When Graeme & I returned to dairying in 1994, we sourced Holstein cows to accompany the handful of Jerseys that we had "parked" at our older brother's, Peter, farm. This was purely for the fact that you could source some very productive holsteins cheaply driven by the fact that the Holstein cow makes up at least 80% of Australia's cow population. I think back then we purchased 100 holstein cows from all over the place for an average of $720. These cows provided the basis of the herd as it stands today. We try to maintain the herd at 50% Holstein & 50% Jersey thereby maximising the milk payment structures as well as keep purebred cows. We are mixing the milk in the vat not crossbreeding the cow! The cows have always walked as one herd, & they continue to do that today. However, when it came to determining how much each breed was producing, it would take hours of number crunching. So 1999, we began separating the herd test samples so that Holsteins would be compared to Holsteins & Jersey Vs Jersey. So we effectively herd test as 2 separate herds despite the herd being milked all as 1 herd. By doing this we are now able to look at such factors as Feed Conversion Efficiency without any guess work.
Another relevant point to note is in May of 2006 we constructed a new dairy. A 16 aside double-up Rapid Exit Larsen Dairy with Automatic Cup Removers & individual feeding. The 1st full production year showed an increase of 15% production, but our grain usage did not increase. We feed an average of approximately 2 tonne per cow per year. The old dairy used blanket feeding, but with the new dairy, the cows are fed for production in that we drive the cows to peak very high & the cows that are able to do that are rewarded with increased grain & the stale cows are wound back. In effect, you are utilising your grain better by feeding the cows that are "working for you" to pay the bills.
Since the drought started in 2002, we have had limited amount of water available to irrigation pastures. In October 2007, we dried off all pastures & went to a TMR system. The last 2 years, however, we have returned to growing some small amounts of pasture through the summer months. By growing the 32 ha of perrenial pasture over summer, we have found it to be cost effective & cow health as improved, particularly environmental mastitis. So currently we have 240 cows being milked, with another 20 calving now (Jan 2010) grazing 32ha of perrenial pasture & then supplemented in the bale as well as 1 partial mix ration per day. We will start up Annual pastures from 1st March & will stop using the mixer wagon as soon as possible, usually late June early July. Cow numbers will continue to rise to approximately 290 by Autumn 2010 & then we have another 65 heifers to enter the herd in Spring 2010. Depending on what rainfall we receive, we then have the option to expand again or to sell off a line of cows.
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