WESTERN Dairy chairwoman Vicki Fitzpatrick and her husband Luke will be adding a sixth gold milk quality award to their Waroona dairy wall after being listed as one of the best 100 dairy farmers in Australia again this year.
The Fitzpatricks, who milk 200 cows in an 11-a-side double-up herringbone dairy with the help of one employee, are the only Western Australians named every year in Dairy Australia's top 100 dairy farmers since the quality benchmark award was introduced in 2014.
The annual gold awards recognise 100 dairy farmers nationwide who produce the best quality milk based on low bulk milk cell count (BMCC).
Last week Dairy Australia named the Fitzpatricks and four other WA dairy operations in their 2019 top 100 with the lowest BMCC.
The others were Harold, Joan and Bevan Harrison, trading as HD Harrison & Co, Rosa Glen, Ian and Ruth McGregor, Busselton, J & C Italiano Family Trust, Harvey and Rodney and Nicole May trading as Ranchway Pty Ltd, Cowaramup.
Those five and three other WA dairy farms will also receive silver awards for having the lowest five per cent of BMCC nationally.
The other three silver award winners are Matt and Angela Brett, Ferguson Valley, RJ & G Parravicini, Cookernup and Ben and Caroline and Len and Jennifer Letchford trading as Walsall Dairy, Busselton.
All of this year's WA milk quality award winners have been named regularly in the awards over the past six years.
Ms Fitzpatrick said maintaining a low BMCC required constant attention to detail in the dairy.
"Everybody has to be totally anal about hygiene," Ms Fitzpatrick said.
"Also, the dairy has to be a calm, happy place for the cows - no stress.
"A lot of it is just being observant, waiting for cows to let down (begin to release milk), teat spraying and we have little line filters that we check for clumps (a sign of mastitis) after each milking."
Ms Fitzpatrick said one of the biggest improvements in BMCC came after they switched to mouthpiece-vented triangular cup liners.
The liners help reduce milk splashback on the teat tip because the venting allows air into the system behind the milk and they are claimed to be more gentle on teats with a softer three-way pulsing action than a standard round cup liner.
"Of course the best way to keep the cell count down is to ensure everybody who works in the dairy has done one of our (Western Dairy) Cups On, Cups Off courses," Ms Fitzpatrick said.
Dairy Australia managing director David Nation said a focus on a low BMCC in milk production helped farmers prevent mastitis in their herd and could boost profitability through a price premium paid by some processors for best quality milk.
Dr Nation said Dairy Australia analysis had found that a farmer milking 300 cows who lowers their BMCC from 300,000 to 200,000 would be financially better off by $35,700 a year.
"You can't achieve an award like this without focus across the year on milk quality," Dr Nation said when congratulating the award winners.
"For many farmers, it reflects dedication over many years to get to this level.
"These awards recognise the quality and safety of Australian milk that all farmers should take pride in."
Dr Nation said farmers could lower their BMCC by upgrading their own skills and knowledge attending courses run by Dairy Australia under its regional development program and improving their herd using services such as the dairy industry-owned DataGene.
Cell counts for the milk quality awards are supplied to Dairy Australia by dairy processors.
To be eligible, dairy farms must have data for a minimum of nine months in a calendar year.
Monthly averages are then used to calculate the annual average BMCC for each farm.