Russell and Mary Hussey like to be hands-on when it comes to protecting the health of their herd and ensuring they produce top quality milk.
Russell says he has no great secret to success but with eight gold plaques for reaching the top 100 lowest bulk milk cell count, plus 16 times in the top 5%, their Alambie Jerseys farm at Woolsthorpe is obviously doing something right.
This year they didn’t quite make the top 100 but were still in the top 5%.
It’s a long way from a cell count of 350,000 when they started which ranked them 198 out of 205 local suppliers.
“I don’t try to achieve top 100 but we’ve always aimed to produce good quality milk,” Russell said.
They don’t bring in outside expertise for herd testing but because Russell, Mary and their part-time milker Georgie Rowley are in the dairy every day they keep a close watch on cow health.
“We used to do herd testing years ago but Mary said it was a truckload of misery coming in the gate,” Russell said.
“I milk the cows every morning and I take my time doing it to look if anything’s odd. Basically I test the cows every day myself to see what they’re doing.
“I look at the cell count every day and if it goes over 90,000 we have a look for what’s wrong. Normally it’s pretty consistent.”
Their current BMCC is between 60,000 and 75,000, and it’s coming down every day.
“Last year we had a bit of a blowout in February because of stale cows and it went up to 85-90,000 which is why we missed a top 100 placing but I wasn’t too worried about it,” Russell said.
“At the end of the day you don’t get any more for it. While it’s under 100,000 I was pretty happy but in any case we’ve addressed the blowout and removed the cows.”
Russell is an advocate of dry cow therapy and daily use of teat spray.
“Teat spray and using plenty of it is a very cheap way to keep cell count down,” he said.
Eight litres of teat spray is mixed every second day in a machine at the back of the dairy and Russell says using it within hours of it being mixed has contributed to the good herd and milk results.
The 10 double-up herringbone dairy is 48 years old but suits the farm’s needs and currently services 205 Jersey cows. “The smaller dairy suits the cows and suits me,” Russell said.
While they don’t have cup removers, Russell insists on having good a quality milk plant.
“We have good milk gear. It gets the milk away from the cows pretty quickly. We’ve got Jerseys producing 25 litres –10 years ago it was 12 or 13.”
He changes the rubber wear every May. “Because we calve in April I let the heifers break themselves in on the old rubber and then change everything in the dairy around the second week of May. It milks the cows out properly.”
The Husseys also adopt a strict culling program that has improved herd quality. “I cull cows every year because they’re no good,” Russell said. “Three strikes and you’re out.”
They add about 60 heifers each year but probably only 50 make the grade. They started AI about six years ago and Russell says that has led to a big improvement in the herd.
The Husseys are enjoying the spoils of good seasonal conditions that have countered tough prices.
“I’ve been here all my life and this is the best winter we’ve ever had,” Russell said. “There’s tucker everywhere; it’s like spring really. We lost a few calves this year to a bug but all the other boxes have been ticked.”
While the price was poor last year and has only marginally improved so far this year, Russell says their Jersey cows are easier to feed and produce good butter fat and protein components.