Young Leitchville farmer wins dairy scholarship

By Jamie Salter

Leitchville's Mitchell Lumsden is the latest Lallemand Animal Nutrition and Australian Fodder Industry Association GenAg scholarship winner.

“We are not dairy farmers anymore; we are crop growers who milk cows,” he said.

The 22-year-old will use the $3000 scholarship to investigate transitioning his family’s pasture-based, grazing dairy operation in northern Victoria to a housed-cow total mixed ration system.

His research will focus on the viability of total mixed ration (TMR) farming, especially in low farm gate milk price seasons.

Mr Lumsden said water availability and cost determined dairy profitability in recent years.

“The irrigation water reliability isn’t here anymore, it has changed with environmental flows and foreign buyers,” he said.

“Water is hard to come by, this means to run a successful business we are going to have to think differently and farm differently.”

Mr Lumsden is a fourth-generation dairy farmer and his parents milk up to 800 cows.

Running the family farm is his dream, but since finishing school he has worked at other dairy farms, for a forage contracting business in Canada, and is currently employed by Eade Forages in northern Victoria.

In Canada, Mr Lumsden learned how to manage seasonal and price risk through forage conservation.

He wants to use the GenAg scholarship to further explore this in an Australian context, where farm gate milk prices fluctuate.

“In NSW, they have almost already gone through this transition period — between grazing and total mixed ration— where we are at,” he said.

“They are more of a dryland operation which can get water sometimes.

“Last year they got zero per cent allocation and we, in Victoria, got 80 per cent.

“We are only 100 metres away from NSW, there’s every possibility that could happen in Victoria.”

Mr Lumsden said he wanted to meet people who have adopted total mixed ration farming and see what changes they have made to their businesses.

“We all know grazing is the cheapest form of feed, but if water is over $250 to $300 a megalitre it is not viable, and you can’t get the quantity of milk out of the cows.”