MORE of Western Australia's 120 dairy farmers have been urged to join Dairy Australia's national Dairy Farm Monitor Project (DFMP) which collates data on individual farm performances.
Veterinarian and Dardanup dairy farmer Warrick Tyrrell, who runs a 300-cow Friesian enterprise with wife Emma - also a veterinarian - and Michael Twomey, who runs a 400-cow mixed herd dairy enterprise at Boyanup for the Ross Woodhouse-owned Peninsula Downs operation, both recommended others join the DFMP.
About 250 representatives of the local dairy industry and service providers in Dardanup Hall on Thursday last week for Western Dairy's 22nd annual Dairy Innovation Day (DID) heard reasons why they believed the information gained from the DFMP made them better farmers.
Mr Tyrell has been involved with the DFMP for the eight years it has run in WA.
He and Emma have grown the family farm and dairy enterprise significantly since joining the business in 2006.
Mr Twomey joined the DFMP in 2016 when he first took over running the Boyanup property, which had originally been farmed by his grandfather and father from 1944 before being leased out and at one stage mined by Iluka for mineral sands.
The DFMP collates data supplied anonymously by participating farmers on their pasture platforms, input costs like fertiliser, bought-in feed and concentrates, production values like milk volumes, milk solids and price from processors, as well as financial aspects like capital costs and income from animal sales.
"It (DFMP) is a really useful way to get a snapshot of financial performance and where you are sitting in relation to other farms of similar size," Mr Tyrrell told DID attendees.
"It really did help us identify areas of weakness in our business."
Mr Twomey agreed and outlined how after his first year on the Boyanup property he had increased herd numbers by 20 per cent based on production performance.
But he said he quickly discovered via the DFMP that 20pc more cows did not necessarily equate to more profit.
"I tried to push too hard and didn't do very well," Mr Twomey said.
"I reduced numbers back down until I found the sweet spot.
"Now, based on the information from DFMP, I'm looking to direct graze as much as possible and because I run a crossbred herd I'm looking more at milk solids than outright volume.
"Without the information you are flying by the seat of your pants.
"Without the information the industry has nothing to go on and without the hard data no one (State and Federal governments) is going to listen to us," he said.
Agribusiness consultant Kirk Reynolds, who at previous DIDs gave an overview of the WA data from the DFMP until Dairy Australia stopped releasing the information outside of project participants because some farmers believed milk processors were using it against them to keep farmgate prices low, was facilitator for the DFMP discussion.
Mr Reynolds pointed out the "sweet spot" Mr Twomey referred to was sought by most dairy farmers, but elusive because seasonal changes caused it to "shift".
"The sweet spot shifts - that's the problem with an agronomy system - and that's why I would encourage more farmers to become involved with the DFMP," Mr Reynolds said.
He said 21 WA farms from Harvey to Scott River and across to Denmark had supplied information for the 2020-21 financial year DFMP - the latest data available.
Of those 21 farms, 10 had participated since the project's inception.
As an adjunct to the DFMP, two dairy farmer discussion groups - one based at Dardanup and the other in the Vasse region - had been formed and some farmers found them a valuable addition to the raw data from the project, Mr Reynolds said.
Dairy Farm Monitor Project snapshot of WA's dairy farms in 2020-21 - the latest data available.
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Mr Twomey and Dardanup brothers Phil and Kevin Depiazzi also explained their farming operations to DID attendees before visits in the afternoon to their farms to discuss effluent management, irrigation projects and pasture renovation and management.
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