Dairy dream becomes reality

By Jeanette Severs

EBONY AND Stuart Arms are in their fourth season of dairy farming at Neerim South, after making the decision to follow her lifelong dream.

They started small before being offered the chance to lease an existing dairy farm and herd.

“We had a 35-acre block with an eight-bay walk-through dairy,” Mrs Arms said.

“We recommissioned it, picking up second-hand equipment for replacement gates and plant parts. We bought a second-hand vat and 42 cows. We were given a 12 tonne silo, we just had to move it.”

The big-ticket items were concrete work for the pit and sump and purchasing and installing a new hot water service.

“Our first milk pick-up was 206 litres,” Mrs Arms said.

“Our plan was to milk in it for two to three seasons while building our herd.”

However, a dairy farmer looking to retire heard about them and offered the couple a long-term lease of his farm — which included the house.

It was an ideal opportunity, so the Arms family moved onto the farm, buying some of Bob White’s herd at the dispersal sale. He added 70 cows he held back from the sale to the milking herd.

For Mr White, his decision was about offering the Arms family an opportunity, while also giving him an ongoing interest in the daily happenings at the farm.

The business relationship is that Mr White provides all the machinery and Ebony and Stuart Arms raise all the calves and carry the cost of pasture, feed and grain.

“There’s a lot of shared responsibility,” Mrs Arms said.

“We create an annual fertiliser plan and we’ve renovated just about every paddock.”

They follow a sowing regime of a forage crop followed by pasture on a lot of the farm, while the hill country, being steep, remains untilled and is oversown regularly.

In the first season, Mrs Arms milked 160 cows and this season that has grown to 230.

Ebony Arms is living her dream of dairy farming, building equity while leasing a dairy farm at Neerim South.

The herd is split-calving. Mr White’s cows are Friesians and Aussie Reds. Mr and Mrs Arms brought Jerseys into the herd and, with additional purchases and natural increase, now own a mixed herd. Their focus on breeding and animal health is on being paid for milk solids.

“We built-up the herd buying fresh cows and breeding up,” Mrs Arms said.

The 12-a-side herringbone dairy has been well maintained, with cup removers and sanitisers and a large entry yard from the laneway that leads cows in from the paddocks.

“When all the cows are in, that’s a solid day’s milking, but it’s very easy in the one-person shed,” Mrs Arms said.

Now into their third season on the farm, in June this year they were milking 4100 litres from 130 cows. Because of a dry autumn and winter, they made the decision to dry off 100 cows early pre-calving.

“Production was down and their condition dropped in autumn; so we dried them off two months early,” Mrs Arms said.

The spring-harvested silage was fed out in autumn and two–year-old hay is now being fed to the milking and dry cows.

Winter rain enabled leafy brassica crops to get up enough to become part of the grazing rotation in June and July. Rye-grass was sown to follow on for spring grazing.

Mr and Mrs Arms have become actively involved with the Young Dairy Network and have completed a number of dairy courses through GippsDairy and Dairy Australia.

“The discussion group focus is really encouraging and has helped me to improve pasture production,” Mrs Arms said.

“I was raised on a dairy farm and I always wanted to get back into this industry. It just took a while to find a way.

“Now I’m finding ways to have a voice in the industry, raising issues with suppliers and building my capacity to be a spokesperson.”

She also recently completed the Developing Dairy Leaders course and both Mr and Mrs Arms are planning to become more actively involved with the UDV.