Doing small things well all adds up

Jamie Kiley (left) and Ian Holloway. “Once you get your cell count down low it is far easier to keep it there,” Ian says.

Kiewa Valley dairy farmers Ian and Alice Holloway have always prioritised cell count in the dairy herd.

They were rewarded for their efforts when they were named in the top 100 dairy farms in Australia based on Bulk Milk Cell Count (BMCC).

Milking more than 1000 registered Holstein cows on two separate farms in north-east Victoria, Ian says there is not one single thing that contributes to a low cell count, but rather a series of smaller things all done well.

“Once you get your cell count down low it is far easier to keep it there,” he said.

“Ours is currently sitting around 60,000 but we have spent much of the year around 40,000-50,000.”

Ian said good hygiene in the dairy was one of the keys, which includes disinfecting hands and gloves, particularly when it comes to mastitis cows.

“If a milker comes in contact with a cow with mastitis they must disinfect their gloves before they touch another quarter. If a mastitis cow gets on the platform during milking, we will always cut her out and milk her at the end to prevent any contamination.”

Cups are sanitised and keeping the plant and milking area clean is a major priority.

Ian has spent a lot of money on keeping the farm tracks in good condition to keep the cows away from mud, and any loafing areas like the feedpad are cleaned regularly.

The feedpad is a basic concrete structure with a hot wire running over the top of the feed. It is cleaned with a scraper on the front of the tractor.

The cows are mainly pasture-grazed and are fed a new strip of grass after each milking, which helps keep the herd away from any previously contaminated ground.

Ian said one of the biggest game changers in the management of the herd has been the implementation of collars for the cows.

“The main reason we got collars initially was because I had to step away from the dairy due to a couple of shoulder operations, but they have certainly surpassed my expectations particularly when it comes to herd health.”

Ian said the collars quickly pick up any health changes especially when it comes to mastitis, but he still expects his staff to remain vigilant and visually monitor the cows.

Both dairies herd test monthly and any cow with an elevated cell count is put on alert and checked daily.

Keeping accurate records is important and Ian said Easy Dairy has been a great program to work with.

“We keep records for everything and it is easy to check back on the cows’ history and any repeat problem cases are culled from the herd.”

Relying on staff has meant the Holloways put a lot of emphasis on training procedures for any new staff.

This is now mostly carried out by Jamie Kiley, who is responsible for the day-to-day running of the dairy and he makes every effort to ensure all staff are following the correct procedures.

Dry cow treatment and teat seal are administered at dry-off time with a strong emphasis on hygiene and following recommended process.

A tight autumn calving pattern is also adhered to which includes calving down a large number of heifers.

The herd is calved during April and May and any cows not in calf are milked through and rejoined if their production is good enough.

“We have more than enough stock and every year we sell 80 or so cows for dairy,” Ian said.

“They are always good production, low cell count cows and it has proven to be a good income stream because we do have repeat buyers.”

Ian said this season is looking pretty good despite 117mm of rain back in September which put the river flats under water.

Production-wise the cows are milking the best they have in five years and they were able to hold their peak for about five months.

Pasture quality is really good but silage yields are a bit down this season.