TAK­ING STOCK

Fresh ap­proach de­liv­ers results.

Dairy News Australia - - FRONT PAGE - STEPHEN COOKE

A DE­SIRE to think out­side the square and in­ves­ti­gate new op­tions has seen the Stock fam­ily move from a PMR sys­tem to pre­dom­i­nantly graz­ing on their Queens­land farm. Alan and Dolores Stock pur­chased the 72 hectare farm at Glenore Grove in the Lock­yer Val­ley in 2002. They now farm it with their son and daugh­ter-in-law, Luke and Re­bekah. Alan grew up on a fam­ily dairy farm at Kil­lar­ney on the Queens­land border be­fore leav­ing dairy­ing. Luke said the break al­lowed Alan to gain a fresh per­spec­tive. The Stocks milk be­tween 110–120 Jer­sey cows on 72 hectares, and have es­tab­lished the Dalo­ram Jer­sey stud. Luke said the farm was run­ning well be­low its po­ten­tial when they pur­chased it, and they ran a par­tial mixed ra­tion (PMR) sys­tem as a re­sult. “We ini­tially went into a mixer wagon/si­lage as we lacked the in­fras­truc­ture to grow more pas­ture, which forced us into a PMR sys­tem,” he said. “The PMR sys­tem is a good risk man­age­ment tool on our farm but we be­came too re­liant on it.” It was on a trip to Vic­to­ria for the Aus­tralian Dairy Conference, and a sec­ond trip to Tas­ma­nia the fol­low­ing year, that the seed to move to a full graz­ing sys­tem was planted. “Vic­to­rian farm­ers kept say­ing to con­cen­trate on grow­ing good qual­ity grass and I was think­ing, why can’t we do it?” It turns out they could, but it re­quired fur­ther in­vest­ment in ir­ri­ga­tion in­fras­truc­ture. They in­vested in a low pres­sure boom ir­ri­ga­tor, which cut labour, im­proved wa­ter use ef­fi­ciency and saved en­ergy costs. This has seen them dou­ble the amount of pas­ture pre­vi­ously grown. “We are work­ing to­wards our goal to be a full graz­ing herd tar­get­ing 10kg pas­ture per cow each day. The ad­van­tage of farm­ing in the sub-trop­ics is our abil­ity to grow large quantities of feed.” With bet­ter ir­ri­ga­tion, and high wa­ter re­li­a­bil­ity, the Stocks now have to max­imise pas­ture qual­ity, which can have its chal­lenges. Se­vere floods swept through and then set­tled on the farm in 2011 and 2013, wash­ing away the top soil. As a re­sult, their pas­ture base is kikuyu, which has a low NDF but helps sta­bilise the soil. They plant a mix of rye (20 kg/ha) and kikuyu (5 kg/ha) in late April/early May, which al­lows the kikuyu to es­tab­lish. They also plant Lucerne, chicory, clover and legumes into the sward in a bid to in­crease en­ergy in­take. The Stocks host trial work with the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, which has a fa­cil­ity down the road at the Gat­ton Re­search Dairy. When ren­o­vat­ing pad­docks and im­prov­ing pas­ture, high qual­ity rye grass (As­ton) is planted into cul­ti­va­tion, to pro­vide a strong start. Tetila rye grass is planted into kikuyu to pro­vide early feed, be­fore it fin­ishes mid-Oc­to­ber, al­low­ing the kikuyu to come away. Lab lab is planted in sum­mer, with 12 hectares to be planted this year. Pro­duc­tion dropped half a litre per cow since the changes but the Stocks have sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced costs as they were pre­vi­ously pur­chas­ing brewer grain ($65 ooo a year) and corn si­lage ($60 000 a year). Cows re­ceive 3/kg of bar­ley a day and this is for­ward pur­chased and cracked at home through a disc mill. “When we were PMR, we grew 60–70 per cent of our grain and could get 2 or 2.1t/acre, same as on the Downs, but we just couldn’t get the same qual­ity.” The de­ci­sion to change man­age­ment sys­tems has paid off for the Stocks and Luke and Re­bekah are pos­i­tive about the fu­ture in a State that has been bat­tered due to $1/litre milk. “What­ever we put in, we will hope­fully reap the re­wards,” he said.

Luke and Re­bekah Stock on their Glenore Grove farm.

Alan Stock at work in the dairy.

Jer­sey cows on the farm.

Luke Stock in the fam­ily dairy.

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