Prosser fam­ily re­builds milk­ing herd

Dairy News Australia - - FRONT PAGE - GOR­DON COL­LIE

A HOR­ROR sea­son has se­verely tested the re­silience of the last sur­viv­ing fam­ily dairy in the Harden district in south­ern in­land NSW.

Brothers Dar­ren and Wayne Prosser are still liv­ing with the le­gacy of 2016 on their di­ver­si­fied crop­ping and dairy prop­erty which was sat­u­rated from March to Septem­ber.

“Our av­er­age rain­fall is about 26 inches, but last year it never let up, the worst I’ve ever seen and I’m in my 50s,” Dar­ren said.

An­i­mal heath suf­fered and the brothers were forced to cull about a third of their cows with lame­ness and mas­ti­tis is­sues.

“The milk­ing herd has re­cov­ered to about 260 cows but it will take some time to get back around the 300 mark where we would like it,” Dar­ren said.

“Our milk pro­duc­tion also took a hit and we have been sit­ting around 26 litres when we should be av­er­ag­ing 28 to 30 litres.”

“We op­er­ate the dairy and dry­land crop­ping as sep­a­rate enterprises, but they have com­pli­mented each other over the years.”

Dar­ren is fo­cused on the dairy and Wayne on crop­ping the prop­erty of about 800 hectares with an­other 720 ha of leased coun­try.

They use the land area for cash crops and to grow grain and hay for the cows which are fed a to­tal mixed ra­tion and con­fined on an area of about 8 hectares around the 50 stand ro­tary di­ary which was built in 1999.

“We used to graze pas­tures, but the dairy is at one end of the prop­erty and the cows were hav­ing to walk too far,” Dar­ren said.

Their feed­ing pro­gram is based on a mix of home grown pas­ture hay and bought in lucerne hay and a grain ra­tion, mostly wheat, pro­cessed through a rip­per mill.

The daily diet com­prises about 14 ki­los of mixed hay, 10 ki­los of grain and 4 ki­los of dairy pel­lets.

Canola meal is used for pro­tein and an en­ergy sup­ple­ment Me­galac which com­prises about 85 per­cent palm oil with al­most 10 per­cent cal­cium which pro­tects the fat from break­ing down in the ru­men, pass­ing through to the lower gut for di­ges­tion.

About two ki­los is fed in the dairy at each milk­ing and the rest of the ra­tion is fed twice a day onto a strip of con­veyor belt mat­ting along a fence line.

“While this re­duces feed wastage, the ul­ti­mate would be a cov­ered feed pad, but it comes back to the cost,” Dar­ren said.

Af­ter their hor­ror ex­pe­ri­ence last sea­son, the brothers are cost­ing the build­ing of self com­post­ing free ac­cess hous­ing with a cen­tral feed al­ley.

“It would im­prove milk pro­duc­tion and cow com­fort, but it’s a ques­tion of eco­nom­ics. We’d need to get some up­ward price sig­nals.”

They are be­ing paid around 46 cents a litre for their milk which is sup­plied to Rive­rina Fresh at Wagga Wagga. The lo­cal pro­ces­sor was sold last year by Fon­terra to an in­vest­ment com­pany, the Blue River Group.

Their fa­ther Ron started cart­ing his own milk in the early 1980s and the brothers have con­tin­ued the tra­di­tion, now us­ing a 27,500 litre tanker they ac­quired from Fon­terra. They mostly rely on a ros­ter of lo­cal re­tirees to make milk de­liv­er­ies ev­ery se­cond day.

Dar­ren said the fam­ily had an op­tion to switch their sup­ply to Mur­ray Goulburn for pro­cess­ing in Syd­ney, but de­cided against the move.

The brothers make use of their land area to fin­ish dairy beef, keep­ing ev­ery calf born on the prop­erty.

They can be rear­ing up to 50 calves in peak sea­son through a pur­pose­built shed with a self flush­ing floor­ing sys­tem which is used for about the first 10 days.

Steers are usu­ally fin­ished on oats and sold at about two years old.

“Last year we av­er­aged about $1800 for them,” Dar­ren said.

Heifers com­ing into the milk­ing herd are fed a springer mix which in­cludes wheat, canola and ad­di­tives.

“We find much im­proved early milk­ing per­for­mance if they are in­tro­duced to a feed ra­tion. Pro­duc­tion peaks ear­lier and holds up longer into the lac­ta­tion.”

A dairy stud is no longer op­er­a­tional but a big per­cent­age of the herd is still pedi­greed with a strong Cana­dian in­flu­ence.

The herd is nat­u­ral mated with five or six new bulls in­tro­duced each year and young bulls used over the heifers.

“We have in the past used An­gus bulls, but at the mo­ment we are just us­ing Hol­steins,” Dar­ren said.

The Prosser’s dairy com­plex at Harden.

Dar­ren Prosser in the feed mill.

The Prossers feed onto con­veyor mat­ting along a fence­line.

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