A dairy veteran is enjoying the challenges of running the farm at Sheffield School, where junior handlers showed their skills last week. Karolin MacGregor reports
Working at a school farm can come with unique challenges but for Sheffield School Farm manager David Cox it has also provided opportunities.
Mr Cox has extensive experience in the dairy industry, having previously share farmed at Togari and also owned a dairy operation at Scottsdale.
He took on the role of the school's farm manager about two years ago and has implemented a number of changes to boost milk production and quality as well as profits.
When he took over the farm management, the operation was milking about 100 cows and now that number has increased to 133.
Cell counts were an issue in the herd when he started, so Mr Cox implemented herd testing to find out where the problems were.
“The cell counts were pretty high and that meant they were getting discounted on the milk so they weren’t really making any money,” he said.
“I started herd testing almost straight away and it was really just a few cows which were causing most of the problems. I culled a few cows and treated some of the others and that made a big difference.”
Mr Cox does most of the milking in a 10-unit swingover dairy.
“I keep a close eye on them and I’m careful about teat spraying and making sure if there are any that need treating I get on to it quickly.
“I have the in-line milk filters too so I check that regularly.”
Gravel has also been put in some of the laneways to prevent water buildup in the wetter months.
At the end of last season Mr Cox also used a dry-cow and teat-sealing program across the herd to help prevent mastitis.
Herd production is now 25 litres a day. Mr Cox said while this was not all that high, it had improved off a previously low base.
“They didn’t feed much grain here before, only a bit out in the paddock which was mainly wasted, so I’ve put in grain feeders which has helped,” he said.
Mr Cox has also improved some poorer performing areas of the farm by pasture renovation and also soil testing paddocks and applying fertiliser where needed to ensure good soil fertility.
As well as the milking herd the 84ha property also runs a flock of about 30 ewes, dairy youngstock, a small number of pigs and some poultry.
While milking in the small and oldfashioned dairy is a challenge, Mr Cox said he enjoyed seeing the students learning about the dairy industry.
“It’s good being around and some of them really get into it and others not so much,” he said.
At last week’s school show, a top
line-up of competitors and quality animals made judging tough. More than 100 junior cattle handlers and judges competed in the dairy and beef sections.
In the beef judging for those aged 15 to 25 the winner was Thomas Febey while The dairy junior judging competition was won by Ryan Barker.
This year’s champion of champions beef-handler title went to Jordan Burr from Nook while the champion of champions dairy handler was won by Anna Hamilton from Yolla.
In the popular beef teams competition Scottsdale School was the winner with Sheffield School second.
The annual hoof-and-hook competition was well supported once again in all three weight categories.
In the trade cattle section the champion was on the hoof went to Mitchell Grey while reserve champion went to the Sheffield School team.
In the rump and loin cattle Glenda Wotton was the champion while Ayden Grey got reserve champion. These two cattle went on to be named as grand champion and reserve grand champion.
In the heavyweights, Mitchell Grey was the winner while HC and WD Rockliff took reserve champion.
The cattle were processed at JBS Swift’s Quoiba facility. Both champion and reserve champion carcass awards in the trade section went to Sheffield School. In the rump and loin class Glenda Wootton won and an animal from the Sheffield School team from Cleveland was reserve champion.
Champion carcass in the heavyweight class went to an animal from the Scottsdale High School Farm board and reserve champion was won by HC and WD Rockliff.
Sheffield school won the school carcass competition with Scottsdale second. The breed team competition was won by a Gelbvieh-sired group.