Farming smarter reaps rewards for SA farm

By Dairy News

PRODUCING 2.1 million litres of milk with an annual rainfall of 350 mm has meant Gary and Ros Zweck and their son Justin have had to farm smarter.

Their system is based around a TMR and a feed pad which can challenge controlling cell counts and mastitis.

“We’ve undoubtedly made some fairly dramatic improvements to our practices compared to how we were operating a couple of years ago,” Gary said.

Changes include keeping the loafing area surfaces as dry as possible and upgrading the lane by laying rubble mixed with cement dust to give it a firmer base, reducing the impact of wet weather.

On a daily basis, Gary cultivates cow pens with a small linkage cultivator which breaks up and mixes fresh manure with old composted manure, helping to break it down faster.

“This ensures our cows can loaf comfortably on the drier surface, reducing contact with wet manure,” Gary said.

To keep a low BMCC, the business has adopted a blanket dry cow and teat seal treatment program.

“Not only has this driven the milk quality higher but it has had the two-fold effect of reducing our vet bills for mastitis treatment, and with less culls over time.”

High milk quality has also been maintained by encouraging employees to undertake Dairy Australia’s two-day Cups on Cups Off course delivered by vet Simon Edwards, part of the flagship Countdown program.

“The course highlighted the strict practices that need to be adhered to in order to reduce mastitis which include wearing gloves, washing and drying teats before putting cups on, covering 100 per cent of every teat with teat disinfectant, and keeping the teats dry for up to an hour after leaving the shed.”

The Zwecks ensure there is feed already on the pad when cows leave the shed, believing good stockmanship is vitally important to reducing stress during the milking process.

With a direct milk supply that has strict quality guidelines — only accepting grade one level milk — the Zwecks have plenty of reasons to keep their eyes on the prize.

“We can’t afford to take our focus off milk quality, so all our decisions drive that outcome,” Gary said.

When it comes to advice for others, Gary is a strong advocate of herd testing as an important driver of any dairy farm.

“Herd testing is the key to knowing what your cows are achieving and where they sit within the herd, simplifying all the decision making,” Gary said.

Gary is excited about the future and the potential for leveraging the data available to farmers’ fingertips.

“There’s so much more we can do with herd testing, there’s really no limit to the possibilities,” he said.