Faith in dairy­ing fu­ture

Biggen­den farm­ers con­fi­dent ma­jor in­vest­ment will pay off

Central and North Burnett Times - - RURAL UPDATE -

AT A TIME when the dairy in­dus­try is in cri­sis be­cause of fall­ing prices and in­creas­ing costs, it is un­usual to find farm­ers com­mit­ting to ma­jor out­lays to in­crease pro­duc­tion.

But Biggen­den farm­ers Rob­bie and Michelle Radel re­cently in­stalled a sec­ond cen­tre pivot ir­ri­ga­tor at their Moun­tain View prop­erty, just out­side Biggen­den.

About 21 hectares of rye grass and lucerne will be ir­ri­gated to feed their dairy herd.

The herd is a mix of Brown Swiss, Friesian and Illawarra milk­ers and has 140 cows in pro­duc­tion, which the Radels plan to in­crease to 160.

“We have rea­son­able con­fi­dence in the in­dus­try and as a fourth gen­er­a­tion farmer, who has never wanted to do any­thing else, I would love to see a fifth gen­er­a­tion carry on,” Mr Radel said.

Mr Radel said he was con­vinced of the ben­e­fits of the cen­tre piv­ots. He said the ad­di­tional ir­ri­ga­tor should en­able them to grow nearly twice the feed on half the wa­ter and use less elec­tric­ity than with trav­el­ling ir­ri­ga­tors.

“The com­par­i­son is 96% ef­fi­ciency com­pared to 80%. An­other bonus is that (the ir­ri­ga­tors) take away all labour in­put, sav­ing me valu­able time,” Mr Radel said. “With five pro­duc­tive bores, one ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing (about 53,000 litres) an hour, even if the worst hap­pens and we have to leave the in­dus­try, the in­fra­struc­ture will be there to en­able us to di­ver­sify into al­ter­nate means of in­come.”

Mr Radel’s suc­cess­ful Moun­tain View Brown Swiss Stud has pro­duced many win­ners at the Bris­bane Ex­hi­bi­tion. And in July, he was re­elected as the na­tional pres­i­dent of Brown Swiss Aus­tralia.

Dur­ing a tour around Mu­nich in Bavaria, Ger­many ear­lier this year, he saw more than 1000 Brown Swiss cat­tle among the mainly Hol­stein Friesian herds on 25 farms. Mr Radel said he came away im­pressed with the ef­fi­cien­cies he saw. “The dairies there are mostly ro­botic: the cows stroll a short dis­tance to be milked, where an elec­tronic ear tag iden­ti­fies and feeds ac­cord­ingly.

“Be­cause of their good soil, farm­ers are able to pro­duce enough pas­ture hay and grain dur­ing sum­mer to feed dur­ing the long win­ter.

“Fed seven ki­los of grain, sim­i­lar to here, their cows pro­duce (at the low­est) 9000 litres per cow, while in Queens­land the av­er­age is around 7500 litres.

“Slot­ted floors in the sheds are au­to­mat­i­cally swept, with the waste turned into bio-fu­els and 95% of their elec­tric­ity is pro­duced from ma­nure. Noth­ing is wasted, as solid waste is spread onto the pas­tures. There is no need for air-con­di­tion­ing, the cows keep each other warm in big sheds.”

Mr Radel said it was com­mon to see milk­ing herds in the towns, with dairies at­tached to houses in the main street. But, he said, there was no smell and no noise from the con­tented cows.

FAITH IN FU­TURE: Biggen­den dairy farmer Rob­bie Radel is go­ing head first into the fu­ture of dairy­ing in Aus­tralia.

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