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Issue 7, August 2013

Wisdom of age Brown Swiss are known for their longevity and good health » page 8 Sharing means caring » page 26 The accidental dairy trainer » page 32 To 2020 and beyond » page 39

Editor Geoff Adams Writers Cathy Walker Laura Griffin Sophie Bruns

Cover: A Brown Swiss cow at Strathmerton Story page 8

Photographers Julie Mercer Bianca Mibus Jayme Lowndes Graphic designer Brendan Cain Riverine Herald production team Sales manager Jamie Gilbert Published by Country News PO Box 204, Shepparton, Victoria 3632 (03) 5831 2312

Supported by:

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August 2013

Dairy Direct The highlight of my primary school holidays was weeks on end at my uncle’s Clydebank dairy farm, triple-dinking on the old chestnut mare with my cousins, feeding calves and hosing out the dairy yard. Hosing was one of the most satisfying jobs ever and I felt like a valued member of the team — at age 10 the term ‘‘wasting water’’ wasn’t on the horizon. There were no computer games to keep us inside — nor were there computers in the dairy or organising the irrigation: that was done by my uncle, with a shovel and often a torch. How times change. These days there would be liability lawyers at 50 paces at the sniff of three little hatless kids on a pony. Hosing down still happens, but every drop of water is accounted for and dairy farmers recognise the value in employing trained, engaged and tech-savvy staff. In this issue of Dairy Direct we talk to a variety of people working in the dairy industry, look at on-farm irrigation improvements and the latest water research, and dip into Dairy Australia’s Horizon 2020 plan. Of course those calves still need to be fed, but as this edition’s tips suggest, calf rearing is more sophisticated these days too. Cathy Walker Country News journalist and Dairy Direct acting editor.


People power

Doing Dairy with Sophie Bruns

Caring for the human face of the dairy industry.

This issue of Dairy Direct focuses on the people side of the dairy industry. Whether it’s people management, encouraging careers in dairy, business transition or looking after ourselves, the people aspect of our industry is of real importance. Part of this involves ensuring that the dairy business itself is robust enough to better cope with the seasonal volatility. Over the past decade and more, our industry has faced nearly every challenge that could possibly be thrown at it. Cameron Smith’s article inside this edition follows 14 northern Victorian dairy farm businesses from 2003 through to the current season. Despite climate and market volatility, each of these businesses has increased its net worth and maintained an average annual return on equity of some eight per cent. One of the findings within the recently released Horizon 2020 report is the market for dairy products will continue to grow over time, however, more volatility of incomes and input costs is also a certainty.

This highlights the need to further build resilience to do business in an environment of volatility. Milk prices, input costs and weather conditions will continue to fluctuate from season to season. As such, we need a long-term outlook for wealth creation and a robust industry that has the capacity to adapt to inevitable volatilities. We must maximise seasonal opportunities which are currently lining up and consolidate our businesses so that in 12 months’ time we can look back and see that our businesses are in a much improved position. As a region, we need to be robust enough to withstand seasonal variances — being focused on being profitable, productive and good stewards of the resources we use over the longer term. Our businesses must be positioned so that a difficult season or seasons do not make or break us. A long-term outlook and taking optimal advantage of seasonal variations is necessary for our continued success as a competitive dairy region. Malcolm Holm Chairman, Murray Dairy


Dairy news


Lots to love about Swiss breed


Ad campaign talks people, not products


Understanding your herd’s calving pattern


Tactics are paying off


Does milking the system work?


Lead feeding shows the way


Farms thriving despite challenges


Dairy Australia calving feature


Move makes sense


Ready, willing — and trained


No space monkeys among these Astronauts 25 Sharing equals caring


Training lifts farm performance


Positive impact expected from vaccine


Passionate about genetics


The accidental dairy trainer


Home is where the herd is


Scientist joins dairy team


Taking control of their destiny


Group offers new perspective


Horizon 2020 report


Transition feeding vital for cow health


The choice is theirs


Giving calves a head start


Calendar of events




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Doing Dairy with SOPHIE BRUNS

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

All the best intentions Plans fall down as busy time approaches. As I write our farm is shrouded in a thick fog that has been hanging around for the past few days. The paddocks are wet, there is no feed and the tractor is working overtime feeding out hay — oh, the joys of milking through winter. We like so many others are counting the days to spring — grass in the paddocks and a bit of warmer weather. As farmers we always seem to be watching and commenting on the weather. Not long now until our first lot of heifers hit the dairy. I am looking forward to this with mixed emotions — fear for my body (in particular my arms) and relief that our stock numbers will finally start to increase. One of our priorities this spring is to plant some natives for shade. We are organised — we have already bought the

$700 worth of trees, we just need a group of fairies to come in and plant them for us. As with all things we had the right intentions but somewhere along the way, time got away from us again, and now here we are, with 500 trees to plant in spring. Like we will have time then. Who am I trying to kid? Rob had every intention to call the electrician and fix the motor on the feed system but that got away from him too and then all of a sudden, there we were bucketing grain into the dairy for 164 hungry cows. Of course the replacement part had to come from Melbourne and took a few days to get here and now I look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, with a crook back and elbow. A 20 litre bucket of grain on each arm soon gets heavy, I’ll give you the tip.

Where would we be without our intentions? It’s like the house. I had every intention to clean out the linen cupboard and the kitchen cupboards while the cows were out but here we are a couple of weeks away from calving, and I still haven’t found the time. I have managed to bring some state of order to the office though. I even found the milk statement from last year I spent hours trying to track down. Yippee. It is hard to find the motivation for all these intentions when all you want to do is lie down in front of the heater and read a good book and close your eye until spring — just make sure your body rests a safe distance from the heater and your clothes aren’t flammable.

dairy news

Good genes means more milk Feeding system research debunks myths. Research has found good genes mean more milk regardless of the feeding system. Pauline Brightling led the Feeding the Genes study that debunked the myth that the benefits of cows with higher genetic merit were not realised in herds using a low bail or total mixed ration feeding system. Dr Brightling said the results also dispelled the common view that high genetic merit cows did not last in the herd. ‘‘In all feeding systems the Holstein daughters of higher Australian Profit Rankings sires produce more milk. And, not only do they produce more milk, they are just as likely if not more likely to last in the herd as daughters of lower Australian Profit Rankings sires,’’ Dr Brightling said. ‘‘These findings support the use of high ranked Australian Profit Rankings sires listed


August 2013

in the Good Bulls Guide for all dairy herds, regardless of breed or feeding system.’’ The study used data from 505 commercial Australian dairy herds that used a range of feeding systems. Holstein and Jersey cows were analysed separately. Dr Brightling said while there were benefits of using genetically higher ranked cows across all feeding systems, the response from selecting high Australian Profit Rankings sires was greatest in herds with Holstein cows using more intensive feeding systems. Jersey daughters of high Australian Profit Rankings sires produced more milk volume, fat and protein but there was not enough data to compare feeding systems. The study was commissioned by the Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme with Dairy Australia funding.

dairy news




Left to right: RMCG (the report consultants) partner Charles Thompson; Dairy Australia policy strategy manager Claire Miller; Australian Dairy Farmers Natural Resources Policy Group chair Daryl Hoey; Australian Dairy Farmers president Noel Campbell; and farmers Lee and Bryan Rushton, whose property was one of the 10 featured in the case studies.

Upgrades the way Research shows benefits are flowing. Rochester farmers Lee and Bryan Rushton played host to the launch of a major piece of irrigation research last month. Theirs was one of the farms put under the blowtorch for a study that showed government and farmer-funded upgrades to irrigation systems are reaping multiple benefits with production gains, reduced water use and increased regional economic activity. The Dairy Australiacommissioned Cost Benefit Analysis of Farm Irrigation Modernisation studied 10 properties within the MurrayDarling Basin in northern Victoria and southern NSW. It found that the farm upgrades delivered the environmental, social and economic outcomes that regional communities expected from the MurrayDarling Basin Plan. Among the areas studied were dairy farms at Finley, Wyuna, Tatura and Calivil. Australian Dairy Farmers Natural Resources Policy Group chair Daryl Hoey welcomed the report saying it confirmed what the industry has been arguing for years: that substantial water savings can be achieved and that water buybacks are just one small part of the solution. “This report found that farm upgrades cost the government around $3700 / Ml of water savings for the environment and at the same time delivered gross productivity gains to farmers

worth an average $9800 / Ml of water savings,’’ Mr Hoey said. ‘‘In turn, increased farm production generates additional regional economic activity worth $6200 / Ml. “While buybacks may cost less, at around $2000 / Ml, they are also associated with reduced regional farm productivity. This in turn reduces regional economic activity by around $4300 for every Ml purchased by the government.” The case studies covered a mix of farm sizes and irrigation systems, and included self-funded farm works as well as participants in the Federal Government’s On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program. The report shows that by working to upgrade farms, substantial economic benefits can the achieved both for the farmer and the broader community. “By comparing a range of farms, this report shows once and for all that there are real and longlasting benefits for local farmers and regional economies from upgrades to irrigation systems,” Mr Hoey said. “It also shows that for the ongoing benefits of the MDBP to continue to flow to regional Australia, continued government support for water upgrades is vital. “The industry urges all parties to back regional Australia by capping water buybacks at 1500 Gl and recover water for the environment through infrastructure savings instead.



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dairy news Labour woes compounded New bill makes challenging situation more complex.

Antibiotic use raises ‘superbug’ concerns A report says on-farm use may threaten humans. Scientists fear the use of antibiotics in livestock may be increasing the threat of superbugs being passed on to humans. A Senate inquiry has recommended the government consider banning for use on Australian animals all antibiotics listed by the World Health Organisation as critically important in human medicine. It reported there was ‘‘an urgent need to tighten monitoring and regulation of antibiotics given to farm animals’’. Cobram Veterinary Clinic’s dairy veterinarian Bill Tom said there were different groups or families of antibiotics, with penicillin the most commonly used on-farm to treat regular problems such as mastitis, footrot or postcalving complications. In dairy cows there are lots of sicknesses caused by bacteria. For example, with mastitis — which is painful and impacts on food quality — it is completely appropriate to treat with antibiotics, Dr Tom said. But the way antibiotics are used is evolving. ‘‘In years gone past we would have routinely given it for footrot; now it’s much more selectively used and the hoof may need local treatment such as trimming,’’ Dr Tom said. Melbourne’s Austin Hospital’s professor of infectious diseases Lindsay Grayson said the use of drugs such as ceftiofur in animals 6

August 2013

presented a serious risk of antibiotic resistance developing. ‘‘That’s in the same class of penicillin-like antibiotic that many human antibiotics are in,’’ he said. Dr Tom agreed with Prof Grayson’s comments about risks associated with the use of cephalosporins. ‘‘On one hand it’s attractive to farmers because there’s no milk withholding (period); it doesn’t get into milk.’’ Meat industries say banning this class of antibiotics, known as aminoglycosides, wouldn’t have a great impact. Australian Lot Feeders Association president Don Mackay said the class was not used in the cattle industry in vast amounts and Australian Pork Ltd production and stewardship manager Pat Mitchell said a survey showed ceftiofur resistance was negligible within the pig industry. Dr Tom said in the Netherlands there was a government mandate to reduce the use of antibiotics in farm animals. He said vets were responsible for prescribing antibiotics and only did so to bona fide clients with whom they had an ongoing relationship. In Australia, chemical companies provide the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority with voluntary statistics on the amount of antibiotics sold.

Australian Dairy Farmers expressed its dismay at the passing of the Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Bill through Federal Parliament. The bill, passed by the Senate at the end of June, will place stronger regulations on employers seeking to sponsor skilled migrant workers on Subclass 457 visas. ADF president Noel Campbell said this disadvantaged dairy farmers who had a genuine need to seek overseas workers due to the lack of available local labour. “At a time when there is a critical shortage of skilled dairy workers, the dairy industry heavily relies on skilled migration to bolster its workforce and help our farmers fill labour shortages,” Mr Campbell said. “Many dairy employers rely on skilled migrants brought to Australia under 457 visas to fill core on-farm roles. “The current application process is complex and laborious, prolonging the length of on-farm vacancies. Instead of addressing farmers’ concerns and streamlining the application process, the government’s changes will make an already challenging situation even more complex, placing an even greater workload on farmers and affecting health and wellbeing.” The ADF is working towards increasing workforce participation in the dairy industry through its partnerships with organisations and programs focused on developing skills and workforce. “The ADF is committed to upskilling the dairy industry’s existing workers and growing our workforce and we call upon both sides of government to place agricultural education on the National Priority Band for compulsory HECS-HELP repayments, to encourage more students to enrol in agricultural studies,” Mr Campbell said. “The benefits of initiatives will take time to flow to the workforce, so for the short term, migration programs such as the 457 visa program are vital so farmers can fill labour shortage gaps. Any restrictions on these programs will only make it harder for farmers to find staff.”

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Story: Laura Griffin Pictures: Jayme Lowndes

Strathmerton’s Emily Brown and Stephen Fisicaro are proud ambassadors of the Brown Swiss dairy breed.

Lots to love about Swiss breed Brown Swiss cows typically have good feet and legs, quiet temperaments and live a long time. Brown Swiss are recognised for longevity and Brown and Mr Fisicaro run, there are animals of the Sherbrooke stud started by Mr Brown Strathmerton’s Emily Brown and Stephen and their own Linderlain stud. Descendants Fisicaro have the cow to prove it. of the first Australian Brown Swiss crosses are Their oldest cow, Sherbrooke El Bianca, is 17 among the herd. years old. Miss Brown and Mr Fisicaro said running “She’s done more than 125 000 litres and the herd on a share farm demonstrated the nearly 10 tonnes of fat and protein and is still attributes of the Brown Swiss — although milking,” Miss Brown said. about a quarter of the cows on the farm are “I think there’s only one Holstein in Australia Brown Swiss, they consistently make up about that has done more.” 20 of the first 36 in the herringbone dairy. She is one of at least 10 cows in the herd that “The main difference between Brown Swiss are more than 10 years old. and other breeds is their attitude — they The couple is continuing Miss Brown’s father’s always want to get up and eat and are first in legacy of introducing Brown Swiss to Australia the dairy,” Miss Brown said. in the 1970s. She said they were healthy animals and calved Richard Brown was impressed by Brown Swiss easily. cattle he had seen in Europe, Canada and the “Brown Swiss have a lower cell count than United States. other cows and are much more heat tolerant.” The Brown Swiss Cattle Breeders of Australia Mr Fisicaro said they did not get skin or eye said Brown Swiss were recognised for good feet cancers and that was probably because they and legs, quiet disposition and longevity. were bred to withstand the high levels of sun exposure on the Swiss Alps where they Among the 120-head Brown Swiss herd Miss 8

August 2013

historically grazed in the summer. They also have strong legs and feet. Such attributes helped the cows live and produce milk for longer. Mr Fisicaro said another feature of the breed was its high yield and fat-to-protein ratio, ideal for cheese making. Miss Brown said Brown Swiss also crossed very well with other breeds and helped raise protein and keep high literage. Brown Swiss is the second biggest recognised dairy breed after Holsteins. Miss Brown said globally there were six million Brown Swiss but only about 12000 in Australia. “Because there are so many in the world, there is enormous genetic variety.” She said through genetic companies in Australia, there was access to genetic material from across the world including Europe and the US, although there was a lack of awareness of the breed.

Want to maximise your animal, pasture and crop performance? Brown Swiss in Australia In 1974, as NSW’s Camden Park Estates’ livestock manager, Richard Brown imported Brown Swiss semen from Canada to cross with a small herd of Jerseys. The 11 heifers born from these matings were the first animals of Brown Swiss blood to be officially registered in Australia. Brown Swiss ancient cows The Brown Swiss Cattle Breeders of Australia reports most dairy historians agree Brown Swiss cattle are the oldest of all dairy breeds. The breed was developed in north-east Switzerland and bones found in the ruins of Swiss lake dwellers date back to about 4000 BC and have some resemblance to the skeleton of today’s Brown Swiss cow.

The main difference between Brown Swiss and other breeds is their attitude — they always want to get up and eat and are first in the dairy.

Emily Brown

Miss Brown and Mr Fisicaro’s heifers are mated to Brown Swiss genetics from the US, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. They have a split-calving herd and do two cycles of artificial insemination then run a bull for a few weeks. They show Brown Swiss at International Dairy Week and the Royal Melbourne Show to help raise the breed’s profile. “They are very endearing — if people get one in the herd the usually want more of them,” Miss Brown said.

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Ad campaign talks people,

not products New strategy to take farmers into the suburbs. Dairy Australia’s new communications platform will tell people across Australia what people in the industry already know: Australian dairy farmers and their products are “Legendairy”. Eight “Legendairy” advertisements hit TV screens, radio, internet and in print on August 4. Working with Melbourne-based advertising agency CumminsRoss and public relations agency Porter Novelli, “Legendairy” began with a bang with its exclusive sponsorship of the Melbourne Victory versus Liverpool FC match on July 24. The “Legendairy” platform will move away from traditional product promotion to look at the whole industry with an emphasis on telling the inspirational stories of the people behind the product — celebrating Australia’s “Legendairy” dairy farmers, the quality dairy foods they produce and their contribution to the Australian economy. It’s the first major dairy advertising campaign for six years from Dairy Australia and recent overseas experience highlights the fact that non-branded dairy advertising works. For example, generic dairy advertising recently resumed in the

United Kingdom after five years halted the decline of milk sales by 82 million litres within 18 months. Dairy Australia hopes its initial three-year strategy will do more than increase sales. Dairy Australia’s group manager for industry promotion and product innovation Isabel MacNeill said it was about giving the industry a well-deserved boost. “We want to tell the story of Australia’s dairy industry and it doesn’t stop at just milk,” Ms MacNeill said. “In the face of recent tough times, Australia’s dairy farmers have continued to grow and care for their $4 billion dairy industry.” She said the “Legendairy” campaign would champion the dairy industry, sharing stories of innovation, provenance and personal triumph to boost confidence in the industry. ‘‘We believe this focus will connect the farming community with its consumers,” Ms MacNeill said. She said the advertisements and supporting public relations and grassroots sponsorship celebrated Australia’s dairy industry’s resilience, pride and tenacity. For more information, visit www.

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animal health

A regular column from Rochester Vet Practice

Understand your herd’s calving pattern What happens next will affect the next joining. Many of you will be just starting your spring calving or about to. Your upcoming calving pattern will have a big impact on the next joining. Cows and heifers that calve early have a significantly higher chance to get in calf early compared to their later calving counterparts. Later calving cows will also be at greater risk of being empty at the end of joining. Table one demonstrates this. These figures are taken from the InCalf study. Now is a good time to sit down and look at what your likely calving pattern will be this spring. This can be worked out by looking at your joining information and pregnancy testing results. The accuracy will be dependent on how good your records are and the stage and methods that you used for pregnancy testing. These won’t include your rising two-year-olds normally. Many of the software packages available can produce this for you but it is not too difficult to produce manually. From this list your calving can be split into four three-week blocks. This will give you an impression of what impact your calving pattern will have on your next joining. Table two shows how calving patterns were for the farms in the InCalf study. Changing your calving pattern can be difficult to do immediately but there are ways you can have a positive impact. If you normally induce your later calving cows, plan to do it early in batches so that you can push as many cows into the first and second batch of three weeks rather than the third and fourth batch of three weeks. Otherwise it is likely these cows will be late or empty again next year. All of this should be done in consultation with your vet to minimise the risks and to maximise the benefits. Now is the time to act rather than late September/early October. If you plan to buy-in cows make sure that they are early calving. Look at selling late calving cows especially if they are poor producers and you have too many cows. Another tactic is to join your maiden heifers before the milking herd. This gives more time for them to break in to the milking routine and the herd’s pecking order. Two-year-olds take 10 to 14 days longer to start cycling after calving so calving them earlier helps overcome this. If your two-year-olds are slow to calve you should check that they are well-grown and meet target weights. Bulls may also be the reason for not calving early. By Mitch Crawford, Rochester Vet Practice 12

August 2013

Picture: Jayme Lowndes

Table one Calving to Mating Start Date Six-week in-calf rate

Not in-calf rate

More than 12 weeks



9 – 12 weeks



6 – 9 weeks



3 – 6 weeks



Less than 3 weeks



Average farms achieve

Top farms achieve

Calved by week 3



Calved by week 6



Calved by week 9



Table two

Tactics are paying off The hard work of host farmers and consultants has been the key to the success of a Dairy Australia campaign. Tactics for Tight Times was developed in community the financial planning and farm management decisions from their operations. response to the lower farm-gate prices of the “They devoted a lot of time preparing for 2012–13 season, with the aim of helping events and making regular updates, and their farmers manage their businesses despite the efforts have really driven the campaign. financial and climatic challenges. “The work of those consultants, RDPs and Dairy Australia’s Tactics for Tight Times state DPIs involved has also been vital to the program manager Gavin McClay said there program in providing information to farmers were strong turnouts at events delivered by and making the events happen, and we are Regional Development Programs (RDPs) grateful for their assistance.” throughout the year, with more than 1600 farmers and service providers present and While farm-gate prices are shifting upwards many more following progress on-line and for 2013–14, Mr McClay recognised that last through regular email updates. season was difficult and things might remain “We are really happy with the engagement with tough for the next six to seven months as farmers make a slow and steady recovery. farmers and service providers that we achieved and I think the messages about farm business Tactics for Tight Times principles — which management have resonated with farmers,” he focused on having a high level of financial said. awareness, good cost control, timely decision making, a high utilisation of pasture and a “I would like to thank everyone who has been focus on cost-effective systems — remained a part of the campaign. In particular thanks just as valuable in the current season, he said. must go to our host farmers in Western Australia, Gippsland, northern Victoria and “The tight management campaign aimed to ensure farmers maintain profitability and the Tasmania who shared with their local farming

principles are relevant regardless of whether the milk price is high or low,” Mr McClay said. Tactics for Tight Times also led to the national implementation of the Taking Stock program which provided free one-on-one sessions with experienced dairy advisers to hundreds of farmers who were looking to improve their profitability. Tactics for Tight Times principles: • Know your own business. • Understand options to improve cash flow. • Maximise home-grown feed opportunities. • Make good decisions around input use. • Focus on good cost control and budgeting. • Communication with key stakeholders (milk company, bank, staff ). For further detail and an overview of the Tactics for Tight Times campaign visit

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Does milking the system work? New dairy research is finding “it ain’t necessarily so”. Spreading off-peak milk production through the year does not necessarily guarantee a flatter milk supply curve, nor a better return on investment. Research commissioned by Dairy Australia set out to discover if the shifts in seasonal supply were capturing premium prices and earning a real financial benefit. One of the findings confirmed that utilising grazed pasture was still one of the most costeffective ways to generate milk. Dairy Australia farm business manager Gavin McClay said farmers had been moving their milk supply pattern for a number of reasons but one of the strongest was to capture incentives offered by milk companies. While the incentives may have been paid, in Operating costs and return on investment is poorly correlated with off-peak milk some cases the peak in the curve was simply production, a report found. shifted from one part of the season to the other, resulting in no greater plant utilisation, to help keep costs down. Key findings of the milk supply trends analysis: “From a processor’s perspective, increased milk 1. Small farms have particular challenges in achieving industry average benchmarks for labour in the off-peak period is a desired outcome of and other overhead costs as well as total capital investment per unit of milk production. the seasonal payment incentives,” the report 2. Increasing off-peak milk production does not guarantee a flat milk supply curve. Farmers found. can achieve a high off-peak milk percentage by shifting their calving pattern. This may “What is more important is a flat milk supply. deliver marginal benefit to processors as it can simply shift the low point of production to This is best measured by the concept of ‘plant another point in the season. utilisation’ rather than the percentage of off3. Not all farmers have used more intensive supplementary feeding systems in the shift from a peak milk.” highly seasonal milk production curve to more off-peak milk and higher plant utilisation. While some farmers maintained a large 4. Farm operating cost and return on investment is poorly correlated with off-peak milk difference between the peak and the lowest production and plant utilisation. month of production, they were getting the 5. Regardless of off-peak percentage or plant utilisation levels, the most significant correlating benefit of higher seasonal incentives but factor to farm economics is the proportion of directly grazed pasture in the diet. delivering back to processors only marginal 6. For farms with a medium to high proportion of supplementary feed, profitability is gains in plant utilisation. adversely affected by increased proportions of purchased and home-grown fodder in The Victorian dairy industry has moved to an the diet. There is no significant correlation between profitability and the proportion of average of about 40 per cent off-peak milk. concentrate fed. A second finding was that farms which move 7. The data shows that farms with less than 40 per cent grazed pasture in the diet have a high to more off-peak production have used more risk exposure to milk price and feed price. intensive supplementary feeding systems. – Dairy Australia Many farmers have been able to meet the new seasonal needs of their herds with pasture, and For pasture advocates, the fourth finding return, however historically milk prices have a large part of that grazed, rather than cut and will ring true in the north and north-east of not been high enough in Australia. carry, which can have more inherent wastage Victoria. and quality issues. The report noted northern Victorian farms “Farms with a high proportion of grazed pasture had more intensive feeding systems and “There is a trend to higher concentrate use as had consistently lower operating costs and were lower grazing than some other dairy districts, plant utilisation and off-peak milk increases, generally more profitable and resilient. however the general economic principles but not all farms have followed this trend,” the applied similarly to all three Victorian dairy “The much lower cost of grazed pasture delivers report found. regions. a signifi cant advantage not only in the level Of key interest to farmers was the finding of variable cost but also in the stability of cost The report drew on available data, including that operating costs and return on investment over time.” the six-year Victorian Dairy Industry Farm was poorly correlated with off-peak milk For farms with more than 40 per cent grazed production and plant utilisation. Monitoring project. pasture, the average return on capital over The report’s authors said this ran counter to The report is available at http://www. three of the most recent years of the study was the general industry view. to four per cent. Items/~/media/Documents/People%20 The research looked at a number of farms across six years and found the surprising results Alternatively to grazed pasture the report found and%20business/DA%20Project%20 intensification of the feed system increased Report%20-%20Final%20-%20Mar%20 that operating cost, total capital employed and exposure to milk and feed price risk. 30%202013.pdf or go to the Dairy Australia return on capital did not show any particular website and enter ‘Milk supply trends’ in the When milk prices are high and feed prices are trend as plant utilisation and off-peak milk low, these farms can generate a good capital percentage increase. search box. August 2013


Lead feeding shows the way Prepare cows for lactation with the right diet. and mineral composition that can then be balanced through the lead feed. This will prepare the cow for the demands of early lactation and the rumen for bale feeding. Ms Fehring said despite the benefits of a customised feeding plan, there were some rules of thumb when it came to lead feeding — give the animals about half the amount of grain they will get in the dairy and focus on dietary cationanion difference and levels of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. She said an increasing number of dairy farmers were caring for their cows in this way because it helped to set them up for milking. The farmers she works with have reported increased production, health, reproduction and longevity within the herd. “Dairy cows are like Olympic athletes and they need the best start to achieve a first rate-lactation,” she said.

Dairy farmers should work with their nutrition consultant to ensure the whole diet — including forage sources and supplements — achieved the right balance of nutrients.

Lead feeding helps dairy cows transition from the dry paddock into the milking herd, ruminant nutritionist Mia Fehring said. Re-introducing grain and giving cows specific minerals in the three weeks before calving helps their rumen adjust from the maintenance diet fed in the dry paddock to the ration fed in early lactation that includes more grain. Lead feeding reduces the risk of animals developing metabolic disorders such as milk fever as well as excessive weight loss and acidosis in early lactation. “It in effect sets the cow up for a successful lactation,” Ms Fehring said. Farmers can spend less time, stress and money treating sick cows in early lactation. Dairy Australia estimates about 80 per cent of dairy cow health problems occurred in the four weeks after calving and a balanced transition diet could virtually eliminate this. Dairy Australia said lead feeding’s benefits to herd health, production and fertility far outweighed its cost — it has worked out a transition feeding program costs about $20 to $60/cow and can return up to $200/cow. Rex James Stock Feed’s Ms Fehring said dairy farmers should work with their nutrition consultant to ensure the whole diet — including forage sources and supplements — achieved the right balance of nutrients. This could include forage wet mineral testing to determine the nutrient level, dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD)

Rex James Stock Feed’s Mia Fehring suggests lead feeding for cows going back into the milking herd.

Key points for lead feeding: • Feed for the three weeks leading up to calving (use pregnancy test results to get due dates). • Include heifers in the program. • Ensure enough trough space for heifers and timid cows to get their share. • Feed minimal amounts of pasture (high risk for milk fever). • Consider investing in a trailer to carry feed to the dry paddock. Dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) evaluates the levels of four macro-minerals in the diet — the positively charged cations potassium and sodium and negatively charged anions chloride and sulfur. By adding these charges together the difference that affects blood acidity is determined.

Rex James Stock Feed’s Mia Fehring

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Farms thriving despite challenges Looking at medium-term returns from northern Victorian businesses. Dairy farm businesses in the Murray Dairy region have been thrown a range of challenges over the past decade. During this time some businesses have prospered despite adverse seasonal conditions and difficult terms of trade. Many dairy business operators consider only the cash position of their enterprise when trying to determine how well the business is performing. While cash is very important, the actual returns generated from operating a dairy farm business come from three streams: 1. Returns from the operation of the business. 2. Returns from growth within the business. 3. Returns from capital gains. This article looks at the returns generated by northern Victorian dairy farm businesses and information used in this article comes from a group of 14 clients that I have had the benefit of working with over the past nine years. Over this timeframe each has increased their net worth. The only criteria that allows for inclusion into this group of 14 clients is that I have information relating to the businesses at the end of the 2003–04 season as well as at the end of the 2012–13 season. While the average farm size for the group is 342 ha, the smallest land area owned by one of the businesses is zero hectares as at June 30 as this business is transitioning from one site to another while the largest land area owned by one of the businesses is 945 ha. While the average amount of HRWS held by the group is 723 Ml, there are two businesses that hold no HRWS at all and the largest holder of HRWS in the group has 1438 Ml. While the average herd size of the group is 406 cows, the smallest herd that is milked in 189 cows and the largest is 705 cows. The average amount of capital invested in the businesses is $3 793 333 and the range is between $1 538 544 and $7 892 250. The average equity held by the owners of the businesses is 66 per cent, the range in equity is from 39 per cent to 98 per cent. Table two outlines the historical and the current mix of assets that the group of 14 farms has on average. Over the past nine years the amount of land held by the businesses on average has increased by 80 ha or 31 per cent. This is not to say that all businesses have increased 18

August 2013

their land holdings — nine of the group have increased their farm area, two of the group now have a reduced farm area and three are operating their businesses on the same farm area. Over the past nine years the amount of water (HRWS) held by the businesses on average has decreased by 20 ML or 3 per cent. Six of the businesses have more water today than they did in 2003–04, three have less, with two of these businesses now having no HRWS and five of the businesses have the same water resources today as they did in 2003–04. Over the past nine years the herd size within the group of 14 farms has increased by 114 head or 39 per cent. Twelve of the businesses have increased the number of cows that are milked, while two have contracted their herd size. With expansion has come an increase in the amount of capital invested in the businesses. Over the past nine years the average amount invested has increased by $1 784 021 or 89 per cent, with corresponding increases when looking at this investment on a per hectare or a per cow basis. On average equity in the business has increased from 61 per cent to 66 per cent. On static asset values, 11 of the 14 farm businesses have increased their net worth. This suggests that these 11 businesses have made positive returns due to the operation of their businesses and/or growth within their businesses. Using reasonable market values for land, water, livestock and plant all 14 businesses have increased their net worth over the past nine years. Over the past three years the average increase in net worth amongst the 14 dairy businesses is $1 272 678 or $141 409 a year. The largest part of this increase or 44.0 per cent has come through the operation of the dairy business. A further 9.1 per cent has come from growth within the business or effectively an increase in the number of livestock owned by the business. About 46.9 per cent of the average increase has come from capital gains in the value of livestock, the value of land and the value of water. Overall, this equates to an average annual return on equity of 8.19 per cent. By Cameron Smith, farm management consultant, Farmanco Pty Ltd

Table one outlines some measures that the group of 14 farms has on average and the range within the group as at the end of the 2012–13 financial year. 2012–13 Average

2012–13 Range

Land (Hectares)


0 to 945 Ha

Water (Ml HRWS)


0 to 1438 Ml

Cows (Head)


189 to 705

Total Capital Invested ($)

$3 793 333

$1 538 544 to $7 892 250

Equity (%)


39% to 98%

Table two outlines the historical and the current mix of assets that the group of 14 farms has on average. 2003–04 Average

2012–13 Average

Land (Hectares)



Water (Ml HRWS)



Cows (Head)



Total Capital Invested ($)

$2 009 312

$3 793 333

Investment ($/ Hectare)

$7 699/Ha

$11 124/Ha

Investment ($/ cow)

$6 881/cow

$9 343/cow

Equity (%)



Table three outlines where the average increase in net worth has come from over the past nine years and in what proportions. $


Change in Net Worth

$1 272 678

Due to Operations

$560 263


Due to Growth

$115 357


Due to Capital Gain – Livestock

$247 300


Due to Capital Gain – Land & Water

$349 758



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Dairy Australia Calving


Calf health is all about prevention When it comes to managing the health of your herd, prevention is better than treatment to rear thriving calves. Get health basics right You need to get some basics right if you want herd replacement calves that thrive and sale calves that are healthy and ‘fit for purpose’ when they leave your farm. • Regular observation, quick action: Observing calves at least twice a day and training staff to identify and respond to sickness allows problems to be spotted early. • Colostrum quality and quantity: Colostrum provides initial disease protection and good source of nutrients to newborn calves. There is only a small window of opportunity and its quality is highest in the first milking. At least two litres of good quality colostrum is needed in the first 12 hours and at least another two litres within the next 12 hours. • Good nutrition: It reduces nutritional deficits that make a calf more vulnerable to pathogens and provides energy to maintain growth rates and rumen development. Feed a minimum volume of 10 per cent of a calf ’s body weight per day of milk or milk replacer. Feed small amounts of fibre and concentrates from about three days of age. • Water: Water, not milk, is required to fill the developing rumen. Ingested milk bypasses the rumen and passes directly to the abomasum due to the action of the oesophageal groove. Daily milk feeding may not satisfy the calf ’s required daily fluid intake. • Comfortable environment: If the rearing environment is dry and draught free, more energy is available for growth and fending off disease. Bedding of a depth of at least 15 cm also lets calves nestle in with their legs covered. 20

August 2013

• Minimal contact with manure: Minimising contact with manure means less opportunity for pathogens to get into a calf. This can be done by removing calf from dam as soon as possible, checking clothes and equipment for manure before entering calf pens/paddocks, ensuring trailers used for transport are hosed /scraped out between each batch of calves and replacing bedding between batches of calves or more frequently. Choosing a source of fibre/roughage that is different from bedding means calves are less likely to nibble on bedding and ingest more pathogens. • Clean and disinfect equipment and facilities: Minimises the risk of spreading disease and reduces risk of contamination with antibiotic residues. • Careful stock handling: Avoid injury to calves and reduce risk of spreading disease by using a calm manner from the outset, isolating sick calves and cleaning hands, clothes and equipment. Careful use of antibiotics Antibiotics are useful in the treatment of a number of common health problems but a cautious approach to their use is needed. They are useful for treating bacterial not viral infections and overuse can lead to resistance. Three-step plan to prevent Johne’s disease: • Calves should be taken off the cow within 12 hours of birth. • Management of the calf rearing area should ensure that no effluent from animals of susceptible species comes into contact with the calf. • Calves up to 12 months old should not be reared on pastures that have had adult stock or stock that are known to carry bovine Johne’s disease on them during the past 12 months.

Monitoring calving difficulty and death rates Monitoring these rates can help track prevention strategies’ effectiveness. Vaccination and parasite control Vaccination and parasite control programs are important because exposure to disease pathogens and parasites increases dramatically as calves go out to paddocks and their immune systems are developing. Develop vaccination and parasite control programs as part of your animal health program — make sure to involve your vet. Pastures used for freshly weaned calves should be free from manure and not grazed by adult cattle for 12 months to minimise exposure to Johne’s disease and other parasites. Humane killing Humane killing should be considered for any calf that is found to be in pain or to be suffering and treatment is either not practical or economically feasible. If undertaking humane killing you must: • Ensure humane killing is managed by a competent operator and done without delay. • Confirm death in every calf every time by observing: loss of consciousness, no deliberate movement, no corneal ‘blink’ reflex when the eyeball is touched, dilated pupils that are unresponsive to light, no rhythmic respiratory movements and flaccid tongue and jaw. Calf carcases must be disposed of appropriately.

Source: Dairy Australia, Rearing Healthy Calves

Dairy Australia Calving


Accurate records assist calf rearing Keep records for herd replacements and sale calves — including the date, sex, dam ID, health issues and treatments —to ensure accurate identification and traceability. The benefits of accurate and complete records include informed management and breeding decisions, market access, traceability, evidence of age and antibiotic treatment and disease control. Get an identification system that works for you On-farm systems that make identification easy from a distance mean staff can tell at a glance if the calf is a replacement, has received treatment or is destined for sale in the next couple of days. • Identify calves with a permanent identity tag as soon as practical after birth. Many farms use a National Livestock Identification Scheme tag and a farm tag. • Make sure that those doing the identification job have all the tools readily accessible. • All farm workers need to know the identification system used on their farm. • Short-term identification may include necklaces or paint markings.

Records help colostrum management Calves that experience difficult births or complications are less likely to consume enough colostrum if left to suckle with their dams. Accurate identification of these calves can help ensure that they receive appropriate colostrum supplementation. Identify sale calves Calves must be in their fifth day of life before they can be transported for sale or slaughter. A documented birth date and identification tags identify calves that are suitable for transportation. Identify all treated calves Calves found at slaughter with antibiotic residues can do serious damage to Australia’s dairy industry’s reputation and can lead to fines and prosecution of the farmer. One management strategy commonly adopted by dairy farmers is not to treat sale calves with antibiotics but treat with electrolytes. Whether you treat sale calves or only herd replacements, you must: • Record each and every calf treatment including calf ID, date, treatment and withholding period. • Clearly mark each calf that receives antibiotics — ideally, they should be separated from non-treated calves. Treated calves must be clearly identifiable to all staff. Consider using additional methods

of identification such as specific coloured tags and highly visible paint markings for treated sale calves. NLIS tags The National Livestock Identification Scheme is Australia’s system for identifying and tracing stock. Trading partners such as the European Union demand trace-back systems to be in place before granting access to their markets. Australian food safety legislation also requires this capacity for controlling exotic disease outbreaks.

Identification and traceability: Complete records and accurate identification is critical. • Record the date, sex and dam ID number for every calf born on-farm. • Record any calving complications such as any assistance offered or trauma and health issues during rearing. • Make sure all calves are permanently identified as soon as possible after birth to minimise the risk of mis-identification. • Always clearly mark calves that receive treatments — all staff should be able to spot these calves easily. This is critical to eliminate the risk of sale calves being contaminated with antibiotics Source: Dairy Australia, Rearing Healthy Calves

Career Opportunity — Dairy Business Development Officer Are you passionate about building the skills and capabilities of dairy farmers? Do you want to contribute to driving profitable and efficient dairy businesses? As the Dairy Business Development Officer you will be responsible for helping to support dairy farm businesses to prosper by continuously improving their business management skills.

Your exceptional people skills are key to your success. You will be working with a range of Murray Dairy’s partners to encourage people to develop careers in the industry and build skills and capability across the whole farming community. You will have a good knowledge of business principles and how they relate to dairy farming along with an understanding of the dairy industry and local economy. Your excellent communication skills will help you identify and develop strong

relationships with dairy farmers as well as a wide range of government and industry stakeholders. You will have one or more of the following skills and experience: • knowledge of and practical experience in business, economic, regional development, workforce development or extension

Applications close at 5 pm on Friday, August 23, 2013. For a position description visit For more information contact Leanne Mulcahy on (03) 5833 5312.

It is preferred that you have a qualification in business, economics, agriculture or a related discipline.

August 2013


Dairy Australia Calving


Weaning sets calves up for life Good management of the weaning process ensures the ongoing health and welfare of your stock. Weaning is a challenging time for a calf because the primary source of nutrients moves from liquid to solids and exposure to pathogens increases as the calf enters a new environment. Nutritional challenges The ability to wean a calf is dependent on it having a functioning rumen. The development of the rumen is driven by chemical rather than physical stimulus and the early introduction of grain or grain-based feeds stimulate rumen papillae (small finger-like projections) development. Fibre is also important and it has a physical effect on the muscular layer of the rumen wall. Good quality pasture can go some way to meeting the nutritional requirements of growing calves but supplement grains or pellets and additional fibre are normally required for optimal growth. Greater exposure to pathogens Exposure to pathogens is more difficult to control in paddocks than in housing, so vaccination and parasite control programs are vital. Monitoring the burden of disease Disease can impact growth rates, future fertility, future milk production and death rates. When visually assessing animals look for: • Drooling, coughing, nasal discharge and increased breathing, indicating respiratory disease. • Scaly, peeling skin or warts, indicating skin disease.

your levy at work locally

• Lameness, limping or not weight-bearing on a limb, indicating footrot or an injury. • Dull coat or scouring, indicating nutritional or parasite problems. • Neurological signs including staggers or blindness. There are also a number of non-specific signs to look for including: • Weight loss or poor appetite. • Behaviours such as lethargy, standing away from mob, frequently lying down. Seek advice from your vet if you spot any signs of disease. Approaches to weaning If rumen function is optimal and the calf is eating between 0.75 kg and 1 kg of concentrates (or a pen of calves is averaging 1 kg consumption) daily, abrupt weaning should not cause problems.

August 2013

When to wean? The best indicator for weaning is adequate intake of concentrate feeds. This enables the calf to survive when milk-based feeding is withdrawn. • A rate of 0.75 to 1 kg (Friesians) of concentrate per day is generally accepted as appropriate. Jerseys are less, around 0.5 to 0.75 kg/day. • The calf should demonstrate this level of consumption during at least three consecutive days. Source: Dairy Australia, Rearing Healthy Calves

Weaning age: Early weaning of calves reduces labour and facility costs, milk costs and disease management costs. It does, however, place pressure on the rearing system. Weaning age


4 to 6 weeks

Average daily weight gain needs to be about 0.6 kg to gain 15 kg from four days to weaning at 28 days — this is quite rapid and requires close monitoring to avoid problems.

8 to 12 weeks

Monitoring concentrate intake is critical. Automated calf feeding systems are well suited to supply and monitor concentrate intake.

12 weeks and older

A common weaning age in seasonal calving herds because rumen development is assured. If surplus milk is not available check the cost-benefit of the time period from birth to weaning.

For all the latest information on dairy research, development, education and extension activities, visit


Gradual reduction of milk makes for a smoother transition. It requires more attention to detail and monitoring over a longer time period

Words and pictures: Sophie Bruns

Planting trees is a priority for Mick Farrant on his new farm at Horefield.

The Farrants’ extra-wide laneway.

Move makes sense Finding the right property makes couple’s dairying life easier. Three years ago Mick and Melissa Farrant had a decision to make. Faced with a dairy that was too small for their increasing herd numbers, they had to build a new one or look for a property that had the infrastructure they required. “Building a new dairy at Gunbower would have over-capitalised our home farm,” Mr Farrant said. “We had a look around and we found a farm at Horefield. It wasn’t too far away, it had a 50-unit rotary, the dirt wasn’t too bad, it was laid out and the price was right. Nobody had milked on the place for two years but we could see the potential.” Consequently the herd was moved and life just became a whole lot busier, adding an additional 186 ha farm to the mix. In September last year through GoulburnMurray Water Connections, Mr Farrant was able to upgrade the entire irrigation infrastructure on the farm and install a new pump, 6.5 km of pipe and riser and lay out 25 ha of ground. The result is an efficient and easy-to-use system that has reduced labour and freed up time for other jobs . “I don’t think the works added the same dollar value to the farm, but it has certainly made everything easier. We can now send the cows where the feed is and water behind them if we

Mick spent extra time and money building want to, regardless of what paddock they have up the central laneway and around 8000 been in previously. Improvements like this cubic metres of dirt was carted in to help with certainly make your farm more appealing if drainage. you ever want to sell down the track.” All stock troughs are watered by three-inch The on-farm works were carried out by poly pipe to ensure that no matter how hot Archards Irrigation of Cohuna with Mr it is during summer, the whole 500-cow herd Farrant doing the bulk of the excavator work will have easy access to drinking water. himself, enabling him to put the money he saved back into additional pipe. When Mr Farrant was refencing after the works he made sure tree belts were included. The job was finished on time and within To date he has planted around 3000 trees but, $10 000 of the budget. with a goal of reaching 25 000, he still has a “We worked on the weekends to keep in front fair way to go. of Archards. The job was finished in six weeks. It was a hard six weeks but we got there in the “When we bought our farm at Gunbower there wasn’t a tree on the place. You could stand out end. The weather was kind, which helped us the back and see the cows no matter where too.” they were on the farm. We tree-lined every The property had an existing 60 Ml reuse paddock, the birds returned and aesthetically dam that has been incorporated into the new it made such a difference. layout. “The trees also help with watertable issues and “It used to only irrigate only a third of the farm, protection of the cows. We intend to do the now we have finished the job we can send same here at Horefield and in five or six years water from the dam to anywhere on the place.” we will see the benefits of them. The 25 ha of land that was laid out had three “I can’t foresee any more big money spends. old channels running through it, with little The trees and additional fencing are a creeping paddocks heading off in different directions. program which will be completed over a “We split the block up the middle with an period of time. Automation will come as it is affordable but other than that the dairy is extra-wide laneway. The paddocks are all good, our irrigation system is good and we 3.4 ha in size and if it gets wet we can access can just get on with the job.” them from different directions.”

New Young Dairy Network Steering Committee Seeks Members Expressions of interest are sought from enthusiastic and motivated individuals to form the newly established Murray Dairy Young Dairy Network Steering Committee. The Young Dairy Network is established to meet the needs of the ‘younger generation’ of dairy farmers, employees and service providers within the Murray Dairy region. All interested people are welcome, including those, ‘young at heart’. The Network serves to enhance the future viability and sustainability of the dairy industry within the

Murray Dairy Region by supporting young people to develop capacity and capability to succeed in their chosen industry role. It is anticipated the network will include a representative from each of the five Murray Dairy Sub Regions (Central, East, North East, Riverina and North West). If you have the interest, energy and leadership to drive this important network please contact Murray Dairy at or phone 03 5833 5312.

August 2013


Ready, willing — and trained A course in relief milking offers skills for all ages. them started. It was well orchestrated and The National Centre for Dairy Education the trainers were great. I now have the Australia held a relief milking course in confidence and information I need.” Cohuna recently. Mr Bertrand said he encouraged Rae to The seven “graduates” were acknowledged complete the course because he didn’t want with a certificate and they ticked off 11 units her picking up his bad habits. of Certificate II in agriculture/dairy. “I sent her to be trained and pick up the Industry trainer James Goulding said the students were trained in relief milking duties, fundamentals, she can develop her own bad habits in time. We will have another person occupational health and safety, a chemical start in our business and we will make sure users’ course, first aid and all are accredited he completes the course too,” Mr Bertrand for quad bike, tractor and front-end loader said. use. Nathan Grazules from Moulamein chose to “These students all have the key skills to do the course as a backup. perform relief milking duties on farm and I am confident any one of these could walk “I am hoping to get a welding job but I into a dairy and complete the job,” Mr wanted to have something extra as a backup. Goulding said. Milking on the weekends would be a good way to earn some extra money,” Mr Grazules “Relief milking is a great way to supplement said. income for people who are looking for that bit of extra money. The NCDEA will host a course in November in the Calivil area. For more information ‘’For new people who have moved into a dairying area there are so many opportunities contact the NCDEA on 5833 2846. whether they are 20 years of age or 60.” The students were trained to milk in different dairies including swingovers and rotaries. Rae Hall from Tatura said her employer Ian Bertrand encouraged her to complete the course. “I was brought up on a farm but have been out of the industry for so long, I wanted to be brought up to date on the latest information,” Mrs Hall said. “The dairy industry is heading in an upward trend and completing a course like this may Seven people recently completed a relief milking lead to a management position down the course through the NCDEA at Cohuna. From left: Wilf Ruether (industry trainer) Robert Goff, track. Wayne Brown, Max Healy, Carol McFadzean “For people who have no idea at all about (NCDEA), Jonte Holmes, Nathan Grazules, Rae the industry, this course is brilliant to get Hall, Sarah Douthart (front).

Award for performance recording One of the drivers behind Australian Breeding Values has received international recognition for his contribution to improving animal performance worldwide. Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme general manager Daniel Abernethy has represented Oceania on the International Committee for Animal Recording for the past eight years, including five years as vice-president. International Committee for Animal Recording has more than 100 members from 56 countries and is responsible for the establishment of international standards and specific guidelines for the purpose of animal performance recording and evaluation. Mr Abernethy (pictured above left) received a distinguished service award in recognition of his leadership in the development of performance recording and evaluation activity in this voluntary role. After completing his term on the International Committee for Animal Recording board, Mr Abernethy has been nominated to take up a role on the International Committee for Animal Recording sub-committee Interbull Steering Committee as a representative of Australia and New Zealand.

Legendairy Launch Dairy Australia’s Legendairy campaign was launched this month to highlight the value of dairy as part of the intrinsic social and economic fabric of our communities. Legendairy is the Australian dairy industry’s newly created long-term marketing and communications program. It vividly brings together the inspiring stories of our industry with one voice that reinvigorates pride and confidence in Australian dairying. While a national campaign is underway, the regional roll out across Murray Dairy will be tailored to suit.


August 2013

This creates an exceptional opportunity to influence the regional promotion. If you have any great ideas about how to best promote the value of dairy in our region we would welcome your input. Whether you are interested in becoming an ambassador or simply have some innovative, fun marketing ideas please don’t hesitate to contact Murray Dairy by email or phone us on 03 5833 5312. For more information please visit the Legendairy website

Words and pictures: Cathy Walker

No space monkeys among these Astronauts Robot milking systems feature at open day. It was open season on Astronauts at Kyabram recently, and organisers could count a good tally. W & D Pumps unveiled its new Lely Centre that features the Astronaut milking system as well as automatic calf feeding and dairy feed systems, and staff welcomed farmers throughout the day, all of whom said they were ‘‘just looking’’ but the look was a long one. The grain or pellet bin in the front of the bale is the big drawcard for the cows for selfmilking, and helps coax the newcomer heifers in there. Once they get a taste for the feed, the heifers can be seen leaving the bail and going straight back in. But being a computerised robot, the system is too smart to fall for that one and if the visit is too soon after the previous one the Astronaut simply opens the out gate and sends the cow packing. Thijs Engelen, whose Australian monicker is

Tyson, has the official title ‘‘product specialist of dairy and cooling at Lely’’. Mr Engelen is visiting from the Netherlands where he had a similar role with the company, and at the W & D Pumps open day he was on hand to answer farmers’ questions from the perspective of someone used to the automated Astronaut system on-farm. He said while the countryside was very different here and while the Netherlands wasn’t even as big as Tasmania, farmers everywhere had the same problems. ‘‘I’m here to support guys like Damion (W&D’s service technician) when they’ve got issues,’’ Mr Engelen said. He said the Astronaut system required a small amount of attention from farm staff every day. ‘‘Basically making sure the cups and robot are clean, checking to see if there are any split liners, and checking the software,’’ Mr Engelen said.

Thijs Engelen He said the software could show problems such as an unusually long milk time that may point to a health issue. The robot knows to draft the cow into the health pen and in a nod to his new home, Mr Engelen said the cows go in there when the system deems ‘‘something is crook’’. Suffice to say he is enjoying his time here, courtesy, he said with a smile, of the famous 457 visa. While his English is excellent, his pronunciation of his head office location Rochester isn’t quite as easily understood. ‘‘You know, Rochie,’’ Mr Engelen said with a grin. ‘‘I’m putting in dykes there.’’

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Story and pictures: Sophie Bruns

Sharing equals caring

Rob Gundry (left) and his sharefarmer Stephen Prout have been working together under a sharefarming arrangement for the past 12 months.

A Gunbower farming couple hadn’t planned to go down the sharefarming path, but is pleased to have done so. “It was a hard first year (2011–12 season). We Employing a sharefarmer has eased the had a few concerns because we knew prices workload and taken the pressure off Gunbower dairy farmers Suz and Rob Gundry. were going to be down by 10 per cent but we hoped the additional cost would be offset by The Gundrys found themselves without an increase in production,” Mr Gundry said. help on their 400-cow dairy farm when “Now I can farm the way I want and I have got their previous worker of 12 years decided the time to do the extra jobs I need to do, or to move on. Initially they were looking to want to do. We both usually milk together in employ another worker but after advertising extensively they remained without a suitable applicant. “We never considered a sharefarmer because we thought we were still a few years away from that, but when the opportunity came with The biggest difference Stephen and Tina Prout it was just too good to employing a sharefarmer refuse,” Mrs Gundry said. is that they have a “We can confidently leave the farm and know things will be fine. A lot of the stress has been genuine interest in the taken away and I have a happier, healthier and cows and the farm doing less grumpy husband,” she said with a laugh. Initially the Gundrys had no idea what was well and if prices are involved when it came to employing a share good, things are going farmer but after consultations with Murray Goulburn field services, the accountant and well for both of us. the farm consultant, they were able to come Suz Gundry up with an agreement. 26

August 2013

the morning and talk about the day ahead but I don’t give Stephen a list of jobs, he knows what needs to be done.” Both families have young children who are heavily involved in sport on the weekends, so flexibility and good communication have been important. Relief milkers come in on a Saturday night to give both families the night off while Sunday milkings are shared around. The arrangement works well for both parties. “The biggest difference employing a sharefarmer is that they have a genuine interest in the cows and the farm doing well and if prices are good, things are going well for both of us,” Mrs Gundry said. Mr Prout has been working in the dairy industry for 17 years. He likes the lifestyle and freedom the job provides to spend time with his family. “Dairying is an expensive industry to get into when you have no backing, so I guess I have the next best thing, plus I get to spend my employers’ money instead of my own,” he said with a laugh.

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Training lifts farm performance ProHand Dairy Cows is helping first-time farm owner Daniel Milne boost animal productivity and improve staff satisfaction.

Daniel Milne

“I wasn’t brilliant at school but I thought it was “Generally on our place it’s a bit quieter now Katunga-based farmer Daniel Milne recently good, so people shouldn’t worry about it too completed stockperson training through the and it has made things better. We have always National Centre for Dairy Education Australia much,” he said. taken pride with how we work in this area and said it would help him to teach his staff anyway and we were doing a good job, but I do Mr Milne said the ProHand program had about the right way to work with cows. think it has improved things,” Mr Negus said. confirmed he had been doing a good job with his stock-handling, having achieved “The training reinforced what I knew having He said staff gained a greater understanding of key indicators such as no mastitis, good grown up on a dairy farm, and I will be able how cows reacted in certain situations through production and good flow through the dairy. to pass that on to staff. It’s also good for the the training experience. pocket — by treating your cows well you are “What the training really teaches you about is “Because they are actually sitting down and going to have good production and lower cell low-stress farming. A lot of the time people learning about it, they probably sit back and counts so it’s really beneficial to take on board come out of the dairy stressed because they think about it more and take it onboard.” the messages,” Mr Milne said. haven’t got cows coming in or other reasons, Farms of all sizes could benefit from the but often they don’t realise that they are “I think everyone that was on the course ProHand program, Mr Negus said. actually the ones at fault by stressing out the enjoyed it and I highly recommend it to “There is always something to learn, and some cows,” he said. anyone in the dairy industry.” dairy farms may have workers with habits that “I’ll definitely be getting my workers and ProHand Dairy Cows is a professional need to change.” brother on the course, it was well worth it.” stockperson handling training program that For more information about the ProHand recognises the vital role that stock handlers In Tutunup, Western Australia, Oscar Negus Dairy Cows program contact your local play in the overall productivity, welfare and has also had success with the program on his Regional Development Program or visit health of the livestock under their care. farm which is currently milking 1000 cows. The aims of the training program include: • Improving the quality of human/ animal interactions. • Minimising animal handling stress. As part of Murray Dairy’s new organisational “A strategic approach to workforce • Improving animal performance, development has emerged as a priority area structure it is seeking a dairy business health and welfare of need,” Ms Mulcahy said. development officer. • Improving stockperson job satisfaction, “The workforce development strategy will The purpose of this role is to work with work motivation and performance. take a co-ordinated approach to addressing dairy farmers to help address challenges in The training program is spread over two days this issue across the Murray Dairy region. relation to workforce and careers in dairy. with the first day computer-based, allowing Focus areas include succession planning, The position will also assist with further stockpeople to progress at their own pace. careers in dairy, safety on farms and people development of on-farm business skills and The second day, held several weeks later, is management,” she said. support the Young Dairy Business Network. a facilitator-led discussion for a half day to reinforce many of the messages. Murray Dairy’s business development Murray Dairy chief executive officer Leanne officer position is currently being advertised. Mulcahy said a workforce development Mr Milne, who has been farming full-time For more information contact Leanne strategy was being formed which would for 16 years, said while the first day was Mulcahy on 5833 5313 or email leannem@ address the key priority areas raised in the computer-based, it was still easy to understand Regional Priority Setting process. and people shouldn’t be afraid of that aspect.

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Healthy cows, healthy profit

Story: Sophie Bruns

Positive impact expected from vaccine Calf rearing outcomes can be improved by using a two-step process involving vaccinating pregnant cows and making sure calves receive colostrum in the first 24 hours of life. Paul Clavin from Clavin and Rogers Veterinary Services in Cohuna is expecting the Rotavec Corona vaccine to have a significant impact in the dairy industry. “There are a few vaccines around but none with the combination we find in the Rotavec Corona vaccine. It covers the bacterium E. coli as well as rota and corona virus — rota virus and E. coli cause around 70 per cent of calf scours on most farms so I would expect this vaccine to make huge inroads into increasing heifer numbers and improving calf rearing outcomes,” Mr Clavin said. “It has only been out a few months but a lot of farmers have bought it already and we are expecting demand to increase.” Pregnant cows are vaccinated with 2 ml of the vaccine under the skin 10 to 12 weeks before calving and then again at four to six weeks before calving. After the initial dose all that is required is an annual booster at dry-off or about four to six weeks prior to expected calving dates. Immunity is then passed on to the calf at birth via the cow’s colostrum.

“It is important to give no more than two vaccines to a cow at a time. Administering too many vaccines at once can cause a cow to develop a high temperature, which, in a small number of cases, can cause a cow to abort or in severe cases it can even cause death,” Dr Clavin said. He said while vaccinating was important, making sure a calf received colostrum in the first 24 hours of life was also essential. Vaccination will only be successful if calves receive good quality colostrum. “A calf gets 100 per cent of their immunity from the colostrum they receive from their mothers in their first 24 hours of life which is vital to their survival. After 24 hours they can’t absorb any more. The immunity lasts for three months, after that time the calves are mature enough to develop their own. “Five litres in the first 24 hours is ideal, preferably give colostrum from older cows which are more likely to have better colostrum. If you notice a calf hasn’t had a drink, anything is better than nothing and even two

litres will have a positive effect.” Dr Clavin said there were some things to keep in mind when it came to storing and feeding colostrum. Generally speaking, colostrum is stronger from older cows. Fresh colostrum should be stored at 4° C or less as bacteria such as E. coli can grow at a rapid rate at higher temperatures. Ideally colostrum should be stored in the fridge, or frozen. When heating colostrum, place in warm water at 37° C or less. If frozen, take out overnight and thaw slowly or thaw in a hot water bath below 37° C — rapid heating or microwaving can destroy the essential antibodies, and thus reduce the colostrum’s efficacy.



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Passionate about genetics

Story: Laura Griffin Pictures provided by: George Malinov

The end result of good breeding is worth all the hard work.

A passion for bovine genetics has taken George Malinov from his native Bulgaria across the globe. Mr Malinov has been involved with breeding and reproductive technologies to improve productivity on farms, as well as projects to introduce buffalo and yak genetics into dairy herds. In New Zealand he produced embryos with yaks and Jerseys, which were suited to harsh climate and high altitude, for export to China. He said only 17 per cent of the progeny were fertile, but the animals did produce milk that was 17 per cent fat. And two years ago in Numurkah, he was involved with a government subsidised project to investigate introducing buffalo genetics to Bovine genetics technician George Malinov joked the best way to artificially inseminate dairy herds. and preg test cows was fast. He studied to become a veterinary surgeon but found working with sick and dying pets lots of potential and two years later, a wellVictoria, NSW and Queensland. He said and their concerned owners stressful. proportioned heifer that is contributing a lot despite the irregular hours — many of which of work. It makes farmers happy.” were spent with his gloved arm up a cow’s “I wanted to become a vet because I wanted to help animals and I thought the best alternative bottom — he was passionate about breeding Mr Malinov said uptake of breeding and and reproductive technology and programs. was to go to the other end of the spectrum reproductive technologies was increasing as He even breeds Brown Swiss. and create life,” Mr Malinov said. dairy farmers became businessmen. “It gives you a buzz to see the product of your “To squeeze the best out of the business, you He is now ABS Australia technical services need good animals as well as good machinery. work — a healthy, well-formed calf with manager for an area that includes northern

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• 935 acres on Yabba South Road, Invergordon. • 60 bale rotary dairy complete with Alpa plant including cup removers, cow Id, auto draft, flood wash yard,120 tonne grain storage, crusher, mineral dispenser, effluent pump system, 20,000 litre vat and 600 cow yard with concrete feed pad. • There are four houses on this property; two are brick four-bedroom homes with ensuites; One is a three-bedroom settlement family home, and tidy two-bedroom cottage. • 272 megs of high and 87 megs of low reliability water all delivered by three wheels on the property; S & D water is from the main channel. GMW delivery share is in place. • Milking up to 700 cows and with production between 315 – 360,000 kg/ms, this farm has serious cashflow and production options.


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George Malinov is passionate about working with all bovine breeds to create life.

Daisy the old house cow could produce 20 litres of milk, but now business margins are so tight Daisy won’t cut it.” He said the keenest clients of ABS Australia’s breeding and reproductive technologies were commercial dairy farmers with 500 or more cows who not only wanted the most productive genetics, but also wanted the animals to be bred in the most efficient way. This is where synchronising programs kick

in — the programs get cows to come on heat together and then they are artificially inseminated at the same time. Animals are tested five weeks later and any empty cows are subjected to artificial insemination as a group again. “The only way to make efficiencies is through programs because if you inseminate different cows every day, you have to preg test them every day, so we do them in big groups,” Mr Malinov said.

The technicians artificially inseminate the cows during milking and Mr Malinov said the best way to do it was quickly — usually in 15 to 20 seconds — otherwise cows became angry. Mr Malinov said similarly to other aspects of modern agriculture such as machinery, the field of reproduction and genetics moved fast. Many of the technologies involved were adapted from those developed for human reproduction.



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Story: Alex Bolkas Pictures Bianca Mibus

Dairy farmer-turned-trainer James Goulding enjoys his new profession and wants to involve more young people in the industry.

The accidental dairy trainer For one farmer, life’s direction changed in an instant.


August 2013

later bought out his parents in the 1980s. For decades he worked on the farm and expanded the dairy but his fall triggered thoughts of a scenery change. ‘‘We thought, ‘Our son doesn’t want it,’ and I had a good 15 years working in front of us, so we might as well sell it,’’ he said. A corporate group snapped up his farm and those of his two neighbours and asked Mr Goulding to stay on to manage the transition.

With a better milk price this year and more water in the dams, I’m hoping people will be more confident to have a young trainee. James Goulding

Four years ago Leitchville dairy farmer James Goulding was working with his son to remove old iron from his roof when he slipped and fell, changing the course of his life. Mr Goulding is now a National Centre for Dairy Education Australia dairy trainer at GOTAFE’s William Orr campus at Shepparton, and recently he reflected on his journey from invalid to educator. ‘‘We were on the last two pieces of iron; I was walking backwards and the noggins were old and dry,’’ Mr Goulding said. ‘‘There was a knot in it, I stood on it and it gave way; I fell backwards, landed on the concrete and nearly died.’’ The now 57-year-old said he spent the next two years on the couch recovering, leaving his wife and son to operate their 202 ha farm. ‘‘My oldest son has Down syndrome and my second wanted to be a policeman, so he had to give that up,’’ he said. Mr Goulding went to work on the family farm after graduating from high school and

‘‘Delegations from China came and wanted to do a joint venture so I stayed for over 12 months and then travelled around Australia,’’ he said. When Mr Goulding came back he decided to complete a course in dairy training from Bendigo TAFE. He said he didn’t miss working in the dairy on cold mornings or the long hours and hard manual work. ‘‘You’re not out there seven days a week, you get a public holiday off — which I’ve never had.’’ Mr Goulding said he enjoyed the varied nature of teaching, being around young people and preparing lessons. ‘‘I want to get as many young people into the industry as I can,’’ he said. ‘‘With a better milk price this year and more water in the dams, I’m hoping people will be more confident to have a young trainee.’’ Mr Goulding said he had no intention to retire and hoped to work well into his 70s.

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Home is where the herd is

Story and pictures: Sophie Bruns

The next generation is ready for the dairy farming challenge. James Shepherd has learned a lot over the past few years working within the dairy industry in the United Kingdom and he is keen to implement some of those ideas after recently returning home to the family farm at Kyabram. Along with his father John and mother Bev, James is milking 300 predominately spring calving cross-breed cows on 120 ha (currently 80 ha effective) and he is now living the dream. “I am 32 but I have always had an interest in farming. It was good to go away but stay working in the industry, it has made me hungry to succeed here at home,” James said. “I love the lifestyle and there is nothing better than getting up early in the morning. I love the outdoors and the challenges farming throws at you.” As the herd increases to 400, James will contribute to the increase and ultimately herd ownership to then sharefarm. James Sheppard (left) and his dad John are keen to implement some new ideas on their Kyabram dairy farm. James has spent the past few years working in the dairy industry James said dairying in the United Kingdom in the United Kingdom and he believes some of the management practices he has learnt was similar to here: farmers feed a lot of while there are suitable for northern Victoria. supplements or TMRs (total mixed ration) but grass is quickly becoming a more predominant feed source. monitors all farm activities from fertiliser The irrigation system on the farm is predominately flood with 25 ha of pipe and application, milk performance and spring/ “Feed costs are very high and grass is a good riser. autumn paddock rotation planning . This is source of feed, grass utilisation is critical for just so important and can be the difference our farm and herd. I am a real cow and grass “Pipe and riser uses energy to run, I prefer the between profit or loss.” person and I have a desire to take our farm open channel system. Our farm plan has been to the next level with the knowledge I have designed with this in mind — we will achieve John is happy to have his son home and he a 20 Ml flow a day.” learned. Technology is important and can help too is keen to implement the things James has you save on feed costs and the bottom line, learned overseas. John and Bev have ridden the dairying merrywhen you have your finger on the pulse and go-round. They left the industry in 2006 but “We are aiming to grow as much permanent know exactly what is growing.” returned again in 2011. pasture as possible with diminishing water James uses a program that monitors pasture resources. We will look at alternatives like “I have always been interested in the dairy growth called Agri-Net. He first came across it lucerne and possibly some autumn calving industry, it just gets into your blood,” John in Ireland. cows in the future, but it is these types of said. challenges that make farming exciting,” John “Every 10 days you take a farm walk with “I have been farming since I left school and I said. a rising plate meter to measure the height enjoy working with nature, feeding animals and density of the pasture in the paddock “We are in the process of a pasture renovation and producing a great product. Northern giving you kg/dm which then helps with program and have just lasered 10 ha with a Victoria has the least expensive farming land and is a great place to live and farm.” feed budgets and grain consumption, it also further 25 ha to do in the next year or two.”

Devondale ups the ante Australia’s largest dairy foods processor revealed in April that it planned to build two new state-of-the-art facilities on a 5 ha plot within the 100 ha western Sydney industrial park to grow its daily pasteurised milk business in NSW and Victoria. In July, Devondale’s operations general manager Keith Mentiplay said the new Sydney site was secured, and work would soon begin on the new facilities. “There is just over one year to go before we are scheduled to begin production and we are well on track to becoming the nation’s most efficient producer of daily pasteurised milk,” Mr Mentiplay said. 34

August 2013

He said the former quarry site presented an ideal location for Devondale, with the new Erskine Park Link Rd providing easy access to the M7 Westlink Motorway. “Erskine Park was an obvious choice for us. As well as excellent land quality and infrastructure, this location also gives us easy access to the major milk supply regions in NSW, to the north, south and west of Sydney.” He said the Penrith community would benefit from new job opportunities. Devondale is actively seeking to grow its milk supply in the Sydney region to support the

new processing plant and recently held farmer meetings in Bomaderry, Taree West and Maitland. Mr Mentiplay said the response at the meetings was positive. “We had the opportunity to speak to more than 300 farmers about what we had to offer. “As a co-operative, Devondale returns 100 per cent of the profits from our operations to our dairy farmer shareholders.” Work has already begun on the Melbournebased processing plant, which is being built alongside Devondale’s existing Integrated Logistics Centre at Laverton.

Scientist joins dairy team Upcoming projects to have a major focus on reproduction. The Department of Environment and Primary Industries’ newest dairy industry recruit is the highly experienced and qualified animal scientist Sarah Chaplin. Dr Chaplin will be part of the northern dairy team and will be based at DEPI Tatura. As part of her role Dr Chaplin will be liaising with key dairy industry stakeholders, Murray Dairy and Dairy Australia to develop and deliver animal performance projects across the state. Dr Chaplin said she would be leading the development and delivery of a suite of projects in reproduction, genetics and automatic Animal scientist Sarah Chaplin will help the Department of Environment milking systems. and Primary Industries work with the dairy industry. “I’m thrilled to have joined DEPI as I value the integrity and independence that DEPI research updates as well as five-day fertility dairy cow welfare has helped me develop a represents,” Dr Chaplin said. workshops that will enable producers to systems approach to thinking about on-farm “I am passionate about distilling complex measure their herds’ reproductive performance problems,” she said. research messages and communicating them and develop a plan for improvement.” Dr Chaplin worked as a lecturer in animal to help others get the full value out of the Dr Chaplin is an animal scientist and gained production at the University of Melbourne’s science.’’ most of her qualifications in the United Dookie College for 10 years. She has also She said this year’s project activities would Kingdom, including a PhD in dairy cow worked for the National Centre for Dairy largely be in reproduction. behaviour and welfare. Education Australia, Goulburn Ovens TAFE “My previous work in mastitis, lameness and and the mastitis consultancy Dairy Focus. “Planning is under way for a series of regional

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Taking control of their destiny Interest sought for farmerowned milk pool. A group of dairy farmers concerned about their future and the future of the industry is looking to establish a farmer ownedand-controlled milk pool to bargain for a sustainable milk price. Organisers Nigel Hicks, Darryn Smith and Kieron Eddy are encouraging people to consider their approach. “We are looking to establish certainty and stability for farmers and give them the ability to take control of their own business again,” Mr Hicks said. “In an ideal scenario we would be paid at least 60 cents a litre but in return for that we would supply a large volume of milk to any single processor wanting to access the pool. Basically the farmers own the milk, and if the processors want it they have to meet the market. These tactics have been used against us by processors and supermarket chains but it is now time we stand up and take back control of our own businesses.” Mr Hicks said the rising cost of production was putting huge pressures on farmers, and the future of the industry was under threat. “This is a new approach and we are encouraging people to look at this problem from a different angle.” While the planning is in the early stages, the group has a person looking to be involved who has experience as a senior field officer with extensive knowledge of milk pricing and trading. Preliminary talks have also been made with a water trading company, which may help administer the trade of milk or provide guidance to start up a co-operative. If enough milk was obtained, farmers might not even have to change the factory they are Nigel Hicks says rising production costs are putting big pressure on farmers. currently supplying. “At this stage we are not looking for anyone to sign on the dotted line but are seeking expressions of interest and approximate “I have had a budget done and my net price is volumes of milk that could be supplied. We We are looking to well below the announced price. would then look to hold a meeting to discuss how the milk pool could be administered,’’ Mr “Politicians at state and federal levels have establish certainty and Hicks said. made it very clear that they have no intention stability for farmers and to actively assist the industry. The only people He urges suppliers to get in touch with their give them the ability to who can truly fight for our survival is the field service officers and scrutinise their cash farmer as a united force.” flows. take control of their own For more information contact Nigel Hicks at “The opening prices announced sound positive business again. or Darryn Smith at but they may not necessarily apply to your farm,’’ Mr Hicks said. Nigel Hicks 36

August 2013

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A big support network has helped Leigh Verhay and Angela Turner achieve some goals.

Group offers new perspective Focus Farm involvement has positive benefits for farm business. Putting your farm and management skills under the microscope as part of Murray Dairy’s Focus Farm Project may not suit everyone but for Koondrook couple Leigh Verhay and Angela Turner, their decision in 2011 to take part has benefited their business enormously. “The connections we have made in different fields, building those relationships and having the ability to ask the right questions has without a doubt been one of the most rewarding parts of our involvement in this project,” Mr Verhay said. Over the two years of the project the couple grew the business and its net worth through identifying things to work on and improve. When setting up their mentoring group, they chose to involve farmers who had been involved in the industry for a long time and those who were also relatively new. “Having a mix of both young and old farmers to bounce ideas off and learn from can’t be under-estimated. We have made financial improvements and that has been great, but the relationships we have formed are what will really help us take our business forward,” Mr Verhay said. “I have learnt so much from the senior farmers in our group; they have been brilliant with me. Along with the consultants, they have helped me to really think about the decisions I make. “I have changed the way I spend my money and I have now realised you don’t have to have all the bells and whistles. I’d rather have a nice green paddock with a tidy fence then a new tractor sitting in the shed looking good.” Prior to 2011 the couple felt the most limiting factor to growth in the future was the dairy. They had plans to increase the 38

August 2013

They are expecting a 5.7 per cent return on herd size and build a new dairy, but during their asset this season, which is not too bad the past two years they have focused their considering it is a depressed milk price year. attention on pasture growth and increasing milk solids production per cow, and have put Working closely with the accountant the dairy extension idea onto the backburner. and farm consultant, combined with the availability of irrigation water and growing “We decided to put our time and money into as much home grown fodder as possible has getting the pasture mix right and employing really helped the bottom line. labour, instead of investing heavily in capital to build a new dairy. That will be our next big “Our business is now heading in a totally spend and we need to get that right, whether different direction which is really a reflection we build here on our home farm or purchase of this project. Every decision we now make another place with an already established is well thought out, while before I would rush dairy — who knows? — but we certainly won’t in and think about the consequences later,” be rushing into that,” Mr Verhay said. Mr Verhay said. Focusing on milk production, they have Last year the couple purchased an additional increased their milk solids from 86 000 kg to 30 ha block that backed onto the farm, 134 000 kg, an increase of 55 per cent in two bringing the total landholding to 184 ha. years. This can be attributed in some degree While it was a stretch financially at the time, to increased herd numbers and land size, but the investment has paid off and created an Mr Verhay has also spent a lot of time getting additional milking area this season. Little his pasture mix right. The goal of one third work was required to bring the block into the lucerne, one third annuals and one third pasture rotation, and if next year is a good permanent pasture is not too far away. season the cows will be milked closer to home and the block will be used for hay or silage There have been successes and failures along production. the way but Mr Verhay has found plantain to be robust, and with correct management The couple has come a long way from the Mediterranean (winter) and continental 130 cows and the 56 ha farm that was initially (summer) fescues sown with clover mixes purchased. have yielded well. “When we bought our farm we had “The cows have four legs and a mouth and nothing — just a little old Hyundai car; but they will walk to the feed and eat it if I can dairying builds wealth. We still don’t have grow it. Home grown fodder is really the any cash but one cow turns into two and so cheapest source of feed you can get. I don’t on. Even though we have gone through some want to be handing a cheque over every pretty bad times, we always seem to come out month for hay, I want to keep things simple the other end,” Mr Verhay said. and grow as much pasture as I can.” “There is no doubt times are tough and things The cows are fed between 4 kg and 5 kg of get stressful, but the dairy industry really is a pellets a day, year round. great industry to be in, we just need help to feel our way through — and if we learn from On the financial side of things the couple has our mistakes we can certainly make better increased farm equity from 37 to 47 per cent and improved their net wealth by 20 per cent. decisions in the future.”

Dairy Australia and the Gardiner Foundation’s Horizon 2020 report

The future and how to get there A working group charged with exploring what the dairy industry will look like in seven years’ time has made some frank assertions. The Horizon 2020 project was developed by Dairy Australia and Gardiner Foundation and last year explored factors likely to affect the future role, position, and structure of the Australian industry in 2020. It has been carried out through conversations with dairy and food industry participants, other influencers and opinion leaders in Australian and overseas. The group also drew on research and analysis of these factors as well as the industry’s current position. It says Horizon 2020 is the beginning of a process to stimulate the Australian dairy industry to focus on the future: the opportunities that this future presents and what it will demand of the industry. The report’s executive summary includes these points: • The Australian dairy industry sits at a crossroad. It hasn’t grown as an industry over the past decade and has a diminished global standing and reputation. Poor seasons cut capacity,

but the uncertainty has been worsened by its own capabilities and attitudes. • Due to climate and market volatility, the industry has been faced with an increasingly complex set of management and technical issues on-farm. While investing to respond to issues, in general it has lost the ability to successfully manage and grow dairy farm wealth over time through inevitable commodity cycles. Industry has highlighted specific challenges, but underdone the creation of effective whole-business solutions. In deference to those who aren’t coping, dairy does not celebrate success, which limits dairy’s attractiveness as a place to work and invest. • Rather than seeing opportunity in volatility to harvest the highs and manage the lows, a short-term preoccupation with risk has hampered the ability to respond to a growing dairy market. • Milk supply constraints have resulted in under-investment in technology and scale in dairy factories — as a result Australian

dairy is not cost competitive in our supply chain. The industry operates as a fragmented, competitive model, with small, high-cost plants by world standards, and limited integration into customers’ businesses. • The community will demand more accountability for dairy’s practices and impacts in future. There is generally a negative perception that addressing these requirements will add cost and deliver few benefits. • Dairy’s advocacy models are outdated and under-resourced to positively influence these agendas on terms that address industry needs and circumstances. See Horizon2020fullreport

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Transition feeding vital for cow health Feed them right and everything else will fall into place. Kyabram vet Jessie Ward with dairy farmer Greg Fitzpatrick and Dr Steve Little at the Transistion Cow Management workshop held at Girgarre in April. and prevents diseases such as milk fever,” Dr The ‘transition period’ for a cow is dominated Little said. by a series of orchestrated metabolic changes which allows a cow to adapt to the demands A successful transition feeding program helps: of lactation. • prevent milk fever; “Managing cows through this period (four • reduce RFMs, assisted calvings weeks pre- and four weeks post-calving) has and vaginal discharge; been one of the most significant advances in • reduce acidosis, ketosis and lameness; dairy nutrition and production world-wide • save time and money spent on over the last 20 years,” animal health and treating sick and downer cows; • increase in-calf rates; and nutrition consultant Steve Little said. • increase milk production over “Research has provided a major opportunity the entire lactation. to improve cow health, milk production and “Depending on the approach used, a transition reproductive performance.” feeding program could cost between $20 and Three weeks before calving is the time to get $60 per cow, and return up to $200 plus per springers ready for lactation and mating. cow per year net benefit,” Dr Little said. “It’s when cows and heifers go through dramatic changes and need a diet that prepares Preventing milk fever the rumen for a milkers’ ration, meets the In the past, the focus has been on managing demands of the developing calf and udder, DCAD levels in the transition diet.

However, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus levels in the diet are also important in controlling milk fever and its flow-on effects. Aim for low potassium, calcium and phosphorus and high magnesium levels in pre-calving diets. Getting the rumen ready If you are feeding cows more than 3kg/day of grain or concentrates after calving, you should be feeding grain or concentrates before calving to prevent acidosis or grain poisoning by giving the rumen time to adjust to grain in the diet. It takes seven days for the rumen microbes to adapt to the higher starch diet fed after calving and at least three weeks for the rumen lining (papillae) to properly develop to absorb the nutrients.

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Body condition, energy and protein Feeding an effective transition diet helps cows to return to full appetite sooner after calving. This reduces the time and depth of negative energy and protein balance after calving. The result is less weight loss and higher fertility at joining. A balanced transition diet A balanced transition diet must have the right amount of energy, protein, fibre, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and trace elements and the right DCAD level. DCAD is the difference between the cations (sodium and potassium) and the anions (chloride and sulphur) in the diet. All feed sources (including pasture) contain different amounts of these components. Get a transition feed analysis done by a feed lab on each of your transition diet ingredients and work with a nutritionist to get the balance right for your herd. What to feed springers Springing cows require 100-120 megajoules of metabolisable energy each day. To achieve this, the feed needs to contain about 11 MJ ME/kg DM and 14 to 16 per cent protein. Poor-quality hay or forages definitely will not provide this. A good-quality cereal hay low in DCAD is a good source of energy and fibre. As a rule of thumb, feed half the amount of

grain or concentrate fed to the milkers and in the same form (for example, pellets or loose feed). Don’t feed the springers the milker ration or feed that contains sodium bicarbonate. This feed is unsuitable for springers and will increase the milk fever risk.

Workshops help with transition

Plan ahead Timing is important. Aim to feed a transition diet for 21 days before calving. The best way to achieve this is to do early pregnancy testing to get accurate dry-off lists and calving dates. Use these dates to time when to start feeding the transition diet. Plan fodder purchases in advance. Before bulk buying send samples to a feed lab for a transition feed analysis, to check suitability. Design a transition diet with a low risk of milk fever Given that forages vary widely in DCAD and mineral specifications, using typical values from a reference book is fraught with danger. The use of feed lab analyses of forage samples is essential so DCAD, mineral and other nutrient specifications are known. Calculating the DCAD, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus levels of a transition diet with several ingredients is difficult to do by hand without making errors, but easy using Dairy Australia’s Transition Diet Milk Fever Risk Calculator.

Farmer workshops on transition cow management were recently held across the Murray Dairy region. “Feedback from these workshops has been extremely positive. Many farmers have said they enjoyed the material provided, the openness of the discussion, and the broad scope of the workshop,” animal health and nutrition consultant Steve Little said. Dr Little said feedback from attendees indicated many participating farmers had made some changes on-farm including feed testing, buying more troughs, rotating springer paddocks, lead feeding for the optimal three weeks, communicating with other farm staff, using Dairy Australia’s Milk Fever Risk Calculator to check transition diets meet targets, pregnancy testing heifers and milkers, making improvements to manage mastitis risk and working more closely with a nutritionist. Stanhope dairy farmer Greg Fitzpatrick attended the Girgarre workshop and found it informative. He milks 190 spring-calving cows. “I am planning to test the hay we feed to the springers for DCAD this season. A day like this reinforces what you are doing is right,” Mr Fitzpatrick said. Kyabram vet Jessie Ward was on hand to help with the Girgarre presentation.

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An automatic milking system based on controlled voluntary cow movement uses ‘smart gates’ to direct cows to different parts of the farm.

The choice is theirs But when the alert bell sounds, a robot won’t respond. Automatic milking farms have two options sessions. To reduce the time cows spend Free cow traffic for moving the cows to and from the dairy: waiting at the dairy the herd is split into Free cow traffic is similar to controlled cow voluntary cow movement (either ‘controlled’ several milking groups. traffic except that cows are not restricted or or ‘free’) and batch milking. directed by gates. In a pasture-based AMS with batch milking, FutureDairy project leader Kendra Kerrisk automatic gates can be programmed to open “To date there are no known pasture-based said the choice of cow movement in an at scheduled times for the cows to move to the free cow traffic installations. This type of cow automatic milking system (AMS) was dairy. Cows may be left at the dairy to move traffic is often implemented in systems where influenced by personal preference and the voluntarily through the milking units and cows are housed indoors for all or most of the availability of infrastructure and labour. back to their designated paddock. Depending year,” Dr Kerrisk said. on the farm layout and feed allocations, the Most Australian pasture-based automatic There are no drafting gates, and cows are free farmer might need to make sure all cows have systems use controlled voluntary cow to move in any path between milking, feeding returned to pasture and close the gate before movement, where the cows move from the and loafing without restriction. bringing the next milking group. Drafted paddock to the dairy and back again on their Like controlled cow movement, free cow cows should be attended to in time to allow own. Smart gates direct cows to different movement offers flexible working hours. them to return to their group before the next parts of the farm depending on when they Cows that haven’t volunteered for milking were last milked and other criteria set by the group is brought to the dairy. need to be fetched two or three times each manager. One-way gates ensure cows continue “Batch milking probably doesn’t save much day. These are most typically stale cows or to progress through the system rather than inexperienced heifers; and, like controlled cow time over conventional milking, particularly back-tracking. with smaller herds, but it is less strenuous movement, someone needs to be on call to The success of voluntary cow movement than standing in the dairy putting on cups. handle alerts. relies on accurate allocation of pasture and And compared with voluntary cow movement, Free cow movement is suited to dairy farms supplementary feed. a batch milking system may require fewer with an indoor system. It tends to appeal to laneways and gates,” Dr Kerrisk said. “Voluntary cow movement is a flexible option farmers who want maximum flexibility for in terms of labour and lifestyle because Batch milking may appeal to farmers who do labour or who want cows to have complete milking can occur any time of the day or not want to be on call 24 hours a day, those freedom to choose when they are milked, as night without human intervention,” Dr who are uncomfortable with the concept of opposed to cows being drafted for milking as Kerrisk said. voluntary cow movement or are daunted by they move between areas of the barn. the need for accurate pasture allocation, those “However because the dairy operates all the who want absolute control over the milking time, someone needs to be on call to deal with Batch milking frequency of individual cows or those who the occasional alert. Some people don’t like With a batch milking system, cows are the idea of being on call as it intrudes on their restricted to the designated paddock and want to manage different groups within the lifestyle.” are fetched to the dairy for defined milking herd with different feeding regimes. HOOFNOTE: FutureDairy is a national research project for the Australian dairy industry, aimed at addressing the challenges likely to occur in the next 20 years. FutureDairy’s major sponsors are Dairy Australia, DeLaval, NSW DPI and the University of Sydney. For more information email or visit 42

August 2013

Giving calves a head start Supplement boosts rearing routine. From careful analysis of whole milk and of the average solid meals fed to newborn calves, Prime Farm Animal Production formulated a supplement specifically to balance a calf ’s whole milk and calf meal nutrient daily intake. The result is Vita Might2, which the company describes as a unique Australian new generation functional dry powder liquidsoluble whole milk nutrient booster. Vita Might2 was introduced into the market during the spring calving cycle in 2012. It is packed in 20 kg cartons with 2 x 10 kg inner packs, a calibrated measuring cup, specifications and feeding instructions. This product is available from Sheppartonbased GV Dairy Supplies Pty Ltd, which provides a comprehensive dairy product supply and on-farm delivery service throughout the Goulburn Valley and Riverina dairy regions. Success during the first 12 weeks of calf

rearing will determine the whole life performance of the animal. Nutrient shortfalls during this important stage of growth can have long-term consequences on future body weight, animal vigour and milk production. It is important to capitalise on the first 12 weeks of feeding — taking advantage of the quantum difference between intestinal nutrient absorption of milk with teat sucking calves, as compared with digestion of solid feed in the developing rumen. Whole milk, good as it is, has some shortfalls. When fed on a limited quantity basis the nutrient shortfalls are exacerbated. The daily dietary combination of nutrientbalanced whole milk, potable water, suitable roughage and high density calf feed allows a smooth transition from liquid to solid feed intake at about 12 weeks of age — with Holstein calves having a body weight well in excess of 100 kg consuming about 3 kg daily DMI.

calendar of events Calf Rearing Workshop Numurkah — Thursday, August 8. Kiewa — Wednesday, August 14 and Wednesday, August 21. Cohuna — Thursday, August 15 and Thursday, August 22. Cups On Cups Off Kerang — Tuesday, August 6. Undera — Monday, August 12 and Tuesday, August 13. Rochester — Monday, August 19 and Tuesday, August 20. Manage Farm Safety Tatura DEPI — Friday, August 9. Numurkah — Friday, August 16 and Friday, August 23. Lead and Manage Community or Industry Organisations Tuesday, August 6 and Tuesday, August 13.

Calves drink at a calfeteria.

Vita Might2 is a whole milk nutrient booster that covers all nutrient shortfalls in the dietary intake of growing calves is now available for proactive calf rearers. It increases the spectrum of essential absorbable nutrients above the levels found in natural whole milk. When Vita Might2 is mixed (post-colostrum) into the daily quantity of whole milk and is fed as recommended, the calf ’s daily nutrient intake will equate as ingested from natural feeding 24/7. Prime Farm Animal Production’s motto is “the growth of a newborn calf can only be fully utilised once”.

Please check for updates or phone (03) 5833 5312. Farm Chemical Users Course Corryong — Wednesday, August 7 and Thursday, August 8. Kerang — Monday, August 26 and Tuesday, August 27 Feeding Dairy Cows Cohuna — Tuesday, August 6; Wednesday, August 7; Tuesday, August 13; Wednesday, August 14. Farm Chemical Update Corryong — Thursday, August 8. Kerang — Tuesday, August 27. Manage the Production System. Tuesdays; August 27, September 3, September 10. William Orr Campus, Shepparton. Quad Bike Operations Macorna on-farm — Thursday, August 29.


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