Rising to the top
For an award-winning family farm in the state’s North-West benchmarking has been a key tool in expanding the milking operation and herd. Karolin MacGregor reports
From small beginnings the Palmer family’s Remlap farm has grown into an award-winning dairy operation.
Remlap was recently announced as the winner of the dairy business of the year award at the annual Tasmanian dairy awards dinner in Launceston.
The farm is now run by Michael Palmer and his partner Eliza Anderson, but it was originally established by his parents Rhys and Cecile Palmer, who are still very much involved.
Mr Palmer has been on the farm for about 33 years.
In the early days the farm ran a herd of about 133 cows but over the years purchases of neighbouring properties have allowed the operation to expand significantly.
In the competition season the family were milking off about 290ha with about 65 per cent irrigated.
A further expansion since then has seen that area increase to 330ha.
Along with the increase in land, the cow herd has also expanded.
They now have a milking herd of 1000 mainly Holstein cows.
Water for irrigation across the farm is supplied from dams.
Mr Palmer said benchmarking was a valuable tool to help track the farm’s performance.
“We find the benefit for us is actually comparing yourself to others,” he said.
“If you’re in that top 10 per cent you know you’re doing something right.”
Mr Palmer said going through the process of benchmarking was also a good time to look at all aspects of the farm business.
“It’s also good to compare what you’re doing with how other people go about things,” he said.
“If your costs in one area are way out, then you can have a look at it and work out how other people are doing things differently and maybe improve.”
One of the strengths in the Remlap business is labour efficiency.
Mr Palmer said retaining good staff could be a challenge, so ensuring workers had variety in their jobs day to day was important.
“Part of what we do is make sure our staff aren’t just milking day in day out,” he said.
“They might do the morning milking then be out on the farm doing other jobs for the rest of the day.
“We do give them ownership in certain areas, but we try to teach them skills in different areas as well.”
Even though the competition year was financially a fairly tight season, Mr Palmer said sometimes that was not a bad thing.
“In some ways it probably makes you look at things a bit more carefully and find areas in the business where you can cut costs,” he said.
“When things are going all right you can probably get a bit lazy with some things.”
The farm has a strong focus on cow nutrition and they use a nutritionist to advise them on what and how much they should be feeding their herd.
“The nutritionist is really good because he can help us to cut costs but without sacrificing any of the nutrition the cows need,” Mr Palmer said.
Average grain consumption per cow per year is about 2.3 tonnes.
Mr Palmer said their decision to maintain a full grain ration for their cows paid off, even though things were tight in the competition year.
“We’ve always said if you look after your cows they’ll look after you and that’s what we did,” he said.
“We fully fed the cows right through and it worked out well for us in the end.”
Another tool the family used to help refine their management was completing a FertSmart program across the property.
Mr Palmer said by testing the soil in every paddock on the farm they had identified areas in which they could save some money.
“We’re fairly heavy fertiliser users so it was an interesting because some paddocks were quite high and other
If you are in that top 10 per cent you know you’re doing something right MICHAEL PALMER
paddocks needed some more,” Mr Palmer said.
The family supply milk to Murray Goulburn.
Mr Palmer said he was feeling confident about the upcoming Saputo deal and hoped it would go through smoothly to give producers certainty.
A DBOY field day will be held at the Remlap farm on Rulla Rd at Sisters Creek on April 11.
The field day will start with morning tea at 10.30am, followed by a farm walk and a free barbecue lunch.
To register or for more details email email@example.com or call 0409 801 341.