A RETURN to the dairy industry has also meant a shake-up in the way they operate for Brad and Karin Fischer, Campbell House, Meningie.
Mr Fischer is a third-generation dairyfarmer but during the Millennium Drought, the Alexandrina and Albert lakes dried up, limiting the Fischers’ access to water and forcing them to sell their cows in 2007.
In 2010, they returned to the industry but this time decided to do it differently.
Mr Fischer said they elected to try a total mixed ration and built a rubble-based feed pad with open top troughs.
He had spent some time working in the dairy industry in Sweden and Canada, where his interest was “piqued” in the use of barns.
In 2015, the Fischers began construction on the 600-cow barn to house the animals near their 50-unit dairy.
Within 18 months of breaking ground, they moved the cows into the barn system.
“It’s got all the benefits of a barn without the sterileness,” Mr Fischer said.
He said the decision to go with a barn was in order to make the most of their investment in genetics.
“We’re trying to build better cows using genetics, but if we’re not using the best pasture, we’re never going to realise those genetic gains,” he said.
He said grazing systems could lead to a 30 per cent wastage in feed.
Using a TMR within the barn system has resulted in the cows using about 95pc of available feed.
“Just on feed savings alone, we will have paid for this in a few years,” he said.
Mr Fischer estimated the feed costs were about $4.50 a cow each day.
As well as irrigated lucerne and ryegrass stands for grazing with young stock, silage and hay cuts, there is also maize and dryland barley grown to feed the livestock.
Mr Fischer said the barn also brought benefits in productivity.
“We had a 15pc increase in milk production within the first four weeks,” he said.
There were also health positives, as Mr Fischer said he had also noticed cows suffered from a lot less feet and leg problems.
Dry compost is spread on the ground in the cows’ area to create a comfortable area for them.
There are also misters installed within the barn to keep the temperature cool during summer.
They milk about 550 cows on year-round calving. Mr Fischer said numbers would eventually build with replacements, with the potential to move to a third milking.
They grow all replacement heifers on the property with calves raised on a GEA auto calf feeder.
Maiden heifers are bred with Wagyu bulls, with the progeny raised to 12 months and then sold to Dairy Beef Alliance.
Water plays a pivotal part in the Fischer enterprise, after a lack of it caused them to leave the industry a decade ago.
They have a water allocation from Lake Albert and have designed their system to ensure the water is used as efficiently as possible.
An upgrade to the irrigation system was included in the construction of the barn.
Initially the water is used to pre-chill milk as well as for washdowns, and machinery and vat cleaning.
From there is it is treated by a separator before being used to flush out the barn.
Using two ponds – for liquid and solids – the water is then used in the centre pivot irrigation system for use on lucerne and ryegrass stands for grazing, silage and hay.
“Every drop of water is used a minimum four times before going out in the sprinkler,” Mr Fischer said.