Mega farming: Meet the southern Australia family managing 2,300 cattle

Just two months ago Co. Down dairy farmer Heather Martin found out she would take part in the trip of a lifetime touring Australia’s top dairy herds.

The 23-year-old was named this year’s Holstein UK and Holstein Australia exchange winner.

This week she reports from Terang, Victoria where she finds out how a family manages 2,300 cattle.

Heather reports

I recently spent a great few days with Emu Banks Holsteins and Jerseys from Terang in Victoria owned by Bryan and Joanne Dickson and their children Rachel, Jacque, Anna and Leah.

The family farm a total of 1,100ha with 2,300 head of cattle split over two farms around 15 miles (24km) apart.

Cows can walk up to 3km to grazing paddocks – of course, they need wide lane-ways to deal with the large numbers of cattle.

Rachel Dickson, Emu Banks

The main farm at Terang consists 723ha of mostly flat land with 830 milking cows – 800 of which are Holstein and 30 Brown Swiss.

The cows are milked twice a day in a 60-point direct line DeLaval rotary milking parlour with automatic cluster removers (ACRs).

Cows average 8,340L a year with milk composition of 3.64% butterfat 3.38% protein. Somatic cell count is 120.

The herd is fed on a grass-based diet topped up with silage and hay twice a day in the paddocks during the summer. Cows are given 2.13t/cow/year of grain and pellets.

A proportion of the family’s Terang farm is on a fresh milk contract so they can’t have any issues with bactocount or bulk milk cell count, so the whole herd has to be in the best grade at all times.

The cows are bred highly based on BPI (Balanced Performance Index). They have great bodies and are in very good condition.

Emu Banks Christmas – Australia’s highest BPI bull in august 2015

This farm also has a movable irrigation system for crops. This year, the family has recently put in 30ha of maize for the first time, to try it out.

Around 15 miles (24km) away, the second farm at Glenfyne consists of 207ha of mostly hilly ground with no irrigation. A manager takes care of the 300 Jersey and Jersey-Holstein crossbred cows. They are fed 1.81t/cow/year of grain and pellets and produce on average 5,912L per cow.

Somatic cell count is 100. This farm’s milk composition has 4.16% butterfat and 3.43% protein. The Jerseys suit well here to deal with the large hills and lane-ways due to their legs and feet.

This farm has a 20:40 swing-over herringbone direct-line milking parlour with ACRs.

This week I managed to do a bit of sight-seeing; the Dicksons took me to see the 12 Apostles, the world-famous limestone stacks off the shore of the Port Campbell – or as the case now is, the seven apostles. Due to strong waves, the stacks are eroding – changing the landscape.

The family also took me to some lovely beaches at Portcampbell and Warrnambool as well as a great summer market and along the great ocean road. I even tried some of the famous Timboom ice cream and it didn’t disappoint.

Bryan also took me kangaroo searching where he was adamant I would see some at their other farm at Glenfyne.

However, it was with great disappointment we didn’t find any there; but, just as we had given up and were driving to his friend’s house, who had a koala bear in the garden, we saw a field full of them – a productive week!

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