Dairy News

Aussie Reds are winning a farmer’s heart and national awards

By Sophie Baldwin

The 300-head milking herd of Buffalo dairy farmer Peter Young has changed quite significantly over the years.

When Peter made the move to lease the family farm off his parents Ron and Shelia back in 2007, it came with a mixture of Holstein, Jersey and crossbreed cows.

A problem with cancer on the third eyelid in some of the white Holsteins was the catalyst for a change in breeding and one that led him to Aussie Reds.

Thirteen years later he was awarded the highest new Aussie Red herd (30 cows or more) ranked on BPI by The Australian Red Dairy Breed association.

His Aussie Reds already rank as the number 10 BPI herd in Australia and, according to The Australian Red Dairy Breed association, his passion for his cows and attention to detail will see him move quickly up the ranks.

Peter was stoked by the win and is more than happy with his decision to change the majority of the herd across to Aussie Reds.

“Aussie Reds have helped create the exact type of cow I was looking for — medium-sized, barrel-bodied, easy-calving cows with good udders,” Peter said.

His love for the breed was cemented after experiencing a tough spring calving and then deciding to buy an Aussie Red bull sired by Krejstad to put over his heifers.

“I didn’t have to pull a single calf and I was convinced after that,” he said.

About 70 per cent of the milking herd is now joined to Aussie Red and 30 per cent Jersey.

“I have a bit of a mixed grill,” he laughed.

“Some of the cows are light, some are dark, some look like Ayrshires and some look like Shorthorns.

“I have maintained a line of Holsteins so they don’t disappear from the herd altogether, but I do have a blend of everything and quite an interesting colour palette.”

Peter said a medium-sized cow suited his farm and he had no plans to steer away from the Jersey component because he liked having the comparison of the two breeds in the herd.

He also loved the health traits of the Reds, and said they were perfectly suited to his pasture grazing production system.

He rated Krejstad as his favourite sire used over the years, while Botans and VFoske were also successful.

Other influential sires used include Klens, BJurist, Peterslund, Solero, Orraryd, Edbo and VIKBalfa. Current bulls being used are VIKBuckarby, VIKRTokyo, VIKRViolin, VIKRVenom and VRHattrick.

“Most of the semen I use is Viking Genetics which has a focus on Swedish Reds.

“I also like my Jerseys to be heavy-framed so I have two robust breeds; they might not be as pretty as other cows but they are a lot tougher.”

Peter said weather played an important role in the condition of his herd. His property is in the South Gippsland region of southern Victoria.

“I have a wet farm and I need a cow that doesn’t carry too much weight and has a good weight-to-production ratio, which is what I am finding with the Reds.”

The cow graze perennial pasture, with a few annuals thrown in for extra feed for the start of lactation and cutting for silage.

“I grow a summer crop of millet and rape — in a wet summer the rape does well and if it is a bit drier than the millet goes well.”

The herd is split-calving, with the main herd starting at the end of July and finished by September.

“The autumn herd just takes some of the pressure off over spring and conditions are more favourable for the calves born in autumn.”

The majority of the herd is AI, but Peter does use Angus mop-up bulls and Highland bulls on the heifers.

Peter is helped on the farm by his sister Maree Young and worker Christina Pawson.

He said dairy farming had been a tough game over the years, which is why he is still leasing the farm.

“The dairy industry is really at a crossroads, we really need a consistent good milk price.

“The collapse of Murray Goulburn caused a real loss of confidence within the industry and it certainly hasn’t recovered.

“To my mind family farms are much better than corporate farms as they are in it for the long haul and want to see it continue for the next generation.”

Currently supplying Saputo, he said he was happy with the company's opening price.

“Compared to the predictions it was better than I thought it was going to be, although we would always like higher, but this is a doable price this season.

“Saputo have done well considering COVID-19, especially when it come to supplying UHT, but we can’t have it both ways because other product lines have backed right off.”