Creating efficiencies and boosting production in organic dairy farming

The appeal of organics is becoming increasingly mainstream, with more than 65 per cent of Australian households purchasing organic products in the past year, according to the 2019 Australian Organic Market Report, and organic dairy equating to nearly half (48 per cent) of all purchases.

With consumer interest in organics on the rise, many dairy farmers are considering transitioning their operation to certified organic.

Russell and Rochelle Crow from Kyabram, Victoria, have been dairy farming for more than 25 years.

In 2016, Russell and his family began transitioning their operation of 450 cows and 2000 chickens to become certified organic.

Russell said while the transition was not easy, he was pleased they made the move when they did.

Today, Russell supplies close to three million litres of organic milk to Australian Consolidated Milk (ACM).

Russell is constantly looking at ways to create efficiencies on farm, so they can continue to meet the growing consumer demand for organic dairy.

When it comes to organic farming, sustainable nutrition can be a costly, labour-intensive exercise, with many dairy farmers creating and using their own compost.

In July, Russell trialled a new, organic input from ECTOL Plant & Crop Nutrients, which provides nine per cent nitrogen in a liquid formulation.

“I’ve been farming organically since 2016 and until now, I’ve haven’t been able to find a certified organic, liquid nitrogen input,” he said.

“One of the difficulties in organic farming is solving plant or soil problems quickly and cost-effectively.

“If I have a nitrogen problem and do not have adequate compost on hand, it can be months before I am able to tend to it properly, which can cause bigger issues on-farm.

“With a slow-release, liquid nitrogen input, I’m able to do a foliar application, which means I don’t have to rely on rain, in order for the plant to take-up the nutrients.

“There are no quick-fixes in organic farming, but finding ways to get the job done more efficiently, to the same organic specifications, is a really big win for us.”

Russell applied 10 litres per hectare of AGB Slow-Release N+TE from ECTOL Plant & Crop Nutrients in July 2020.

In just over a month, Russell noted a clear, visible lift in his crops and pastures.

“So far, we’ve been really impressed with the growth following application of AGB Slow-Release Nitrogen,” he said.

“I can already tell the nitrogen hit is much stronger than what we’ve be able to achieve with our compost alone.

“We’re excited to see the industry responding to growing interest in organic farming, as well the needs of farmers, and we look forward to seeing what we can achieve with this product and other liquid nutrients from ECTOL in the future.”

For 20 years ECTOL Pty Ltd has been working with Australian and New Zealand dairy farmers, offering plant and crop nutrients to farmers seeking more sustainable crop and pasture management, while maintaining a cost-efficient, quality operation.

In 2020 the company introduced a fully certified organic program, which is now available to organic dairy farmers wanting to close the profitability gap with conventional practices, while at the same time giving assurances to educated consumers that the production inputs meet their expectations.