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Correct data can plug $100,000 black hole

By Rick Bayne

AUSTRALIAN DAIRY farmers could be losing more than $100 000 a year due to herd replacement inefficiencies that could be fixed by using proper data, according to a leading industry player.

Cameron Renshaw from Heiferlink will discuss ‘Rearing replacements: Heifers with data’ at the Dairy Research Foundation’s 2018 Symposium, held at the University of Sydney’s Camden campus on July 17-18.

Heiferlink was started 25 years ago by David Earle and picked up about three years ago by his daughter Pip and Cameron, her husband.

Originally a heifer agistment company, it has expanded to include monitoring of heifers on-farm and remotely to provide key data reports on performance.

As an industry there is room for improvement, according to Mr Renshaw.

“All roads should lead to age at first calving and their liveweight at the point of calving. We’re trying to get them in line with today’s global benchmarks but across the industry broadly we’re missing these key targets,” he said.

Australia’s industry data shows our age of first calving is generally 26 months but in a lot of cases up to 30 months compared to the global benchmark of 22-24 months and Mr Renshaw conservatively estimates our heifers are at least 50 kilos too light when they go into the milking herd.

He says genetics won’t be the silver bullet for change. “We’ve already got good genetics in our herds; it’s a management issues of how we unlock that genetic potential.”

Mr Renshaw says farmers can reverse the trend by understanding, recognising and trusting global research and getting good data on their heifers.

“There’s a tsunami of data that dairy farms receive in their business on the agronomy, feed, irrigation and the dairy itself, but when we look at the replacement section they have very little data at their disposal to make a commercial decision,” he said.

“We can’t afford to have inefficiencies that affect the cost of production. Our industry is on the global stage so it’s important that our management practices match or better theirs, particularly with the heifers.”

His talk at the symposium will focus on the benchmarks and how below-par results could be improved by a few tweaks in management.

“Using the data can show in layman’s terms what you need to do if you want to reach the global benchmarks, and if you do you’re going to be rewarded.”