Spot on with grazing management

By Jeanette Severs

Jan Giliam focuses on grazing management and benchmarks profit by how much of that home-grown pasture feeds his milking herd.

To do that, he relies on an annual rainfall of about 1000 mm to produce grass and 2000 wrapped bales of pasture silage. He supplements pasture and silage with an annual cow ration of 1400–1800 kg pellets.

Mr Giliam works alongside his son, George, on their 240 ha dryland dairy farm at Dumbalk, Victoria, milking a self-replacing 450-cow herd. He developed the three-way-cross herd after much research and discussion, focusing on production and productivity efficiency.

Initially Mr Giliam used Holstein semen joined with Friesian cows. Ten years ago, he brought in semen from Swedish Red sires, then introduced Montbeliarde sire genetics. He relies on a three-month artificial insemination program.

Mr Giliam looks at genetics as an economical method for turning grass into milk.

“Grass is not worth a cent until it makes milk,” he said.

“The three-way-cross is an economical and efficient cow. It produces the same 8000 litres as a Holstein cow, but needs less feed for maintenance.

“The herd is currently sitting around 8000 litres, or 600 kg milk solids, per cow, annually. We feed lots and lots of grass. So my grazing management has to be spot on.”

He uses strip grazing year-round and moves the cows and tapes on every milking. The spring rotation is 20 days; in autumn that extends out to 90 days.

“The herd overnights in sacrifice paddocks and gets silage on a feed pad,” he said.

The sacrifice paddocks go into an annual rye-grass, sown with DAP, after use.

Fertiliser is applied as a blend to every paddock, after grazing, in a four-to-five-week rotation from late April to December. The pastures are perennial grasses and a long-season summer annual is oversown, with DAP, each year.

The country is quite hilly. The annuals are sown into red soils and other paddocks receive a maintenance oversow of perennials as required.

Silage is made two-to-three times weekly from September to December, employing contractors.

“We make the most of surplus grass in the optimum growth period,” Mr Giliam said.

“We make wrapped silage bales whenever there’s a window in the weather.

“Our annual rainfall averages around 1000 mm. In 2018, it was 780 mm, but for us it’s about when it falls. We want a dry winter and an autumn break in mid-March. That’s ideal for sowing and oversowing, with follow-up rain in April.”

Silage is fed to the milking herd and heifers, at a rate of 20 bales/day, from January 1.

Mr Giliam is currently waiting on delivery and installation of a new 60-bail rotary dairy, to replace the 18-a-side herringbone platform. The area for the new platform has been excavated.

“For us, the rotary dairy is about chasing productivity efficiencies. It’ll reduce our milking time by hours each day,” he said.

• Jan Giliam hosted a paddock walk for participants at a Viking Genetics field day held in west and south Gippsland in March.