LOOKING AFTER, and retaining staff, is one of the keys Tasmanian dairy farmer Mark Griffin uses to maintain and improve milk quality.
This dedication, along with accurate record keeping, has placed his dairy business in the top 100 nationwide for milk quality this year.
The 800-cow three-way crossbred herd is milked through a 50-bail rotary with a spring-based calving pattern and had an average monthly bulk milk cell count of 70 000 throughout 2018.
Improving the system along with the effort and attitude of the farm team are key contributors to the success.
Mark regularly encourages his team to suggest ways to improve milk quality and take an active role in preventing mastitis.
He believes keeping the cows calm and handling them gently reduces their stress levels and increases the quality of the milk.
“Attention to detail is crucial — it doesn’t matter if you milk 1000 cows or 100 cows. You have to support your staff, lead by example, and provide flexibility of lifestyle,” Mark said.
The farm has a very high staff retention rate which Mark believes plays a major role in business profitability.
After deciding to take the farm’s milk quality to the next level and break into the top 100, Mark decided to refresh his knowledge and pursue more training to further improve the dairy herd’s performance.
“I always recommend refreshers — even if you only pick up one or two new things at training courses, it makes a big difference to your overall system.
“You can also create networks and talk to other farmers about what has worked well and what hasn’t worked well for them,” Mark said.
Ambic in-line mastitis detectors have been fitted on each set of cups and are closely monitored by the cups-off operator at every milking.
If mastitis is detected during milking, that bail is not used for the rest of the milking to prevent cross-contamination.
“All heifers are teat sealed to reduce the risk of mastitis at calving, with a goal of saving costs in the long-term by reducing the number of mastitis cases and increasing lifetime productivity of those animals,” Mark said.
All staff receive training on-farm before they are tasked with teat sealing, with the farm team recognising that hygiene is crucial to milk quality.
Herd testing is conducted monthly and the data is used to identify cows which require dry cow treatment.
Higher cell count cows averaging more than 200 000 throughout the lactation will be treated with a broad-spectrum dry cow therapy at the end of their lactation.
Milk cultures are collected at calving time and prior to dry off to ensure the most effective dry cow therapy and mastitis treatments are administered.
A ‘traffic light’ system of different coloured paint dots has also been implemented to monitor the herd, with a yellow dot placed in the middle of the udder of cows that are suspected to be at risk of mastitis.
Cow behaviour is actively monitored by all team members, with Mark believing that knowing the herd is crucial to noticing behavioural changes in particular cows.
Believing prevention is better than cure, the farm has switched to a premixed iodine teat spray. Not only has this saved time it also achieves a more accurate consistency.
Glycerine is added to the iodine after calving in the wetter months and this has improved teat condition and cow comfort dramatically.
“All staff in the dairy wear milking gloves, and if mastitis is detected at cups-on or cups-off, the milking glove that came into contact with mastitis bacteria is thrown in the bin and a new glove put on,” Mark said.
“Mastitis cows are always milked last to prevent cross contamination.”