Grazing and silage prove a cost-effective mix

By Gordon Collie

Annual and perennial rye-grasses with clover for grazing and making silage is at the heart of a cost-effective farming system operated by Kevin and Michael Malone at Tumut.

The Malone family have been dairying in southern inland NSW for more than a century and based on their current 300 hectare aggregation with a 1.5 km frontage to the Tumut river since 1969.

There was a local milk factory in the early years, but now the farm is one of just two remaining in the district supplying Riverina Fresh at Wagga Wagga.

Kevin is an electrician by trade who has been farming almost 30 years and has been joined by his brother Michael, a qualified mechanic.

“We make the most of a water allocation which is not unlimited and can vary from year to year,” Kevin said.

“We’ve had some tough seasons where our supply has been down to 20 percent but there have been no problems with availability since flooding last year.

“The flats used to flood every winter before the river flow was regulated for hydro power generation,” Kevin said.

“We couldn’t function without irrigation to get the pastures started each season.”

They use a mix of travellers and a centre pivot which can be moved between two 24 ha circles.

Cows moving into the dairy.

“We’d love another pivot which takes all the work out of irrigation. It’s on our wish list,” Kevin said.

By mixing annual and perennial rye-grasses the grazing season is extended at both ends with feed value boosted by the addition of clover and oats.

Perennial rye with clovers can provide grazing for three to four years, with the flexibility to renew by direct drilling.

“We did a lot more cultivation when we were growing sweet corn for the fresh market,” Kevin said.

Triticale was grown as part of the cropping rotation for both grazing and whole crop silage.

Surplus pasture is conserved as fine chopped silage and some hay is also made.

“We used to store the silage in square bale modules, but it was a two person operation to feed out, so we’ve switched to making silage in pits.”

“We can store up to 1700 tonnes of silage and like to put away about 700 to 800 tonnes each season. With the floods last year, we were struggling to make any.”

Having some smaller silage pits which can be fully used up avoids spoilage from having to reseal a pit.

Silage is fed out twice a day along fence lines to minimise wastage from about April until early September.

About 3 kilos of roller-milled triticale used in the milking bales daily is the only bought in feed used.

Calf housing

“We only started bail feeding in 2006 during a drought, but the value to milk production was worthwhile continuing,” Kevin said.

Rye and clover grown under the centre pivot provide the bulk of summer feed needs with a mix of oats and rye providing grazing during winter and into spring.

They milk about 190 Holsteins and maintain a cost-effective production of about 7000 litres or 23 litres a day.

“We milk through an eight-a-side swing over herringbone and would love a bigger shed, but the reality is that the dollars just aren’t in dairying at the moment.”

Many of the cows are registered as part of the Enolam stud and Kevin’s youngest son Ryan, an agricultural science student at Charles Sturt University is keenly interested in genetics.

Milk income is supplemented with a dairy beef enterprise, producing Holstein steers and the progeny of an Angus bull used over around 50 heifers each year for ease of calving.

Calves are typically raised for about two years, with the Friesian steers selling at 600 plus kilos liveweight.