FIVE WA dairy farms have made it into the top 100 farms producing the highest quality milk in Australia.
The farmers received a gold plaque in the 2018 Dairy Australia Milk Quality Awards, acknowledging they produce the best quality milk based on annual average bulk milk cell count (BMCC).
The WA farmers in the top 100 are Matt and Angela Brett, Ferguson Valley, Luke and Vicki Fitzpatrick, Waroona, the Foster family at Cowaramup, Ian and Ruth McGregor, Busselton, and the Letchford family trading as Walsall Dairy, Busselton.
They and another six WA dairy farmers also received silver awards for having annual average BMCCs in the lowest 5 per cent in Australia.
The Bretts, Fitzpatricks (Vicki is Western Dairy vice chairperson) and Walsall Dairy operated by Ben and Caroline and Len and Jennifer Letchford, have regularly appeared in Dairy Australia’s annual top 100.
Monthly average BMCC data is supplied to Dairy Australia by milk processors across the country.
A low cell count is an indicator that mastitis is well controlled in a herd, improving milk production, cow health and welfare.
A farmer milking 300 cows who lowers BMCC from 300,000 to 200,000 would be $35,700 better off a year according to Dairy Australia analysis.
Fourth-generation dairy farmer Matt Brett said the health of his 180 cows was top priority, but milk quality was also about ensuring sound, consistent milking practices and the ability to monitor the whole herd to stay on top of emerging issues.
“I focus on health and make sure we’re feeding the cows well,” Mr Brett said.
“We do herd recording every month which is very helpful and gives you a sense of how your herd’s going.
“I can have a cell count of 40,000 one day and it can spike to 200,000 the next if a cow gets mastitis.
“A lot of people say if you’ve got a small farm, you have it easier, but you’ve still got to stay on top of it.
“We’ve got filters we use to check every cow and we check them all for mastitis.
“We also have our machines serviced every year and check them ourselves thoroughly every six months to make sure they remain in good condition.
“Attention to detail is the most important thing – once you achieve high milk quality, it’s easier to maintain,” he said.
Mr Brett advocated for Dairy Australia’s Cups On Cups Off (COCO) best practise and clinical mastitis detection, treatment and prevention training course for milkers and use of its Countdown resources.
“Our farming practice is in line with the Cups On Cups Off theory,” he said.
“We are always looking to make improvements so our milk quality stays consistent.
“I employ a full-time staff member now and even though he’s had experience on a much larger farm, I’ll be encouraging him to take the course and see what more he can learn.
“This farm has been in my family for more than 100 years.
“High milk quality is important to the whole industry and helps tell our story.”
Dairy Australia’s Countdown program includes a mobile application and shed guides to effective strategies to help lower BMCCs.
For further information on Countdown and two-day COCO courses delivered by Regional Development Programs, see dairyaustralia.com.au.