A fierce desire to grow their equity, and the unpredictability of the Bega seasons, has seen Tom and Gemma Otton take up a share farming role with Peter and Jeanette Clark at Kongwak.
Wayne and Vickie Crole and sharefarmers Andrew and April Crole have continued to refine their systems to ensure they maintain their good record.
“I’ve been here since 2011 and we’ve been in it every year since then and my parents received the award for a few years before that,” Andrew said.
The decision last year to start teat sealing heifers has further improved the farm’s performance.
“We use teat seal on all our cows when we dry them off and on our heifers prior to calving,” Andrew said.
“This is the second year we’ve teat sealed our heifers and it has made a big difference.”
The procedure is carried out by Timboon Vet Group using their tipper crush. “We’ve found this is very successful in reducing mastitis in their first lactation,” Andrew said.
The addition of heifer teat sealing followed a bad run of mastitis at the start of calving.
“It was causing a bit of trouble and not clearing so we decided to trial the teat seal and it was probably the best thing we ever spent money on,” Andrew said.
“Now it’s a ritual every year.”
The farm still experiences an occasional case of mastitis but they’re quick to stamp it out.
“We always have two people milking in our 40-unit Rotary dairy and always focus on the visual signs of any cases of mastitis,” Andrew said.
“It’s much easier to have two in the dairy at all times. You tend to know your cows and can pick up if they show any signs of health issues.”
Any cows with mastitis get automatically drafted during milking and are bought back to be milked last to try to eliminate any cross contamination.
They also teat spray once the cups come off the cows.
Another factor in the farm’s success is regular maintenance and testing of the 12-year-old dairy.
“Our dairy technicians come in every 12 months and service the plant and make sure the vacuum levels and pulsation are all up to scratch,” Andrew said.
“That’s one of the main things we do; if we start getting mastitis that’s one of the first things we look at.”
They change rubber inflations every six months.
The Australian Milk Quality Awards recognise the lowest 5% of farms across Australia based on annual average bulk milk cell count (BMCC).
Receiving the annual gold metal plaque for being part of the top 100 is not only a great honour for the Croles, it’s good for their profitability.
“It keeps us in the premium milk bracket and so it helps our profitability,” Andrew said.
“It’s a nice honour and a good achievement. It’s not something we think about every day but we just try to keep doing what we’re doing and reap the reward at the end.”
“We’re always trying to keep on top of it.”
Their yearly BMCC average is 70,000 and the healthy herd is recording good production.
“The BMCC generally stays around similar levels,” Andrew said.
Production continues to meet their expectations, especially with a good start to this season.
The farm is tracking along the same as last year but still has a few cows to calve and is about to hit peak production. Last year the peak average was 36 litres per cow and they achieved 212,000kg/milk solids for the year.
Their yearly fat percentage average is 3.75% and yearly protein average 3.24%.
They calve from March through to July, with the bulk from March to May, and have a fairly flat production curve.
Wayne and Vicki have been on the farm for 32 years; Andrew and April joined in 2011 and became share-farmers in July 2015. They milk a peak of 325 Friesian-Holsteins on 190 hectares and run young stock on two 52-hectare out paddocks.
With another gold plaque for the gate, they’re happy with the way things are going.
“We have no more improvements planned at the moment. We’re pretty happy with the way we’re going,” Andrew said.