly the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

“The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is the biggest threat we’ve seen to irrigated agriculture in Australia,” Mr Northausen said. VFF Campaspe group chair Peter Gibson said the conference was an opportunity to make farmers’ feelings known, including on milk pricing structures. Resolutions about the UDV reducing regulation, fighting for a better farm gate milk price, retaining dairy industry staff, increasing farm profitability and analysing the industry supply chain were carried.

Pasture grazing boosts profits A study has confirmed the key driver for profit across farms with ranging milk supply patterns was the percentage of directly grazed pasture. XCheque farm consultant Neil Lane was commissioned by Dairy Australia to investigate how the flattening of the milk curve affected farm profitability. Mr Lane used farm modelling and DPI Dairy Industry Farm Monitor Project data from about 70 farms across Victoria. He told the UDV conference the data from between 2006 and 2012 showed, despite concerns, there was no correlation between flattening milk supply and decreased returns. “Sometimes you need one of these types of studies to state the bleeding obvious — grazed pasture percentage is the primary economic driver in farms and remains so despite the flattening of the milk curve,” Mr Lane said. “The emphasis on how you feed the cows hasn’t changed. Grazed pastures in Victoria are one of our competitive advantages on the world scale. “The data shows farms with more intensive feeding systems do tend to attract a higher average milk price. But operating costs fall dramatically as the percentage of grazed feed in the diet increases. Similarly, we see this reflected in the operating margin as well.” Mr Lane said equivalent profitability could be achieved on a wide range of calving patterns and feeding systems. The data showed some farmers from across Victoria’s dairy regions were achieving high levels of off-peak milk production while maintaining high levels of directly grazed feed.


APRIL 2013

Farm consultant Neil Lane told UDV members money could be saved by increasing pasture grazing.

“One of the key findings of the data set was people are finding ways to extract more out of milk payment systems and not move away from their principle of having a high proportion of their cows’ diet as directly grazed pasture,” he said. “There is some evidence as we move past 40 to 43 per cent of off-peak milk, it is hard to maintain that high proportion of directly grazed feed.” Mr Lane said achieving a high proportion of directly grazed feed depended on having the right number of cows and calving at the right times of year so farmers could match supply and demand. He said there was no correlation between operating costs, operating margins, capital investment and off-peak milk percentage. He said every farm had a different system and different operating costs. “What was made very clear in this study is it is not what you do, but how you get there.”

Farmers can reduce risks by having farm systems that are not too reliant on either grazing or feeding. Mr Lane said DPI Dairy Industry Farm Monitor Project data found small farms – defined in this study as those of less than 120 000 kg milk solids — needed to work hard to stay competitive because of overhead and capital costs. He said small farms could be viable and rewarding, but their owners needed to carry lower levels of debt, avoid high levels of intensification and consider off farm investments. Key findings for the Victorian Dairy Industry Farm Monitor Project from 2006 to 2012: • In 2006–07, 50 per cent of farms in the sample produced off-peak milk (more than 40 per cent of their milk supply from February to July). This increased to 76 per cent of farms in 2009–10 and has remained stable since then. • Increasing off-peak milk production does not guarantee a flat milk supply curve, but there is a correlation between off-peak milk and increased plant utilisation. • There has been a significant shift by medium to large farms from a seasonal supply pattern towards a flatter milk supply curve. • Farms producing less than 120 000 kg of milk solids face potential challenges of higher cost of capital, higher labour and overhead costs and attract a lower milk price. • Milk pricing systems driving increased off-peak percentage and higher plant utilisation but with a ‘stepped’ structure can reduce the flexibility of farmers to respond appropriately to seasonal conditions.

Dairy Australia’s Helen Dornam told UDV members the industry needed to act together quickly to define sustainability in its own terms.

Sustainability definition must work for industry Australia’s dairy industry has a window of opportunity to define sustainability in terms that will benefit it, Dairy Australia’s Helen Dornam said. Ms Dornam said Dairy Australia had defined sustainability as enhancing profitability, improving wellbeing and reducing environmental impact. She said if the industry was not proactive in embracing its own definition, it could be caught in “catch-up mode, having to do whatever our markets require of us to continue bringing out our products”. She said the Australian dairy industry already had great systems for environmental impacts and food safety. “But we don’t talk about them in ways that enhance our credibility,” Ms Dornam said. She said sustainability was part of business across the globe and many of the top food companies were seen to value sustainability. Ms Dornam said ethical investment was also growing and there was increased scrutiny on food companies and their supply chains. Retailers are also driving the push to sustainability. “Far better we provide the retailers with something that is for our benefit than they pick something. We’ve seen what has happened with sow stalls and hormone-free beef,” Ms Dornam said. “Better we can define the agenda.” She said a whole industry

approach was needed. “We need to use the systems we’ve got. We need to ensure they are cost-effective — that they are not just adding costs but that there are benefits there.” The Brand Dairy project will promote the industry’s sustainability credentials. Dairy Australia is planning to produce its first sustainability report with targets this year and will probably produce one every two years after that. Ms Dornam said sustainability targets should not be feared because a lot of work had already been done to make the industry more sustainable in the past decade. Australian dairy and Unilever Dairy Australia is hoping that by June this year multinational consumer goods company Unilever will put all Australian dairy production into its sustainable sourcing annex. Ms Dornam said Unilever was one of the world’s top 10 food brands and had committed to sourcing from sustainable dairy suppliers by 2015. Dairy Australia and companies have mapped their current on-farm sustainability practices against Unilever’s mandatory and best practice requirements. “Overall, we have met 79.9 per cent of elements and we are working with companies to see if we can address the areas we are not seen to be meeting,” Ms Dornam said.

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Dairy Australia feature

Getting the

best results from AI

When ordering AI straws this season, order six straws for every heifer replacement needed. While the obvious question is “how many do I order?” the more important question is “how many replacements do I need in three years’ time?”. Michelle Axford from ADHIS (funded by Dairy Australia) said in the short term, AI straws were key to getting cows in calf. But the real value was the genetic merit of the heifers when they entered the milking herd. “Decisions on semen selection today affect the genetic merit of the herd in years to come. We encourage farmers to select bulls from the Good Bulls Guide which meet their breeding objective,” Mrs Axford said. Barry Zimmermann from Dairy Australia’s cow fertility program InCalf suggests farmers look three years ahead and decide how many replacement heifers they’ll need to enter the herd. “The number should include any extra heifers to expand the herd size or for sale or export. Then allow six straws for

every replacement heifer,” Mr Zimmermann said. For example, a 400-cow herd with a 25 per cent replacement rate will need 100 heifer replacements every year, so 600 AI straws should be ordered to maintain the herd size. This allows for a 50 per cent conception rate, 10 per cent loss of cows prior to calving (for example, pregnant cows that are culled for other reasons), 50 per cent female calves, five per cent loss of heifer calves prior to weaning, five per cent loss of heifers prior to joining, 90 per cent heifer conception rate, three per cent losses prior to calving (deaths, slips) and three per cent of heifers exiting the herd in the first 30 days post-calving. Improved AI results can often be achieved by a small tweak in semen storage and handling, operator technique or farm protocol. Pay particular attention to what you do around the semen tank and the way you thaw straws.

Improvements can be achieved by better handling of frozen semen.

When using the semen tank: • Use a dipstick to check liquid nitrogen twice a week. • Only lift the canister to the frost line, not to the top of the tank. • Always remove straws from the tank using tweezers. • Keep good records of straw locations to find straws faster. When thawing straws: • Don’t lift straws out of the tank for more than two seconds. • Only thaw as many straws as you can use in 10 minutes. • Thaw straws in water at 32–38°C. • Thaw mini straws for at least 30 seconds.

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“An independent phone survey of 200 farmers who have participated in Taking Stock — Taking Action found that 60% said the program had made a practical difference to them and their farm, and they had acted on the important issues on their farm.”

Dairy Australia feature

Dairy Australia feature

One-on-one help for dairy farmers

Program targets heifer replacement

A new extension campaign called Heifers on Target is coming to the Murray Dairy region.

It can be hard to know if you are doing a good job rearing replacement heifers. It is important to have some targets and tools to assess heifer performance and understand the costs and benefits of the different management options. Heifers on Target is a new Dairy Australia extension campaign that puts the spotlight on post-weaning management of replacement heifers. Improved heifer management is a relatively simple strategy that may give farmers: • a big payback in milk production; • fertility benefits; • easier calvings; • improved animal welfare; • increased longevity; • the option to rear fewer replacements; • reduction of a herd’s carbon footprint.

Heifers on Target discussion days will give farmers some simple rules of thumb and targets for heifer performance. These guidelines and tools have been developed in consultation with a widte range of farmers and Australian experts in heifer rearing. The two-hour guided discussion will allow you to share good ideas for heifer management, and look at the pros and cons of different management methods, including contract heifer rearing. These on-farm meetings with experts and

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peers will allow farmers to take a firsthand look at best-practice farms and may offer the opportunity for hands-on activities. Dairy Australia has developed a farmer booklet and online extension resources to support the Heifers on Target campaign. Heifers on Target discussion groups will be run nationally in April and May 2013, a time of year when many heifers may face a feed shortfall or fall behind in their growth rates. Murray Dairy is co-ordinating the Dairy Australia regional development program Heifers on Target. Anyone interested in attending a Heifers on Target discussion day in April or May can contact Murray Dairy by emailing to sarahp@ or phone 5833 5316.

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One-on-one sessions with experienced dairy advisors are now being offered free to dairy farmers as part of Dairy Australia’s Tactics for Tight Times campaign. Taking Stock is part of the nationwide campaign that has been developed by Dairy Australia and its Regional Development Programs as a levy-funded initiative supporting farmers through the challenges of the 2012–13 season. The Taking Stock sessions are confidential and will be delivered by trained industry advisors to help farm families work through key management decisions and identify support available to manage their businesses through challenging times. Interested farmers can contact their local RDP to register for a Taking Stock session. The advisors will work with key members of the farm team over the kitchen table to support financial and physical analysis of their operation and facilitate discussions regarding the current business position, future options and an action plan for the business. Dairy Australia’s farm productivity and delivery group manager Chris Murphy said the offer of free one-on-one assistance through the Taking Stock program was in response to farmer requests.

“The strength of Taking Stock is that it is based on a oneto-one conversation with a trusted, skilled advisor. It gives the opportunity to take time out from the business for three or four hours and have a meaningful discussion about the current situation and plans for the future,” Mr Murphy said. The financial and physical analysis Taking Stock offers includes: • Understanding and managing your budget; • Identifying costsaving options; • Calculating pasture consumption; • Managing debt and your balance sheet; • Understanding additional support services that can be accessed, including counselling and health services; and • Creating an action plan. The Taking Stock sessions will be available between March and June 2013. Any farmers interested in taking up the offer of assistance through the Taking Stock program can call Murray Dairy to register.

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Decoding the Generation–Y puzzle Ninety per cent of Generation-Ys who receive regular training from their employer are motivated to stay with that employer. Jacqueline Rowarth from The University of Waikato in New Zealand told delegates at Herd2013 in Bendigo in March they would need to think outside the old box to attract and retain young workers. In a dynamic presentation that held the audience’s attention from go to whoa, Professor Rowarth said Gen-Y was focused on career as well as personal development, and was motivated by personal fulfilment — and while money was a consideration, it was not top of the list. ‘‘In general terms the Y-generation members tend to be holistic learners and so want the big picture rather than detail,’’ Prof Rowarth said. ‘‘They are likely to respond to a problem with emotion first, instead of logic, and they don’t think that they need to understand how something works in order to use it. ‘‘They want to be seen to be in control: they want to drive the tractor with the feed-out wagon and will play with the computer system to make it work — they do not want a lecture from the employer on how to operate the machinery.” She said Gen-Y was motivated by technology, had a low threshold for boredom,

preferred pictures rather than words, had a short attention span and did not regard remembering things as an important part of life. ‘‘Tasks should be interactive and customised to suit them as individuals; this fits with their concept of importance — the boss being involved with their learning is ideal. ‘‘The boss is effectively in loco parentis, and they are used to parental interest.’’ Prof Rowarth said employer support for training programs was becoming the expectation. A first step may be in giving employees time to go to meetings of a local professional group — as long as there is something more than beer on the agenda. ‘‘Also consider supporting them to go to farm walks, focus farms, field days, and farmerfocused conferences. Discuss with them what they have gained from the experience and what they think could have been done better on the farm.’’ Prof Rowarth said Gen-Y had been likened to Gen-X on fast-forward with self-esteem on steroids; spending time with them is vital for development and retention. ‘‘Remember that members of the Y-generation are used to their parents hovering and are more comfortable with ongoing access to somebody interested in their personal

development than going it alone.” She said rural employers must also ensure they had the six dimensions of high-performance work systems: a fair promotion process, few status differences, accurate performance appraisals, regular constructive feedback on performance, information sharing and inclusion in decision-making. In an economic uncertainty, which applies to agriculture all the time, past history shows that benefits exist for employers prepared to invest in good people. Underperforming companies die, there is release of capital from fading sectors to new industries, and there is movement of high-quality skilled workers toward stronger employers. Making sure that the movement is in your direction means building your reputation as a great employer — and so becoming the employer of choice. ‘‘Perhaps of most importance with the new generations is inspirational leadership that creates a shared vision; they want to know how their dreams will come true,” Prof Rowarth said. ‘‘The human resource challenge in the agricultural industry can be met by intelligent people observing the human condition: the fundamental need to be creative and be valued.’’

Story: Laura Griffin

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options and opportunities to get to their chosen level in agriculture. He said land prices were one hurdle for people trying to buy agricultural assets. “The ratio of average land price per hectare to total cash receipts per hectare has increased from around 5:1 prior to 2001–02 to around 7:1 in 2008–09 on broadacre farms.” He said the increase in this ratio was similar across agricultural zones and industries. “The gap that a young farmer has to operate in now if they are going to buy land and make it profitable has grown considerably.” Mr Murphy researched different finance schemes including tax incentives for young and beginner farmers across the world and met his overseas counterparts in the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands on a study tour. Combining the best of what he found in these countries, Mr Murphy proposed a finance scheme that would include a Future Farmers’ Fund. Farm management deposits and retiring farmers could invest in the fund with government backing and incentives. Mr Murphy also hopes banks will offer concessional interest rates under the proposed scheme and a body could act like Farm Credit

The ratio of average land price per hectare to total cash receipts per hectare has increased from around 5:1 prior to 2001–02 to around 7:1 in 2008–09 on broadacre farms.


A finance scheme is needed to help young and other beginner farmers enter the industry, 2012 Nuffield scholar Damian Murphy said. Mr Murphy said industry and government needed to address agriculture’s ageing workforce before the problem hit crisis point. The South Gippsland dairy farmer said when Australian farmers retired or died there would be a huge amount of assets to transfer and young farmers needed the financial capabilities, skills and knowledge to take them over. He said introducing a nation-wide young farmers’ finance scheme would be a proactive and effective step. “If you give young farmers options and opportunities, they will do amazing things,” Mr Murphy said. “The easy thing to do is to think a young farmers’ finance scheme is just there to assist young farmers, but there’s nothing further from the truth. “A well planned and executed young farmers’ finance scheme will assist the whole industry.” Mr Murphy said with a young farmers’ finance scheme, he was not advocating all young farmers bought land but they had

Damian Murphy

Canada to offer beginning farmers transition loans that included disbursed payments. He said transition loans had cash flow improvements and interest savings. “Australia needs a co-financing model to assist farmers looking to get agriculture assets. “Agriculture taxation needs to be reviewed to ensure it is helping not hindering generational change.” You can see a video of Damian Murphy speaking at the Nuffield Spring Tour in Toowoomba last October at com/watch?v=_ss7hRhqt1k APRIL 2013


Story: Sophie Bruns

Networking shows results The Dairy Business Network project was developed by Murray Dairy in 2007 to help farming businesses recover from drought. consultant during the course of the program and have an opportunity to gain four NCDEA competency units in Analyse Business Performance (year one) and Review and Develop Business Plans, Manage Production Systems and Prepare and Monitor Budgets (year two). There are currently five Dairy Business Network groups in northern Victoria and the Southern Riverina and farmers are attributing improved business performance to their involvement in the groups. For more information or to register your interest in the DBN program contact Sarah Parker on 5833 5316 or email

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Diversity brings ideas to the table When Mick and Heather Acocks joined the Rochester Dairy Business Network Group (DBN) a few years ago they didn’t realise how beneficial it would be. The group is now heading into its fourth year and while they are no longer subsidised through Murray Dairy, they decided as a group to look for sponsorship and continue. “It costs us around $2000 a year but it is worth it,” Mick said. “I am confident in the group and the way we go about things. We all respect each other’s confidentiality and it has to be that way to make it work.” The group has 11 farming businesses involved from Tongala to Calivil — the largest milks around 900 cows, and the smallest 200. They meet regularly to discuss a broad range of issues. “We don’t always look at the farm, sometimes we focus on an issue the farmer wants to talk about. We discuss things like water, fertility, feed systems, attitude to debt, we don’t dwell a lot on milk price because that is largely out of our control. We have guest speakers from time to time to keep things interesting.

“We use the Taking Stock program as our We have had meetings benchmark but it’s not about comparing your business to your neighbours’. We probably on water law, robotic spend around 20 minutes each year going milkers, equity through each farm’s performance at the end of the season; that’s not what we are about. The partnerships and farm figures can be used as a reference but that all sorts of different is about it.” Mick said one of the best things about the things. Our sponsors group was the diversity and different ideas it attend and we do give continually brought to the table. them the opportunity “I have always got a lot out of discussion groups and I have been involved in many to share their ideas… different ones over the years.” Mick Acocks Mick said the key to this DBN’s success was the commitment shown by each member. “Very rarely do we not get everyone to a meeting. The wives are encouraged to come along and we even have a trip away through the year somewhere. Last year we went to “We have had meetings on water law, robotic Cowra and this year we are going to go to milkers, equity partnerships and all sorts of Tasmania; we have a good social side too.” different things. Our sponsors attend and we do give them the opportunity to share their The Rochester group has its own committee ideas. The Rochester Vet Clinic is very focused which changes every year. on herd fertility and they regularly come along “We meet for a couple of hours to plan our too. agenda and organise out guest speakers. It is “I have found the whole process very rewarding, important when running something like this that you have a facilitator. If you do it yourself, and if someone out there is thinking about quite often the hard questions aren’t asked and setting up their own DBN go out and sell yourself and your idea. Sponsorship has really if you have someone neutral, than everyone is helped us.” fair game.

Each network consists of eight to 15 dairy farm businesses that meet eight times a year with a qualified consultant to: • Improve farm business management skills. • Review the performance of their business. • Analyse future management changes or capital investments. • Identify and evaluate opportunities for their businesses. The networks are funded through Murray Dairy and the National Centre for Dairy Education Australia for the first 18 months of operation. Farmers are assessed by their

APRIL 2013


Story and picture: Laura Griffin

Point. Click. Grow.

Food safety is everyone’s business

Dairy Food Safety Victoria chief executive Catherine Hollywell said the whole supply chain had to demonstrate food safety to export overseas.

Food safety is an insurance policy for export market access, Dairy Food Safety Victoria chief executive Catherine Hollywell told last month’s UDV conference.

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Dr Hollywell said auditors would continue to She said if the Australian dairy industry visit regularly until their concerns had been wanted access to a market, it had to addressed. Once these issues are resolved, the demonstrate it had achieved what the industry will face less scrutiny. auditors wanted. Not only did food safety practices have to be She said Dairy Food followed, but they had to Safety Victoria, Dairy be well documented and Australia and Department Auditors — as traceable. of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry were She gave the example much as we love working to have easierof the European Union, them, it would to-follow and more which was the last market robust systems for food to system review. Since be great to see safety. 2000, European Union less of them. auditors have visited “Auditors — as much as Australia six times and the we love them, it would be Dr Catherine Hollywell two main issues they were great to see less of them.” concerned about were She said Dairy Food on-farm matters — milk Safety Victoria was cooling and antibiotics residues. working with the Federal Government to “We are a squeak away from being absolutely streamline food safety requirements to make perfect on these fronts. them easier to audit through a one-audit system, instead of being audited by “The way in which you run your farm is different bodies. integral to market access.”


Since January 2012, Dairy Food Safety Victoria has been the formal provider of assurance to the Federal Government on all audit requirements for maintenance of export market access. Dr Hollywell said the requirements could be complex, difficult and challenging. “What we do at Dairy Food Safety Victoria is try to make export market access as troublefree as possible,” Dr Hollywell said. She said auditors from other countries regularly visited Australia to do importing country reviews, which could look at the whole Australian dairy food system or listed plants and even farms. “It’s incredibly important that we do represent Australia as a single system to the rest of the world. Our trade depends on it.” Dr Hollywell said the auditors were “exceptionally good.” “When they visit your farm they ask questions and they want those questions answered.”

APRIL 2013


Planning and timing are in your control: Mother nature will deal up the rest to test your skills.

Story and pictures: Cathy Walker

Farm consultant Phil Shannon

The pros and cons of planting millet was just one topic of robust discussion when the Millawa OKs last met.

Yackandandah verandah, and school’s in at Sam and Lynda McIntosh’s farm. Nutrition in the pipeline.

Minimise risks to get results The McIntosh family’s Back Creek Dairy at Yackandandah was host to a lively discussion day and farm walk when the Rural Finance Milawa OKs (Ovens and King) farmers’ group met in February.

Integra services – reminder checklist for irrigators this water season Host Sam McIntosh.

irrigated pasture the milkers have access to. With teas made and hellos exchanged, as soon how hosts Sam and Lynda McIntosh could minimise their risks. as everyone settled in facilitator Phil Shannon Mr Shannon told the Millawa OKs that wasted no time in engaging them with his preparation for the autumn break — what Sam and Lynda, together with Sam’s parents, intro. to sow and when — included mitigating the made the decision to switch from beef to risks with potential crop failures. ‘‘How do we achieve our 15 per cent return on dairying several years ago. assets, year in year out?’’ he asked, eliciting a ‘‘We did the figures,’’ Sam’s father Stephen said. Ryegrass, perennials, brassicas, cereals and series of groans. mixes were all looked at while later, out in the Figures, notably improving milk production, paddock, a robust debate ensued as the group are still high on their minds. Smiling, he added: ‘‘This afternoon we will inspected the millet. go on to world peace.’’ Describing some of the particulars of Mr Shannon said: ‘‘Millet has an image picturesque Back Creek Dairy, Mr Shannon After he’d been assured world peace might problem with its quality but if it’s well said in the past three or four years there had come more quickly, Mr Shannon said: managed and fertilised it can be a good been a shift to autumn calving. There were ‘‘Today’s forum will be on the operational option. 120 cows to calve in autumn, 42 in spring side; the basics of establishing and growing a and 39 empties and unjoined. successful crop.’’ ‘‘You’ll always get that debate, to me if the water’s available you’re better off growing In bold print on his ‘discussion starters’ notes, On the day the self-organised farm group something than nothing.’’ met, production per cow was 1.4 kg milk Mr Shannon had written ‘‘planning and solids/cow/day and they were being fed 4 kg timing are in your control: Mother nature He stressed the importance of timing sowing of grain in the shed and 2 kg in the mixer will deal up the rest to test your skills’’ and before a rain break, remembering the hazards wagon, plus hay. Grazing included millet it was a recurring theme as the group looked of ‘‘enough moisture to strike but not sustain’’. (2.5 kg) that is included in the 50 ha of at which crops to choose for best effect and 24

APRIL 2013

Irrigation sprinklers with dry cows in the distance.


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Story and pictures: Cathy Walker

Talk about grass: host Mark McDonald answers questions from field day visitors.

The McDonald herd; selected, Narelle McDonald said, for their production capacity over bloodlines.

Tough times call for good planning As members of the Focus Farms Project, Mark and Narelle McDonald have been under the microscope for nearly three years.


APRIL 2013

and explained the division of pastures. The property, like many in the north-east, includes irrigated river flats, rising dryland and steeper dryland paddocks. Pasture selection is based first on the ability of each area to sustain perennial ryegrass; if this is unlikely, a species such as Italian or annual ryegrasses are used based on moisture retention. Fodder crops including millet, pasja, forage brassicas and chicory are strategically used to fill anticipated feed gaps. ‘‘The current hot, dry conditions are a return to a normal north-east summer. Now we’re sweating on a timely autumn break and trying to make decisions about sowing,’’ Mr McCormick said. He said low-risk options for the McDonalds would be taken first on the flats and watered

up, while dryland paddocks would not need to be sown until they were comfortable they weren’t taking unnecessary risks. ‘‘Use of safer species such as oats should be the first sown on dryland country — this strategy works regardless of geography or irrigation capability.’’ Earlier, when opening the hayshed session, regular facilitator John Mulvaney posed the question ‘‘are we in crisis?’’. Host Mark McDonald’s summation was this: ‘‘It’s tight, it’s not a crisis.’’ Later, trekking around the farm to show field day visitors the cows, pasture and weed control plans, it was easy to see how this committed dairying couple was reaping the rewards of detailed planning and gradually building their stake in the industry, cow by cow.

IN FOCUS: Mark and Narelle McDonald, Tallangatta South Farm facts

Tallangatta South Focus Farm participants Mark and Narelle McDonald with their farmhand and neighbour Jack Wilson.

They’ve had regular meetings with their support group of farming, agronomy and accounting experts that looks in detail at their finances, dairy stock and farming practices. So hosting an open day for other farmers and contractors to look at their growing strategies was probably light relief for the Tallangatta South couple and their staff on a hot northeast Victoria summer’s day. With several rows of utes parked in the nearby paddock, facilitator Darren McCormick from Landmark NorMac had a hayshed for his classroom as he introduced the ‘class’ to the nuts and bolts of the farm and the specific focus of the session: looking at pastures and forages. Mr McCormick, who is being mentored by the McDonalds’ regular Focus Farm facilitator John Mulvany, gave an overview of the farm

Use of safer species such as oats should be the first sown on dryland country — this strategy works regardless of geography or irrigation capability. Darren McCormick

445 ha in three blocks; irrigation 129 ha (40 ha pivot, 89 ha lasered) Split calving (mid-March 65%, late August 35%) Production: 440 cows (Dec 2012) @ 535 kg milk solids/cow Milk price: $5.34 net of levies Objectives: Improve cash flow, reduce debt, invest off-farm longer term and have an annual holiday and more family time with sons Dughal and Jock

APRIL 2013


Story and picture: Cathy Walker

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Genetics experts in a panel session at Herd2013 are (from left) Holstein Australia chief executive officer Matthew Shaffer, Holstein Association USA’s Tom Lawlor, Genetics Australia’s Peter Thurn, Select Sires USA’s Joel Mergler, ICAR president Uffe Lauretson, and CanWest DHI general manager Neil Petreny.

Next step for dairy genetics An American geneticist told the Herd2013 conference despite the evolution in the United States dairy genetics industry, today’s leaders had the same mission as those of almost a century ago: better cows, more efficiency, better farm management and helping to ensure the profitability of its members. Holstein Association USA research and development director Tom Lawlor said genomics had been a “game changer” and numbers illustrated his point. In April 2010, 41 822 Holsteins in the US had been genotyped — by March 2013 that figure had reached 295 246. Because of the tremendous interest in — and profit from — high genetic merit animals, increasingly questions were raised about making money from the data. Dr Lawlor said the US dairy genetics industry recognised the changing landscape of animal breeding. It wanted more control of its data, more input in determining what genetic evaluation services would be provided, and to work out how to distribute costs among data providers and non-data providers in a fairer way. “USDA-ARS is looking to the US dairy genetics industry to become more self-reliant

and take on the service components of genomic calculations and fulfil the future service needs of its industry,” Dr Lawlor said. “They want the industry to provide direct input and make more decisions on the future of the genetic evaluation program.” Dr Lawlor told the conference a big structural change was afoot that would mean a publicprivate venture to clarify ownership and control of the data used in the evaluations. “The Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding proposed a business plan for a public-private venture with US Drug Administration (USDA). “The CDCB will take on the service commitment of the genetic evaluations and USDA will concentrate on research.” He said issues involving governance, capitalisation, assurance of operational success and open access to breeders had largely been thrashed out. He said USDA scientists would continue to be involved with the industry. “They’ll still engage us by showing us their new discoveries and offering guidance on its applicability. They’ll be coaxing us along.” Dr Lawlor said with the changes, USDA researchers would have more time to spend on research, bringing them more in line with the

mission of the Agricultural Research Service and less likely to be a target of any future government budget cuts. Despite being at the cutting edge of technology, the Holstein Association USA is still housed in a building built by one of its members in Brattleboro, Vermont, in 1917. During his presentation, Dr Lawlor recalled what scientist J.L. Lush wrote in his 1938 book, Animal Breeding Plans, that “offspring show what kind of inheritance it really has and will transmit”.

USDA-ARS is looking to the US dairy genetics industry to become more self-reliant and take on the service components of genomic calculations and fulfil the future service needs of its industry. Dr Tom Lawlor

Suitable for spreading manure, compost, lime, gypsum and garden waste, among other things The Calypso are wide spreaders suitable for spreading stall manure, compost, chalk and garden waste among other things. The Calypso with vertical distribution beaters. The Calypso can be delivered in 8, 11 and 18 ton variants and in single-axle or tandem-axle models with a steel loading floor and galvanized side walls as standard. The manure slide, which is placed in front of the beaters, can also serve as a measuring slide for fine material.

APRIL 2013


New diet guidelines good for milk Updated guidelines for a national health body substantiate the important role of dairy foods in Australian diets. The National Health and Medical and colorectal cancer — some Research Commission’s guidelines of the main causes of death in have been welcomed by industry Australia. representatives. “Importantly at a time when more Murray Dairy chief executive than half of Australian adults officer Leanne Mulcahy said it was are overweight or obese, the good news for the Murray region, evidence shows that milk, cheese which produces more than 20 per and yoghurt (including regularcent of the nation’s milk. fat and reduced fat varieties) are not linked to increased risk of “The Dairy Australia team has been working on behalf of farmers overweight or obesity.’’ since 2009 to ensure the health “The NHMRC recommendation benefits of dairy are recognised to increase consumption of milk, and we are pleased the council yoghurt and cheese is timely has strengthened the guidelines as the majority of Australians in relation to dairy,’’ Ms Mulcahy currently don’t eat enough dairy. said. If they did, healthcare budgets “Consumption of milk/dairy foods would be cut.’’ is linked to a reduced risk of heart Australian Dairy Farmers disease, stroke, hypertension, type president Noel Campbell said 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome the new recommendations

highlighted the strengthening of the evidence supporting the importance of dairy foods within a healthy diet. Mr Campbell said teens and adults up to the age of 50 have had their minimum recommendations for milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives increased by half a serve a day, up to 3.5 serves/day for teens and 2.5 serves/day for adults. The group with the biggest increase in recommendations was for women aged 51 plus, whose daily recommendations have doubled, from two serves to four serves/day. Men 70+ have also had a big increase from two serves to 3.5 serves/day.

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Story and pictures: Sophie Bruns

Grass is always


Steve Hawken is convinced the key to profitability in the dairy industry lies in green grass.

Stephen Hawken is focused on soil health.

always graze it at night when sugar levels are at their highest. This season herd numbers will be 230 in autumn and by spring 260. There are no plans to increase numbers any further at this stage.


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I have been there and done that and tried most things in the dairy industry but now I’m getting older I just want to keep things simple… Stephen Hawken

4x4 Mode Turf Mode

Stephen Hawken talked about his pasture priorities at a recent field day.

He and his partner Jacquie Challis moved Mr Hawken’s commitment to soil health has seen him largely avoid the use of high analysis to their 178 ha dairy farm at Bamawm only fertilisers. 14 months ago but they have made pasture improvement and soil health their main focus. “I think the writing is on the wall for high analysis fertilisers due to their rising cost so I “We are focusing on soil health and have have decided to focus on soil health. been using a lot of calcium through a foliar application spray because that is the cheapest “I did use some DAP on some sorghum I grew way to get it into the soil. We use regular recently but that is about it. I am prepared applications of CALX at a rate of 50 litres/ha,” to make changes if I know I will be rewarded Mr Hawken said. with good pasture growth down the track.” Pastures consist of 40 ha of lucerne, 30 ha of “There has been a noticeable improvement pure shaftal, 11 ha of permanent pasture and particularly on the poorer ground where we the balance 150AR37 (a perennial ryegrass applied huge amounts. On a 6 ha patch we with a white and red clover). put on 150 litres/ha and that ended up being one of the better performing areas for us. “The 150AR37 has a fair bit of bug resistance and I know the crickets are certainly leaving “I won’t lie and say it has been easy, and I have that alone at the moment and eating some of spent a lot of money, but I firmly believe in the other pastures instead,” Mr Hawken said. doing things right the first time. I think we are starting to see the light and by spring 2014 The lucerne block formed the basis of feed for the herd over the summer months. They I think we really will be kicking some goals.”

Temporary water has been used to grow crops.

“The only time we have had to buy hay was Mr Hawken credits his agronomist Col when we first moved here. I am expecting to Bowey with helping him get the mix right on purchase some barley straw and our grain for the farm. the dairy but that should be it,” Mr Hawken “I like the way he talks and thinks — I am very said. happy with the way things are going. “There is a fine line with self-sufficiency and “If Col can save me purchasing loads of hay stepping over the line puts you into a whole because I can grow more grass and keep different business model. things simple then we are all happy.” “I have been there and done that and tried When Mr Hawken moved to his new most things in the dairy industry but now I’m property from Benjeroop (his farm was getting older I just want to keep things simple bought by the Victorian Government in and focus more on my family. the buyback scheme after the 2010 floods), “If I can send the cows down to the paddock he did so without any permanent water and shut the gate and not worry about them allocation. again ’til morning then I am happy. He has been able to grow his fodder through “I love my mixer wagon and I am happy to use purchasing temporary water and using a it when I need to but I am equally happy to 250 Ml licence for recycled water. There is see it sitting in the shed.” a 500 Ml bore licence on the property but

because of the salt content of the water, he has avoided using that if he can. “I have zero high reliability and low reliability water shares, a fact that still makes me feel uncomfortable today even though things are going pretty well here at the moment. “I am not in a position to buy any water even though it is cheap enough but the rules keep changing all the time anyway and that makes it very hard for us to farm. “Water should never have been separated from the land in the first place. It has distorted the market place and made it extremely hard for us to compete. “Instead of being used to grow food and fibre water is now being used to create wealth in share portfolios and that is ruining the agriculture sector.” APRIL 2013


Story and pictures: Sophie Bruns

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Gary Wachter from Nannella with solar equipment.

Solar investment aims to cut power bills Gary Wachter is hoping the sun will continue to shine on his Nanneella property after he recently installed a 30 kW solar power system on the roof of his dairy. The system, which includes six 5 kW inverters and 150 solar panels, cost about $55 000 to install. Gary is expecting payback time to be around five years. “I have been looking for a system like this for a long time, previously the systems out there just weren’t big enough,” Gary said. Gary milks about 200 cows in his 25-a-side swing-over dairy. He is expecting his power bill to be minimal during the summer months and as long as the sun is shining during the cooler months, his panels will continue to produce power. The system is capable of generating about 240 kW per day and Gary’s daily usage averages out to be about 120 kW. “The system was only installed in January so I haven’t got that far but I am expecting it to work well. I’m sure it will be below my needs in winter but I haven’t done it to make money but rather to cut the power

bill out. I am only getting paid eight cents a kW for the extra power I produce.” Some of the immediate benefits Gary has noticed have been access to additional hot water through the dairy and he no longer has to worry about using off-peak power. “You have to change your way of thinking a bit and run everything through the day, while the system is generating the largest volumes of electricity.” The system is currently coping with the dairy, roller mill and vat and when these things aren’t in operation, Gary takes great joy in opening up the meter box and watching the meter run backwards. The system was installed by True Value solar in Bendigo. The panels are guaranteed for 25 years and the inverters for five years. Gary has insured the system under his shed insurance. “We should be pretty right, short of a mammoth hail storm the size of cricket balls. “It makes me feel good that I am doing something positive, it is just another little thing we can do to help the environment.”

Solar panels at the Nanneella dairy.

Solar controls at the Nanneella dairy.

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Managing good pasture can be reduced to a three-step, ABC, approach.

The ABCs of good grazing A new information sheet has been released by Dairy Australia outlining practical applications of grazing principles. The 3030 Project identified three pasture management strategies as the keys to successful management of perennial ryegrass pasture. The ‘ABC targets’ are: A. Graze between the second and third leaf stage. B. Leave a post-grazing residual of 4–6 cm between pasture clumps (equivalent to 1500–1600 kg/dry matter or DM/ha). C. Maintain a constant cover of green leaf area all year. The Grazing management to maximize growth and nutritive value information sheet of this series explained the research background and principles behind these ABC targets. This information sheet focuses on how to achieve the ABC targets in practice. It discusses some of the particular issues and lessons that have arisen from the 3030 Project experiences in southern Australia. The information sheet describes the practical application of perennial ryegrass management principles for farm managers and advisers who are already familiar with the leaf stagebased grazing management theory.

As a refresher, or initial familiarisation with these principles and techniques, Dairy Australia recommends a training program called Feeding Pastures for Profit run by DPI Victoria. The program includes the use of the ‘Rotation Right’ tool and a practical decisionmaking guide called The Body of Evidence. The focus of the program is on the day-to-day practical observation of pasture with the aim of achieving high levels of energy intake, and grazing pastures on a leaf stagebased rotation with a residue of about 5 cm. The information sheet is available on Dairy Australia’s website.

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Constitution under review

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This is an important initiative providing the opportunity to evaluate where Dairy Australia’s operational governance processes can be enhanced for the benefit of both its members and the industry in general. Allan Burgess

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Drying-off is a once-alactation opportunity to eliminate existing infections.

A blanket approach to udder treatment at drying-off can be worthwhile.

Dairy Australia’s Countdown Downunder project leader John Penry said treatment at drying-off was the best opportunity to reduce cell counts and existing mastitis infections in preparation for next season; and this opportunity was even more important after wet, humid conditions when there may be more infected quarters in the herd. “In most cases it’s worth investing in a blanket approach to dry cow treatment; that is, treating all quarters of all cows at drying-off,” Dr Penry said. “The best results will be achieved by using a combination of antibiotic dry cow treatment to cure mastitis and a teat sealant to protect the teat canal from new infection after consultation with your vet.”

The best results will be achieved by using a combination of antibiotic dry cow treatment to cure mastitis and a teat sealant to protect the teat canal from new infection after consultation with your vet. John Penry

He said the timetable agreed by the panel saw invitations for submissions being distributed, with April 22 the deadline for submissions. The panel anticipates the need in certain cases to follow-up with face-to-face meetings. “It is expected that the panel’s report will be delivered to the Dairy Australia board by the end of July, in time to frame proposals for constitutional amendments to be considered at the 2013 Dairy Australia AGM,” Mr Burgess said. “This is an important initiative providing the opportunity to evaluate where Dairy Australia’s operational governance processes can be enhanced for the benefit of both its members and the industry in general.” Anyone with questions can contact Ross Joblin on 9694 3785. For more information, go to: www.

An independent review of Dairy Australia’s constitution is under way in consultation with the dairy industry. The review panel — comprising John Lawrenson, John Doyle, Ross Joblin and Allan Burgess — met at the beginning of February and has formally adopted the terms of reference. Over the past four weeks the panel has developed Dairy Australia explanatory notes and key issues, which will be made available to those who want to make a submission, and a comprehensive communications plan for the review process. Panel chairman Allan Burgess said a specific constitutional review website had been developed which contained background information on the review, the review panel and the history of the constitution, and had an online form for site visitors to make a submission directly to the review.

Following Countdown Downunder’s drying-off plan checklist will help you prepare for the job so the process runs smoothly on the day. The checklist takes you through the key decisions to be made such as timing, products, people and what to do after the cows are treated. Planning When planning you should consider the issues that affect the timing of dry cow treatment; for example, the intended length of dry period, whether accurate calving dates are available from pregnancy test results, and how cows will be managed when they are producing between five and 12 litres per day. This is also the time to decide on a clean location for newly treated cows, and to schedule any preparation needed for that location. Discuss the treatment options with your vet and order any products such as tubes and teat wipes well in advance. Get it right An important part of the preparations is to allocate enough time and people to the job. Poor administration technique can carry bacteria into the udder, so it is essential to get it right. Provide advance training for anyone administering antibiotic dry cow treatment or teat sealant or both. To do the job well you can only treat about 20 cows an hour.

After treatment Decide well in advance how cows will be managed after treatment. Don’t transport cows immediately if you can help it. They’ll need a clean area for at least a week after drying-off. Never put them in areas that have had effluent spread. Work out a procedure for checking cows for swollen quarters for the next week. Decide who will do it, how and when. You’ll also need to decide how to deal with cows that leak milk. “A little planning before drying-off is the key to a better run next lactation,” Dr Penry said. “If you are going to spend the time and money on dry cow treatments, it’s worth doing well, so you reap the rewards next season in terms of fewer clinical cases, lower cell counts, less stress treating cows with clinical mastitis and improved milk quality.”

For more information refer to Countdown Downunder’s ‘Checklist for Drying-off Plan’ available on Countdown

APRIL 2013


You don’t have to spend a fortune to make some energy efficiencies, as Girgarre farmer Tim Leahy explained to Sophie Bruns.


Audit shows where efficiencies can be made

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When the Fonterra milk factory offered free energy audits to its suppliers last April, Tim Leahy decided to take part. Now, 12 months on, he has implemented many of the changes recommended by the audit, for a cost of less than $1000. “Around 66 per cent of our electricity costs are associated with cooling milk. Our vat is old and our next major investment is a new dairy, so we didn’t want to waste a lot of money on something that will change in the future,” Tim said. They have instead made a number of small changes which have enabled the milk to enter the vat at a cooler temperature, reducing running time from 3.5 hours to 2.5 hours. “We can’t make any savings in milking time (the dairy is a 10-a-side double-up) so we have just had to work with what we had and try to make what savings we could cooling the milk.” The first change implemented was to increase the amount of water through the single plate cooler by running a bigger water line into the dairy. “We now have more water going through the old system, making it more efficient. We have restricted milk flow by putting a smaller pipe on a section of the milk pump — instead of going through in three seconds it now takes six seconds. We were told this would create too much froth and affect the composition of milk solids but that hasn’t happened. The milk now has a longer period of time to go through the plate cooler, reducing the temperature of it entering the vat from 23 degrees to 18–20 degrees.” The vat compressor is housed in

a room instead of out in the open like they are today, so there were issues with that working properly, too. “We have put in more ventilation and some whirly winds on the roof. We have wired in some exhaust fans which turn on when the compressor runs. They are much more efficient than the old louvre window and help suck out some of the additional hot air. We were told to put a solid door on the engine room and we have done that, too. The compressor is more efficient because it now has cooler air going through the fins and is operating in a better climate.” This April-May herd numbers will increase to 200 so it was important for the business to make some changes. “I have spent just under $1000 to make $1000 and the changes we have made haven’t been that hard. Ideally a new vat and an industrial plate cooler would be good, but we will do that when we build a new dairy. “Some farmers probably think something like this is a waste of money, but a lot of people don’t understand where all their energy usage is. I found it very worthwhile because it gave me a starting point for our consumption. It is a bit of mucking around to work out how long motors run for, and at what times of the day, but it is worth it. “Completing the audit has made me more wary about what is going on in the farm and if I think the pressure pump is running for too long I’ll go and see why. Electricity costs have gone through the roof and it is important to do what we can to reduce them.”

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Tim Leahy has made small improvements in the dairy which have lifted energy efficiency.

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Scholarship opens doors Are you active in your community and “Personally, this program has given me the opportunity to gain a greater understanding looking for a new learning opportunity? of who I am and what drives me, and it Do you want to improve your ability to has made me a lot more aware of the wider influence the future of your community community that surrounds me.” and make rewarding new friendships? As a farm consultant with CRC Agrisolutions If so, you may be eligible for a Gardiner and Young Dairy Network co-ordinator for Foundation scholarship to participate in the the Murray Dairy region, Ms Torpy said her 2013 Alpine Valleys Community Leadership participation in the program had also helped Program. her professionally. The Alpine Valleys Community Leadership “It has given me a greater level of confidence Program spans 10 months of experiential education, starting in July. in my own skill set, and my ability to communicate more effectively with my During this time participants experience clients.” an extraordinary journey of personal discovery, while developing an appreciation Inquiries and applications regarding the 2013 for the variety and uniqueness of north-east AVCLP are welcomed from people who are Victoria. Program days offer participants the either: opportunity to meet a broad range of regional, • actively involved in the dairy industry state and national leaders. in north-eastern Victoria, or This partnership with AVCLP provides an • active community members in the Mitta opportunity for three people to build their Valley (whether involved in dairy or not). skills, confidence and networks within their The closing date for applications is June 3. region. 2012 Gardiner scholarship recipient Geraldine For more information or to apply, contact executive officer Kim Scanlon at Torpy, of Moyhu, recommended the program to others. Reflecting on her experiences during or 0417 348 517. The website is: the first half of the AVCLP program, she said:

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calendar of events NCDEA’s Upcoming Training Programs Manage Farm Safety Kyabram Friday, May 3 Friday, May 10 Numurkah Friday, June 14 Friday, June 21

10 am – 3 pm 10 am – 3 pm 10 am – 3 pm 10 am – 3 pm

Cups On / Cups Off Lockington Monday, April 22 Tuesday, April 23 Katunga Monday, May 6 Tuesday, May 7 Corryong Monday, June 3 Tuesday, June 4

9.30 am – 2.30 pm 9.30 am – 12.30 pm 9.30 am – 2.30 pm 9.30 am – 12.30 pm 9.30 am – 2.30 pm 9.30 am – 12.30 pm

Farm Chemical Users Course Cobram Thursday, April 18 Friday, April 19 Tatura Thursday, May 23 Friday, May 24 Pyramid Hill Thursday, June 20 Friday, June 21

9 am – 4 pm 9 am – 4 pm 9 am – 4 pm 9 am – 4 pm 9 am – 4 pm 9 am – 4 pm

Farm Chemical Update Cobram Friday, April 19 Tatura Friday, May 24 Pyramid Hill Friday, June 21

9 am – 4 pm 9 am – 4 pm 9 am – 4 pm

Artificial Insemination (AI) Tatura DPI (Part A) Wednesday, May 8 9 am – 4 pm Sunbury – Salesian College (Part B) Wednesday, May 15 9 am – 4 pm Thursday, May 16 9 am – 4 pm

Quad Bike Operations Katunga Monday, April 15 Moyhu Monday, May 20

9 am – 4 pm 9 am – 4 pm

Professional Handling of Dairy Cattle Shepparton William Orr Tuesday, April 16 10 am – 3 pm Friday, May 24 10 am – 3 pm Kiewa Bowls Club Monday, May 20 10 am – 3 pm Tuesday, June 11 10 am – 3 pm Numurkah Wednesday, May 15 10 am – 3 pm Wednesday, June 19 10 am – 3 pm

People GPS — Employment  workshop for Dairy Farmers William Orr Campus – Shepparton Wednesday, April 24 10 am – 3 pm Wednesday, May 1 10 am – 3 pm Wednesday, May 15 10 am – 3 pm Wednesday, May 22 10 am – 3 pm

Develop a soil health and plant nutrition program William Orr Campus – Shepparton Thursday, May 2 10 am – 3 pm Thursday, May 9 10 am – 3 pm Thursday, May 16 10 am – 3 pm Thursday, May 23 10 am – 3 pm

Implement and monitor quality assurance procedures

Murray Dairy’s calendar of events Tasmanian YDN Research tour Tuesday, April 30 to Thursday, May 2.

Deni Innovation Expo Friday, May 3 to Saturday, May 4 9 am – 4.30 pm.

Climate Signals and Risk  Management Workshop

William Orr Campus – Shepparton Thursday, June 6 10 am – 3 pm

Thursday, May 9 and Friday, May 10. Location and time to be announced.

Manage pastures for  livestock production

Gippsland YDN Research tour

William Orr Campus – Shepparton Thursday, June 13 10 am – 3 pm Thursday, June 20 10 am – 3 pm Thursday, June 27 10 am – 3 pm Thursday, July 4 10 am – 3 pm

Develop and Review a  Business Plan William Orr Campus – Shepparton (Blended Delivery) Wednesday, May 29 10 am – 3 pm Wednesday, June 5 10 am – 3 pm Wednesday, June 12 10 am – 3 pm Wednesday, June 19 10 am – 3 pm

Note: Training programs may be cancelled or delayed if there are insufficient enrolments. To enrol or find out more information contact the Customer Service Team on 1300 0NCDEA (1300 062 332) or 0447 379 565.

Tuesday, May 28 to Thursday, May 30.

Murray Dairy Focus Farm Field Days Tuesday, April 16 – Toolamba Focus Farm Tuesday, May 28 – Koondrook Focus Farm Thursday, June 20 – Katandra West Focus Farm Friday, June 28 – Tallangatta Focus Farm

Coming soon May/June/July  – Tactics for Tight Times Field Days For Murray Dairy inquiries contact Jeanette on 5833 5312 or email APRIL 2013


VIKING’s NTM SYSTEM The most complete and profitable in the world! Focus on Daughter fertility Milking speed

Temperament Production

Udder Feet & Legs Longevity


Other diseases

The Daughter fertility index consists of fertility data from heifers, first, second and third calvers. It includes numbers of inseminations, interval from calving to 1st insemination, interval between first and last insemination. Non Return Rate at 56 days after first insemination and heat strength.

Daughter fertility

Udder health Calvings maternal

Calvings Sire



S Ross Fertility: 126

D Onside Fertility: 111

Reduces days open by 21 days

Reduces days open by 9 days

• More than 90% of all registered dairy cows in Milk Recording (MR) in Denmark, Finland and Sweden • Pedigree file goes back to 1960 • 88 % use of AI

For more information contact:

• 90% of all cows in MR contribute with registration of health • 90% of all cows in MR contribute with fertility data • 90% of all cows in MR contribute to information about size of calves, calf survival and calving ease VikingGenetics Australia 53 Towong Street, Tallangatta, VIC 3700 Tel: (02) 6071 3007. Fax: (02) 6071 3006

Dairy direct april 2013 (low res)