Focus on spring fodder boosts dairy season

By Dairy News

Whorouly dairy farmers John and Elise Pethybridge are fairly happy with the way their 2018–19 season has been tracking.

The former Murray Dairy Focus Farmers (2016–18) attribute much of their success to one of the key lessons they learnt while involved in the program — to grow as much fodder as possible over spring.

“We pushed hard over spring and used a lot of fertiliser to grow 1600 tonnes of silage which gave us a fair bit of security this season. We also grew some dryland sorghum which was lucky enough to snag a couple of timely rains,” John said.

John said while there wasn’t enough water to sow a corn crop this year, he has been able to save some for an autumn start which should see the business milking 290 cows.

John said his involvement as a Focus Farmer taught him to look at every aspect of the business objectively and always ask questions.

“It is so important to grow as much home-grown feed and silage as possible, especially in a season like this one. We have maximised ours and did the best we could with the cards we have been given.”

Like most areas, the Whorouly rainfall has been well below average this season but an opportune 50 mm dumping in December did help the sorghum crop.

John said looking ahead to next season, establishing an autumn feed base remained a major priority to ensure a 2019–20 season.

“We won’t have a huge area to start with but it will be close to the dairy for easy grazing access.”

He said the business has been focusing quite heavily on soil fertility over the years and recent soil tests had indicated a significant improvement.

“We might be able to take the foot off the pedal this year with our fertiliser use and save a few dollars.”

John has also been able to export a few spring heifers to take some of the pressure off along with selling any empty spring cows.

The herd is still averaging 25 litres.

“Odds would dictate milk price will be significantly better next season,” John said.

The Pethybridge family has been supplying Dairyfarmers for two years and John is really happy with the way the company operates.

“That’s one less thing we have to worry about; we left Murray Goulburn and the mental side of things has improved significantly — but price is only one part of the puzzle,” he said.

“It would be nice to get all the start to align but the next six months will certainly be interesting.”

John said it was important to remain positive and his business was poised and ready to milk as many cows as possible.

“The big player processors are going to need as much milk as possible and they are going to have to pay for it.”

He said in his area the only milk supply option has Murray Goulburn, but since Dairyfarmers, Fonterra, Bega and ACM moved into the area, he has been able to mitigate some risk.