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

Tasmanian Country - - FRONT PAGE -

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 sa­man­tha.flight@utas.edu.au or call 0409 801 341.

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