Northern Irrigation and Southern Riverina
"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other." Abraham Lincoln
Inside this issue:
- New mastitis bug test shows promise
- Solar hot water
- New minimum wage for farm workers
- Monthly reminders
- What's On
The Northern Powerhouse Returns
Daniel Gilmour and Claire Swann, DEPI Dairy Services Branch
For the second time in as many years the dairy industry has reported good returns to farmers in northern Victoria, according to an annual Department of Environment and Primary Industries and Dairy Australia survey.
Now in it's sixth year, the 2011-12 Dairy Industry Farm Monitor Project surveyed 74 farms across the state's three key dairy regions of northern Victoria, south west Victoria and Gippsland.
Following on from 2010-2011, a year that saw the second highest milk price on record and strong returns for farmers across all Victorian dairy regions, 2011-2012 again yielded a strong milk price, down only two per cent to $5.52 per kilogram milk solids this year on average. Despite this drop in milk price the report has revealed a strong return on assets of 5.0 per cent across the state, down from last year's stellar average return on assets at 6.2 per cent.
Across the three regions profitability varied as a result of the diverse seasonal conditions.
In northern Victoria a return to traditional seasonal conditions for the first time in a decade saw farmers in that region make the highest returns since 2007-2008 at 7.6 per cent. However, seasonal conditions in south west Victoria and Gippsland conspired to depress returns compared to last year.
Gippsland and south west Victoria reported return on assets figures of 3.3 per cent and 4.4 per cent respectively. For these regions it was a tale of opposing climatic conditions with farmers in Gippsland battling a wet winter and flooding in some regions, while the hot, dry summer experienced in the south west reduced profits.
The south west in particular felt the brunt of the summer with the average farm feeding out almost $52,000 worth of stored supplement in addition to those supplies made and fed back, or purchased during the 2011-2012 financial year. This trend was repeated at lower levels around the state with farmers in the north and Gippsland depleting feed supplies by $12,400 and $4,300 respectively over the course of the year.
Following on from its return to form last year, 2011-2012 saw farms in the north put in a strong performance to report an average return on assets across the region of 7.6 per cent. The good rainfall and 100 per cent water allocations helped farmers to reduce their cost of production by 10 per cent, more than enough to offset the one percent drop in milk price.
This result saw farms in the north improve their whole farm earnings before interest and tax from $202,806 in 2010-2011 to $232,119 in 2010-2012. All farms reported positive earnings before interest and tax for the second consecutive year.
The average farm in the north region milked 304 cows across 193 usable hectares and produced 957 kilograms of milk solids per hectare, an increase from 762 kilograms of milk solids per hectare recorded last year. Total pasture consumption was 8.2 tonnes of dry matter per milking area.
The top 25 per cent of producers highlighted the strength of well run dairy businesses, recording profitability levels well above the average. In the north these top farms on average recorded a return on assets of 13.3 per cent and a return on equity of 20.7 per cent, rates superior to many other sectors of the economy for the past 12 months.
Of little surprise was the fact that the majority of farmers expect milk price to decrease over the coming 12 months, with almost two-thirds of producers sighting this as a challenge in the coming year. Despite these concerns, and the fact that increasing grain and input costs were also sighted as a concern, two-thirds of producers also indicated that production is likely to increase in 2012-2013.
The results of the 2011-12 Dairy Industry Farm Monitor Project will be delivered in coming months at a workshop co-ordinated by DEPI, Dairy Australia and Murray Dairy. With a focus on northern Victoria, this workshop will also highlight the latest research completed by the Dairy Directions project. This project will show how to use economic principles to help make on-farm decisions that maximise profit, based on expected milk response to changes in feed supply. Additionally farmers and service providers will have access to a local leading consultant who will use the information to better understand their individual situation and make sound decisions to steer their farm business through the next twelve months. Details of the workshop will be widely publicised and are also available from Murray Dairy.
The Dairy Industry Farm Monitor Project aims to provide a comprehensive data set on the physical and financial performance of farm businesses for use by industry, farmers, services providers and government.
Electronic copies of the Dairy Industry Farm Monitor Project 2011-12 Annual Report are now available by emailing Farm.Monitor.Project@depi.vic.gov.au. Hard copies of the report will be available from September 15, 2012.
For more information please contact Daniel Gilmour at DEPI Warrnambool, on (03) 5561 9911, or Claire Swann at DEPI Bendigo on (03) 5430 4697.
New Era Dawns in Dairy Animal Genomics
Early results from Countdown research indicate that a new milk molecular test could have an important role in testing for the presence of the mastitis bug, Streptococcus agalactia (Strep. ag.), in Australian dairy herds. It will be of particular use when sourcing cows for purchase.
The new test, known as a 'milk PCR', has been available in Australia for the past 12 months, through some milk companies, herd improvement centres and vets. The test uses, as an example, the routine milk vat sample collected by the tanker driver for BMCC analysis. In many instances it can be arranged through the company field staff or local vet.
Because there was limited knowledge of how this test performed when used on bulk vat milk under Australian conditions, Countdown examined its application in a research project with funding from the Gardiner Foundation.
Dr John Penry, who manages Dairy Australia's Countdown project, said the results suggest it should be a convenient surveillance tool for Strep. ag. mastitis, if the results are available prior to purchasing cows.
"The test is likely to be useful for managers of herds in an expansion phase who are unable to maintain a closed herd," he said.
"In this situation testing milk from the seller's herd before purchase will help assess the risk of importing Strep. ag. infected cows.
"The cost of the test is very small compared to the potential cost of importing cows infected with Strep. ag. and having it potentially spread to other cows in the herd," Dr Penry said.
Strep. ag. has long been a cause of mastitis in Australia dairy cows. Although it was believed to have become very uncommon, this bug is becoming more prevalent again.
It lives in the teat canal or milk collecting ducts of infected cows and spreads between cows during the milking process. It can spread quite rapidlywithin a herd, resulting in an elevated bulk milk cell count (BMCC).
The good news is that Strep. ag. is one of the few mastitis bacteria that can be eliminated from a herd using the correct control options.
"This test adds another mastitis control tool to our armoury. If cows, to be purchased are identified as coming from a strep. ag. positive herd, consult your adviser or vet to decide what steps can be taken to minimise your risk," Dr Penry said.
For more information, please visit www.dairyaustralia.com.au/countdown.
Countdown is an example of your levy at work. For more information on this and other examples of your levy at work visit www.dairyaustralia.com.au.
Solar Hot Water
Victorian farm businesses are under pressure from rising electricity costs and an increasing focus on greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. Electricity prices are expected to continue to rise in the future due to metering costs, infrastructure replacement and the introduction of a price on carbon emissions.
The Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) project 'Dairy Industry Farm Monitor' has shown that dairy shed electricity costs have increased over the past five years by an average of 22 per cent. These shed costs accounted for approximately four per cent of variable costs in 2010-2011.
The DEPI project 'Economic analysis of technologies to reduce dairy energy consumption' has investigated five different technologies commonly used on dairy farms that have the potential to improve energy efficiency. A partial discounted net cash flow budget over 10 years was done to analyse the technologies. In this edition the findings associated with solar hot water will be discussed.
A solar hot water system uses energy from the sun to heat water. Solar collectors (panels) on the roof absorb the sun's rays and heat the water, which then flows to a storage tank ready for use.
There are two main types of solar hot water systems, the flat plate collector or the evacuated tube collector. Both have positives and negatives and are suited to different applications and climates.
Flat plate collectors can be more sensitive to frost and are generally heavier and larger than evacuated tube systems.
Evacuated tube systems are generally more expensive than the equivalent flat plate system and are able to heat water to a higher temperature, hence they are considered a better option for commercial operations.
This cost benefit analysis is based on a case study farm in South Gippsland milking 240 cows on a total area of 130 hectares. The dairy shed is a 20 unit swing-over built in 2003 and is well maintained. The farm produces 1.7 million litres of milk.
The source of electricity is brown coal accessed through the state's electricity grid. The tariff rate is time of use with peak rate of 22 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for power from 7 am to 11 pm. An off peak price of 14 cents per kWh applies to other times and weekends. Milking takes 2.5 hours with the morning milking predominantly off peak. The case study farm used 84,000 kWh of electricity at a cost of $14,960 for the 2010-2011 financial year. The associated carbon emissions were 102 tonnes of CO2-equivalent.
The case study farm uses a typical three-cycle wash requiring 700 litres of hot water daily, heating water off peak to 90 degrees C. The hot water generates 22,265 kWh annually or 61 kWh of heat per day. The cost of water heating is $3,117 and is our 'do-nothing' option.
Comparison of Technologies
Table 1 shows a comparison of the two solar hot water systems.
- Price of electricity is assumed to increase annually by 10 per cent.
- The savings in energy consumption is based on the energy savings from investing in the technology compared to the 'do nothing' option
For a more detailed comparison of the different systems refer to www.depi.vic.gov.au/agriculture-and-food/dairy/energy-in-dairy or contact Claire Swann (03) 5430 4697.
|Flat Plate||Evacuated tube|
|Capital cost (including installation)||$10,550||$11,040|
|'Do nothing' option||$3,117||$3,117|
|Consumption saved annually (kWh)||9,600||10,800|
|Emissions saved annually (t CO2-e)||11.6||13.1|
New Minimum Wage for Farm Workers
Dairy managers should by now be aware of the new minimum wage for farm workers. The 2012 Annual Wage Review was announced on June 1 and new minimum wages should have started from the first pay period on or after July 1, 2012.
Fair Work Australia undertook its annual wage review and as such, has increased the minimum wage in modern awards by 2.9 per cent. Dairy managers are reminded that they may need to increase wages for workers to align with the review.
Information about the 2012 Annual Wage Review, including frequently asked questions and pay tools, is available on the Fair Work website, www.fairwork.gov.au, or telephone 13 13 94.
How do I find out information for my farm?
The only federal award which applies to the dairy industry is the federal Pastoral Award 2010. Information about the Pastoral Award 2010, as well as how to work out a remuneration package for workers, can be found on the People in Dairy website. Visit www.thepeopleindairy.org.au, or telephone (03) 9620 7283.
Q. What kind of dance do you do on a trampoline?
Q. What is Dracula's favourite fruit?
Q. Why did the doctor lose his temper?
A. Because he had no patients.
Q. Which animal is always laughing?
A. A happy-potamus.
Q. What did the traffic light say to the car?
A. "Don't look, I'm changing!"
Q. What do cats say on mobile phones?
A. "Can you hear meow?"
The Archibull Prize is an innovative and fun program which provides primary and secondary students with opportunities to meet young farmers and engage in genuine farm experiences, gain knowledge and skills about the production of the food they eat, fibres they use and the environment they live in.
Art4Agriculture also have two programs for farmers, the Young Farming Champions program and Bridging the Rural Urban Divide program.
The Bridging the Rural Urban Divide program trains farmers to get out there and tell agriculture's story to current and future consumers. Farmer participants are given the skills sets required to share their farming experiences in diverse ways including social media, and bridge the 'rural – urban' divide by building trust and understanding of modern farming practices. This program aims to create an Australia wide network of enthusiastic farming professionals and build their capacity to promote Australian agriculture as a dynamic, innovative, rewarding and vibrant industry.
More information about Art4Agriculture can be found on their website. There is an interesting blog which features guest posts from young farming champions and ambassadors. Visit www.art4agriculture.com.au.
Dairy Information Technology
If you happen to be surfing the worldwide web to look at the Art4Agriculture website, here are some other virtual dairy places you might like to visit.
Dairy Social Media
Udderly Fantastic is the dairy industries answer to social media. Describing itself as a community forum, it is a online hub for dairy-minded folk to gather and celebrate their passion for the industry.
Farming is the New Black
For anybody on facebook, the 'Farming is the New Black' page is a great space where farmers can have a laugh and engage with the wider community.
Their mission is simple, to share positive stories in Australian agriculture and to encourage greater engagement between rural and urban communities so that everyone is talking positively about farming.
Both Udderly Fantastic and Farming is the New Black post stories, photos and online videos to engage with readers. It is a very visual medium that can be accessed anywhere and at anytime. While some of the jokes may only make sense to the agriculturally-minded, social media has been tipped to be an important tool for bridging the gap between producers and consumers.
AgChatOz is another social media tool that farmers all over Australia are getting involved with. AgChatOz host a weekly discussion utilising Twitter. No matter where you are, you can join in on a real time chat about issues related to agriculture.
Using the term 'agvocacy' the founders saw a need for the agricultural community to come together and hope that the initiative can promote what it sees as a "fantastic industry".
TheDairySite describes itself as the website for the global dairy industry. It is an international website for farmers, service providers and commercial companies. A quick glance at the homepage will show links to industry news items and headlines.
The website features articles, technical information and newsletters. There are also various discussion forums that you can participate in. The site also has an international business directory and a book shop.
If staring at a computer screen is not your thing, then perhaps you may prefer to listen to a podcast. A podcast is an audio file that you can download and listen to in your own time.
The NSW DPI Dairy Industry Group have developed a range of interviews on subjects important to the NSW dairy industry. Dairy podcasts are available in a range of topics for feed base, herd and business management.
They are free to download and are an excellent way to catch up on information at a time that suits you. If you have an iPod or iPhone, you can link them up to your car or tractor stereo system and listen to podcasts while you work.
To view the list of podcasts available and access the accompanying transcripts, visit www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/livestock/dairy-cattle/dairy-podcasts/podcast/dairy.
For more information contact Brett Davidson, on (03) 5881 9922.
- As pasture growth rates increase rapidly at this time of year, both the rotation length and grazing pressure need to be managed to maintain pasture quality.
- Be organised to conserve any excess fodder - it will be a valuable feed source later in the year.
- The best responses to nitrogen can be achieved during spring. Just make sure any extra feed grown is utilised otherwise money will be wasted.
- The cow's intake is at 75 per cent of peak appetite after she has calved. Make sure the cow's dietary requirements are being met so that target milk production and good fertility can be achieved.
- If making a big change to the diet, make sure that it is gradual so that the bugs in the rumen can adapt.
- Ensure that purchased feed is of sufficient quality to maintain production
- With spring pastures coming on, check that there is still enough fibre in the diet.
- Be on the watch for bloat and other metabolic disorders that can occur in early lactation.
- Start the calves on water, straw and concentrates as soon as possible.
- The calves can be weaned once they are eating 0.75 to 1 kilogram of concentrate per day for Friesian calves, and 0.5 to 0.75 kilograms for Jersey calves.
- The calf should demonstrate this level of consumption over at least three consecutive days.
- The post weaning growth targets should be based on measurement of weight and height.
Plan production for the whole land/farm based business
Beginning Wednesday October 17, 10am-3pm William Orr Campus, Wanganui Road Shepparton.
Cups On / Cups Off
Monday 1 October 9.30am - 2.30pm and Tuesday 2 October 9.30am - 12.30pm, Katamatite Football Club.
Farm Chemical Users Course - Spray Safe
This is the industry standard for AgVet chemical training and is necessary for participation in most of the dairy industry quality assurance programs.
Thursday October 4 and Friday 5 at 9am - 4pm, Katunga Football Club.
Manage Farm Safety
This course will give managers the knowledge and tools to implement OHS practices on their farm, and will help them to comply with the legal requirements of OHS.
Tuesday October 9 and Tuesday October 16 10am - 3pm, Tatura.
For more information please visit www.ncdea.edu.au or telephone 1300 0 NCDEA (1300 062 332).
2012 Research and Technology Tour
Farmer and service providers are invited to apply for a Research and Technology Tour. The 5-day tour commences Monday 12 November and includes visits to the AgriBioScience centre, DEPI Ellinbank, a robotic rotary dairy and pasture research site.
Places are limited to 17 people and applications close Friday 28 September. For more information visit www.murraydairy.com.au or contact Murray Dairy, email@example.com, telephone (03) 5833 5312.
Any feedback or comments are welcomed by the editor Leah de Vries (03) 5833 5223.
For previous issues of the Dairy Bulletin please go to our website www.depi.vic.gov.au/agriculture-and-food/dairy.