WA’s annual Dairy Innovation Day was the best industry information event in Australia and run for some of the country’s best dairy farmers.
That was the message from Dairy Australia managing director Ian Halliday, in opening his last Western Dairy innovation day, held recently on Mick and Sophia Giumelli’s Benger farm.
Mr Halliday, who has guided Dairy Australia for the past eight years, announced last month he would not renew his contract and would stand down at the end of the year to allow a “fresh perspective” to be brought in.
He came from Victoria with Dairy Australia president Jeff Odgers to attend the 19th innovation day and an industry dinner held later at Bunbury.
“I do travel all around Australia and I do attend a lot of conferences and a lot of innovation events and this is by far the best,’’ Mr Halliday told dairy farmers, services suppliers and industry representatives.
“I know there are some people here from Queensland who are looking at how this is organised and run, with a view to taking what they learn from the event back to northern New South Wales and Queensland over the next 12-18 months.”
Mr Halliday said the day was “a real credit” to the Western Dairy staff and board and involved “an enormous amount of preparation”.
He also praised hosts Mick and Sophia as an example of WA dairy farmers having “that strong desire, that motivation, that hunger to want to learn and do better”.
He listed their extensive involvement in training programs, workshops and on-farm trials ranging from farm business management courses through to irrigated fodder, herd genetics and fertility and dairy effluent systems, as well as participation in Dairy Australia’s DairyBase farm statistical analysis program.
“No one has twisted their arms to do this, they really are a couple making the most of everything that’s available to them and it’s via the levy, via Dairy Australia with Western Dairy, with a contribution from the State government and via the (Bunbury dairy) hub,” Mr Halliday said.
“There’s an unbelievable amount of help, support and knowledge to assist you to improve your enterprise.
“I know WA on a national scale represents only a small portion of the national (milk) volume, but you have some of the very best dairy farmers in the country.
“I so enjoy coming over and talking to all of you so I can learn more and take back and help promulgate across the country some of the information I hear in WA.”
Western Dairy chairman and North Jindong dairy farmer Grant Evans said dairy innovation day “has a long legacy of going to a farm each year which offers something new”.
He praised Mick and Sophia as “always prepared to say yes to whatever is asked of them”.
Western Dairy research scientist Peter Hutton outlined the results of an irrigation trial completed recently on the Giumelli farm to test suitability of maize and the legume lablab as potential fodder crop replacements for higher cost grains or purchased concentrates in the daily ration for their 370-cow milking herd.
A nine hectare site and an adjacent 1ha test site were prepared and sown in December with maize and lablab and watered four times by surface irrigation with Mick deciding on the timing of the irrigations, Dr Hutton said.
Rain mid-January also helped.
Soil moisture probes were installed at either end of each cropping area with sensors buried at 10 and 30 centimetre depths to measure the effectiveness of the surface irrigation, he said.
The maize was harvested at 110 days and yielded a better-than-expected 25.3 tonnes of dry matter per hectare, had metabolised energy of 10.1 megajoules per kilogram of dry matter and a crude protein measure of seven per cent.
Water usage efficiency was 4.87 tonnes of dry matter produced per megalitre.
For dry matter and total energy yield maize proved a low cost home-grown alternative feed relative to purchased concentrates, but a high yield was needed to offset high upfront costs, Dr Hutton said.
While lablab is normally grazed, the proximity of the test site to the maize crop and his cows’ love of maize meant Mick was not prepared to “risk” turning cows out to graze the lablab, he said.
Instead, it was harvested mid-March and processed into round bale silage.
To simulate grazing, a small patch was trimmed with hedge clippers every four weeks to a height cows would normally graze.
Dr Hutton said analysis of the soil probe data suggested different results across the lablab site were due to the bottom end not receiving the optimum amount of water which affected results averaged across the plot.
Overall the harvested lablab produced 5.6tdm/ha with 10.3mj/kgdm and 17pc crude protein.
Water efficiency was 1.3tdm/ml.
Indicative results from the simulated grazed patch suggested more dry matter and higher energy and protein values were achievable by grazing lablab.
“The high quality of the lablab pasture made it a cheaper option compared to purchased concentrates for both metabolised energy and crude protein,” Dr Hutton said.
It showed “great potential” as a summer grazing crop and while both lablab and maize as silage crops were suitable as a component of a partial mixed ration, both provided too much fibre to be considered as the sole diet item, he said.
Western Dairy research and extension officer Jessica Andony presented details of the Giumellis’ herd fertility, calving patterns and higher-than-average 54 per cent conception rate.
High numbers of young cows in their herd, which has an average age of 4.5 years, helped improve the conception rate, reduce reliance on artificial insemination and shorten their overall calving period, Ms Andony said.
Mick and Sophia calve 70pc of their herd in spring and light weight heifers are held over and calved the following February/March before joining the herd.