Wednesday, 13 April 2011 13:31

Rewarded for thinking outside the square

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WITH LAND prices of $19,000/hectare throughout Western Victoria, dairy farmers Mark and Kim Bayne were forced to think outside the square to get their own farm.

The couple had been share farming in the district – winning the local Graham Hall Farm Management competition in 2007 – and wanted to transfer their efforts onto their own property. They were also very keen to avoid taking on so much debt.

They investigated farms for sale, but would invariably find either the dairy or the house was too run down. Overlooked during this time was a house and dairy on 14ha at Beeac, which they duly investigated.

“Because it was only 35 acres (14ha) we hadn’t thought about this property. We assumed because it was so small that it would be no good,” Mark said.

However, the dairy shed, yards and house were all in very good condition. The shed had to be replaced and Mark installed a second-hand 10-aside Double up dairy.

The couple now milk 55 cows, mainly Friesians with a few Jerseys, which are run on the 14ha property. They strip graze the pastures before cattle are lot fed home grown hay in feed rings. Urea is applied to the pastures and cattle return when pastures have grown sufficiently.

They are currently re-sowing the house block with straight ryegrass, eliminating the clover as Mark believes ryegrass recovers better than clover after grazing.

Hay and silage are grown on the 20ha family farm at Coragulac – established by Mark’s great-grandparents in 1913. Mark and Kim also own this property.

Annual ryegrass is planted to produce silage and hay at costs of $23 and $10-$12 respectively. Last year, Mark cut 16ha and produced 351 rolls of silage. The year before he cut 20ha and produced 400 rolls of hay.

The only feed bought is coprice pellets, fed at the rate of 1.2t/cow a year.

The Baynes also own an 82ha property at Dreeite, where they run dry cows, young heifers and beef cows. Mark says this is good calving country – warmer than the home block and with better quality feed starting earlier in the season.

Mark and Kim share-farmed a 240ha Beeac property, where they won the Graham Hall Farm Management competition, judged on production, farm layout, improvement, pasture and general management.

“It was nice to be recognised. There aren’t a lot of accolades in dairy.”

It was here they also developed a herd of heifers. They have built their herd to the current number of 55 milkers. AI is used which enables them to select the best genetics and improve production from their smaller herd. They currently average 17 litres per cow/day.

Mark admits the distance between farms – a 40km round trip from Beeac to Coragulac – is not ideal but it was a necessity if they were going to get their foot in the door.

A contractor is employed to bale the hay and silage, but Mark cuts and carts it back to the house block, stacking up the kilometres.

He’s no stranger to hard work working a share farm – milking 240 cows - and his own farm up until 12 months ago. He sees the current situation as a step back, allowing him to spend more time with Kim and his three boys.

They are certainly making the best of it and plan to invest in a feed pad on the house block as part of their long-term plan.

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WITH LAND prices of $19,000/hectare throughout Western Victoria, dairy farmers Mark and Kim Bayne were forced to think outside the square to get their own farm.

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