Dairy farmer’s sustainable goal

The farm’s assistant manager Nathann Chatfield at milking time.WIM Kampschoer together with his wife Chris Bell milk 365 Holstein Friesian cows on their 236 hectare Cooriemungle property in the Western district.

The couple are career dairy farmers, have been in the industry now for over thirty years and have gone through the ranks from wages to share farming, farm ownership and general expansion.

“We have been very focused on what we are doing and years ago established our direction,” he said.

“It is our aim to produce quality milk profitably from quality Holstein Friesian cows in an environmentally sustainable manner in order to provide quality of life for ourselves, our family and those who work with us.”

The family finish calving the spring component of the herd the first week of October.

About three quarters of the herd calves in the autumn and another quarter calves in spring.

“I used to be a good farmer with a tight calving pattern years ago, but we found that the milkers were past their peak dry matter intake in the spring when there was heaps of green grass available, so now we convert green grass directly into milk without putting it into silage first which is more efficient.”

For the last ten years, the couple have not had a bull on the farm, with all milkers being joined to AI.

Struggling to get the cows in calf, Mr Kampschoer undertook an AI refresher course this year to ensure his technique is up to scratch.

While he seems to get most of them in calf, eventually cows that have problems at calving are checked before joining.

The herd is high producing at 9900 litres with 3.8 per cent fat and 3.3pc protein, but it is over 350 days.

Cows that do not get in calf in the autumn are joined for the spring and the good young spring calvers are carried over to the autumn.

“The average production for our spring calvers at the moment is over 42 litres but as we have a 25 swing-over dairy we cannot feed them individually and, like the rest of the herd they get about 6-7 kilograms of grain,” he said.

“They therefore have a negative energy balance for an extended period of time and are hard to get in calf.

“Farming is always a compromise between pasture management and herd management.”

Effluent from the manure ponds is irrigated on silage regrowth paddocks at the back of the farm running through a three inch pipe which is able to propel an irrigator by gravity, so there is no cost involved.

Bedding from the calving pad and waste from the feedpad is heaped together and after composting spread on paddocks that undergo a pasture renovation program.

The yearlings stay at home until they are ready to join.

They then go to the 65ha outblock down the road where they stay until they are springing.

“This year we were lucky enough to rear 150 calves, but it is our aim to calf down about 100 heifers every year as I think that Chinese dairy farmers are going to benefit from our breeding program,” he said.

The herd is registered with the Holstein Friesian Association but is run under strict commercial conditions, while AI bulls used are mainly Australian proven and selected for production, workability and conformation.

“As far as stock health goes it is our aim to prevent issues arising by blanket dry cow treatment and the use of teat seal,” Mr Kampschoer said.

“Teat spraying of fresh cows and heifers before milking also helps the cell count.

“Before the cows are dried off all feet are trimmed if required to prevent lameness after calving.”

The couple now have one full time employee, Nathan, his partner Christina works part time every second weekend and a semi-retired dairy farmer Rob who does part time milkings in the afternoon.

He said the season so far looked good, but always does at this time of year. “While the paddocks are reasonably soft, we have just been doing a fair bit of fencing to establish more plantations for shelter belts and perhaps possible carbon credits,” he said.

“Sooner or later the carbon tax is going to happen and we might as well try and do our bit to help the environment.”

Two years ago, the farm won a Western Victoria environmental award for sustainability and nutrient management.

“We have always tried to improve our business from environmental impact point of view,” he said.

Mr Kampschoer expressed concern that the supermarkets were devaluing milk products by discounting.

“We supply Warrnambool Cheese and Butter and they currently sell fresh milk into China where people with a lower disposable income are paying up to five or six times what we are paying because they value a quality product,” he said.

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