WestVic Dairy Focus Farms



Shannon Notter, Carlisle River

Farm background

The farm carries 500 spring calving crossbred cows. Shannon’s focus is on fine-tuning a straight-forward farming system that seeks to improve profitability by keeping a tight control on the cost of production.

Farm challenges and goals

Specific challenges and goals for Shannon include:

  • Developing a farm business that can easily be managed by a capable team in her absence.
  • Investigating the optimum calving pattern which will best suit the farm and Shannon's desire to keep the system simple.
  • Considering which crops can be grown on the farm to complement the pasture-based system and fill feed gaps in a cost effective way.
  • Increasing profit by reducing or spreading costs where possible.

Farm size

360ha

Dairy

40 unit rotary

Number of cows milked

500

Stocking rate (cows/ha)

1.3

Annual production

215,000kg MS (430kg MS/cow)

Dale Angus and Karen Watkiss, Ondit

Farm background

After working as a builder for 16 years, Dale moved back onto the farm six years ago and purchased the adjoining 74–hectare property. Since the purchase, the land has been incorporated into the milking platform with the addition of laneways and new fencing.

Karen works off-farm and helps with record keeping. Dale is supported by full-time employee Tosh Merrett and a casual worker.

Farm challenges and goals

Specific challenges and goals for Dale and Karen include:

  • Improve herd fertility.
  • Improve work/life balance – the couple have three young children.
  • Reduce debt in order to purchase the main farm in the future.
  • Explore the potential of increasing the use of irrigation. Currently 20ha can be irrigated (12.5ha on the milking platform).
  • Look at growing more feed at home including investigating different summer crops, in order to reduce the amount of purchased feed in the diet.

It is marginal land with a relatively low rainfall of approximately 500mm a year.

Total farm size

279ha

Dairy

24 a/side swing over with cup removers

Number of cows milked

300

Grain fed tonnes/cow/year (wheat)

1.4

Annual production per cow

5,500 litres

The Musson family, MacArthur

Peter and Fiona Musson run their family farm at MacArthur.

Farm background

After arriving from England 21 years ago, Peter and Australian-born Fiona began building their dairy farm business from scratch. They now farm a total of 730ha and milk up to 780 cows including Friesians, Aussie Reds and crossbreds.

Peter and Fiona won the Farm Business Managers of the year Award at the 2017 Great South West Dairy Awards.

Farm challenges and goals

Specific challenges and goals for Peter and Fiona include:

  • Fitting activity monitors to the herd.
  • Developing staff capability.
  • Reducing their own workload through managing and upskilling staff.
  • Continue improving pastures by exploring different cultivars.

“There is always room for improvement in every area of our business, so that is a continuous objective,” Fiona said.

Farm size

730ha

Dairy

60 unit rotary

Number of cows milked

780

The Davies family, Simpson

The Davies family was a WestVic Focus Farm from January 2017 to January 2019.

Farm background

Brett and Bronwyn purchased their farm at Simpson and were determined to realise the farm's full potential while maintaining a good lifestyle.

Farm challenges and goals

Specific challenges and goals for the Davies family included:

  • Increasing home-grown feed and decreasing reliance on purchased feed.
  • Developing pastures and building soil fertility.
  • Addressing inadequate stock water availability.
  • Driving production higher by better understanding feed costs, inputs and herd reproduction.
  • Reducing fodder wastage in winter and developing wet season strategies.

The Kenna family, Terang

The Kenna family was a WestVic Focus Farm from February 2017 to February 2019.

Farm background

Ben and Anna's farm near Terang in south-west Victoria has well-established infrastructure and pastures for their autumn calving herd.

The farm had high financial commitments and considerable pressure to service debt. Herd fertility had also been an issue. Together with Cow Manager Software and DNA testing of calves, the Kennas wanted to improve the fertility and reproductive performance of the farm.

Farm challenges and goals

Specific challenges and goals for the Kenna family included:

  • Improving herd fertility and reproduction performance using technology and DNA testing of calves.
  • Improving business cost efficiency and increasing profit.
  • Developing standard operating procedures and stabilising the on-farm workforce.
  • Improving pasture quality and utilisation.

The Scott family, Barongarook West

The Scott family was a WestVic Focus Farm from July 2014 to July 2016

Farm challenges and goals

At the start of their Focus Farm project, specific challenges and goals for the Scott family included:

  • Improving pasture access for the herd by installing drainage and underpass infrastructure.
  • Implementing a calving pattern which aligns with milk flow and farm conditions.
  • Better understanding business labour needs and reducing farm business costs.
  • Increasing home grown feed consumption.

The Taylor family, Heathmere

The Taylor family was a WestVic Focus Farm from July 2014 to July 2016.

Farm background

The Taylors wanted more control over grazing management and production, particularly during winter when paddocks are wet.

Farm challenges and goals

Specific goals and challenges for the Taylor family included:

  • Lifting milk production using home-grown feed including trialling maize.
  • Improving pasture monitoring and management.
  • Shifting calving to February, so cows are peaking in production prior to the wettest/coldest months.
  • Expanding the irrigation system to better utilise current water allocation.

The Whitehead family, Timboon

The Whitehead family was a WestVic Focus Farm from July 2014 to June 2016.

Farm background

Following the merger of the two farms, significant infrastructure was built including a 60–unit rotary dairy, feedpad and improvements to fencing and laneways.

Farm challenges and goals

Specific goals and challenges for the Whitehead family included:

  • Increasing herd fertility and maintaining a seasonal calving herd.
  • Growing more home-grown feed.
  • Developing business succession strategies.
  • Monitoring and improving return on investment.

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