Faith in dairying future
Biggenden farmers confident major investment will pay off
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.