Improving the little things

Henry Moyle is keen to improve the little things and progress in the dairy industry.

Henry Moyle might be relatively new to dairy farming, but he’s keen on making a mark.

Henry and his partner Zarli Dalton, along with their young daughter Nelly, are sharefarmers with Duncan and Ian Morris near Cobden in south-west Victoria.

One of Henry’s main priorities is to improve the little things — and to reduce the size of some of the bigger things.

The farm milks 275 three-way crosses of Montbéliarde, Aussie Red and Holstein — but Henry is keen to introduce a Kiwi Friesian-Jersey cross to the mix.

“We have great cows health-wise but they’re really big cows and on a hilly farm like this that can be difficult,” he said.

“I’m quite passionate about having smaller cows.”

They are considering adding a Kiwi Friesian-Jersey cross to the mix.

About 20 per cent of the 242-hectare farm — which expanded from an original Soldier Settlement block — doesn’t get much use because it’s too hilly or rocky, though the hilly land helped to ease flooding after this spring’s heavy rain.

The farm has a three-way cross herd and Henry is keen to introduce a Kiwi Friesian-Jersey cross to the mix.

Always looking to improve things, Henry is also introducing a probiotic to the dairy feed.

“Because we’re feeding so much grass, hopefully the probiotic will slow down the passage through the rumen to utilise more of that grass which will help with the fat percentage,” he said.

“It also has good health outcomes in terms of lameness, mastitis and improved fertility, even though that’s not an issue with us.”

The Australian Probiotic Solutions addition will be mixed in the next load of grain — the only feed brought onto the farm. To pay for it, the cows only have to produce an extra four kilos of solids per year.

Henry and Zarli have been on the farm since April 2021 on a one-third share. They both provide labour, and over the past year have employed a part-time relief milker.

After leaving school, Henry studied agricultural science at University of Melbourne but left early and worked in banking, beef, sheep and cropping before moving to Marcus Oldham College to study the business side of farming.

He also spent a year on a dairy farm at Dixie and his father, Russell, bought a dairy farm at Glenormiston after retiring as a school teacher.

“We had a look at everything — beef, sheep, cropping, chickens, piggeries — but there are good opportunities in dairy to get in on a share basis instead of working for a wage,” Henry said.

“We found out about the sharefarming opportunity through word-of-mouth from family friends and we’ve settled here.”

Duncan and Ian grew up on the original 60ha and bought some neighbouring farms and built a new 26-a-side herringbone dairy about 12 years ago, to allow a family member to sharefarm.

Henry and Zarli pay one-third of the grain, nitrogen and electricity and take one-third of the milk cheque.

They are discussing with the owners about potentially purchasing the herd at the end of this season and moving to a 50:50 share.

“That’s the next step for us,” Henry said.

“Ideally, we could do that for a couple of years and pay them off and then look towards leasing.

“It’s a long-term plan for us. We have a really good relationship with the owners.”

Much of the farm is hilly, making it difficult for larger cows.

They share the brothers’ focus on profitability, with a low-input seasonal system, matching calving and lactations to grass growth.

They calve from mid-May for 12 weeks and focus on home-grown feed.

“I’ll feed about 500 to 600 kilos of grain per cow this year and that’s the only purchased feed; we don’t buy any hay,” Henry said.

“We don’t calve out of season so we don’t have to buy-in feed. For us starting off, it’s highly profitable and low-risk.

“Feed prices are still high but if the milk price drops, we know we can still be profitable because we have a big margin.”

Henry admits they have picked a great time to start in dairy, with strong prices and good seasons, despite a tough six weeks at the end of winter last year when it wouldn’t stop raining.

Alongside 22 like-minded farmers, they supply SW Dairy Limited (SWDL), of which Duncan Morris was a founding director.

SWDL has a long-term relationship with ProviCo and the milk is processed at their Dennington factory.

“It’s great to be part of that,” Henry said.

“The fundamentals of that group are about encouraging young farmers and getting fairness in the milk price.

“Every supplier gets paid the same price per kilo of milk solids — it doesn’t matter how big you are or whether you’re seasonal.

“It’s the same price every day of the year and it works well for our system.”

SWDL pays the same for a kilo of fat and protein.

“Montes and Reds don’t have great fat percentages and that’s why we’re looking at the Kiwi cross cows,” Henry said.

“My dad milks them and all year he’s constantly one per cent higher in components than we are.

“We all learn from each other. My dad and I talk every day on the phone and both know what’s going on on each other’s farms.”

Henry and Zarli continue to look for little improvements and efficiencies through breeding.

“There’s nothing sexy about our system,” he said.

“It was what everyone was doing 50 years ago and it worked then and it works now.”

Fertility is a priority and the results speak for themselves.

“Being seasonal, we have to get cows back in calf,” Henry said.

“We’ve got a seven per cent empty rate this year which is pretty good. We have really good AI results this year and will have over half the herd calving in the first two weeks.”

Henry and Zarli, with their new daughter Nelly, see a long-term future in dairying.