Chasing his dairy dream

By Rick Bayne

AS A 22-year-old forging a strong path in the dairy industry, Liam Allan has a pretty simple outlook on farming.

“We keep it simple and easy,” he says. “There’s nothing too dramatic about we do here.”

Mr Allan is sharefarming with new owners Paul and Chris Moloney at the former DemoDAIRY farm west of Terang.

The arrangement started on July 1 and is working well as they return the farm to its former glory. They share a common outlook on farming and life.

“We have similar ideas,” Mr Allan said.

“We’re both pretty casual and try to get the right work-life balance. I still play footy and cricket and Paul used to play and still likes to go and watch the footy.”

The addition of a school-based apprentice next year will further help spread the workload.

Mr Allan recently won the Great South West Dairy Awards’ Young Dairy Leader Award for his vision to inspire other young farmers and to continue broadening his skill and knowledge base.

He moved to the Terang farm after 14 months sharefarming in Panmure.

It’s a positive step for Mr Allan, who has already progressed quickly after entering his first share agreement at 20. “I will have a few more cows and we’re working on a bigger scale,” he said.

The 161 ha farm will milk about 250 at its peak. Mr Allan brought 30 “bits and pieces cows” from Panmure and aims to slowly build his herd.

“I’ve got about 45 to come into the herd in two years and there are about 20 to come in next year. I’m trying to grow and get a full herd together and then get some machinery.

“It’s one step at a time to the ultimate plan to one day own my own farm.”

Prior to the property sale, DemoDAIRY had scaled back and removed its cows, leaving many pastures in need of renovation.

Before Mr Allan started, Mr Moloney had re-sown about 60 ha — mostly with Italians, which has provided a good silage crop.

“He was coming in pretty blind and some of it was sown a bit late. We put in a lot of Italians but the plan is to get it back mainly to perennials,” Mr Allan said.

“It was a bit of a tough start but spring is shaping up pretty well. We’ve cut over 50 ha of silage and it’s looking good.”

They plan to use pasture-based systems and be feed-sustainable.

“We bought two loads of total mixed ration to get us through a quiet patch in winter when some of the pastures still weren’t up to scratch,” Mr Allan said.

“Next year we’ll still be learning, but in the next three to five years we hope to be fully self-sufficient and not have to buy feed other than grain.” They feed about a tonne a cow at the moment.

About 10.5 ha of rape and turnip summer crops have been planted, and they will get sown back in for perennials next year. Any paddock that is under-performing will get sprayed-out and sown into an annual for a summer crop for next year.

Mr Allan uses Pasture for Profit for grazing management.

“It’s really helpful. It gets our paddock rotations right and grazing your grass right is so important, especially this time of the year. You can waste a lot of grass if you’re not grazing properly.”

He aims for an 18-day rotation and if there’s any excess it’s picked up as silage.

Mr Moloney has also renovated the farm’s dairy, installing a new feed system, enclosed and vermin-proof feed bins, reconstructed frames that hold the milking machines, added new breast and breech rails and re-arranged the walkways before installing a new milking system.

The system includes Cow Manager and Easy Dairy draft system.

“We get a more accurate picture of when the cows are on heat and don’t have to worry about tail paint,” Mr Allan said.

“I just look at my phone in the mornings and night and whatever cows are on I just type into the computer and they draft themselves.

“Technology has come a long way and it’s definitely improving farms.”

They also aim for simplicity with calving and will work to a tight calving in May to July.

“Next year we might be a bit pushed out while we get established. Everything doesn’t happen in a day.”

Mr Allan is now working on the farm where he completed part of his education. “I did my Cert IV here but didn’t think I’d be back here sharefarming.”

Mr Moloney has a five-year plan to get the farm back in optimal shape, and likewise Mr Allan has goals to advance in the industry.

“We’ve got a plan mapped out and I’d like to own half the herd in the next five years,” he said.

“Going straight to leasing would be too tough. It’s a bit daunting as a young bloke to go ‘bang’ and you’ve got all these bills coming in at once. I’ll take it a little bit at a time.”

The share partnership is on solid ground.

“Paul is fantastic support,” Mr Allan said.

“We were just looking at the silage and working out when we’d start baling. We work it out together and help each other when needed.”

Mr Moloney is based at his main farm just south of Terang.

Mr Allan aims to keep learning. He’s a member of the Ecklin Discussion Group and likes to learn from other farmers.

“I’m keen to learn and try to get as far as I can. When I was younger I had a go at other things but my heart was always set on farming.”