WITH feed one of their biggest expenses, Echunga dairyfarmers Kym, Angela and Haydn Pocock place great emphasis on managing their pastures properly.
They have no irrigation and are reliant on rainfall – averaging 800 millimetres annually – to feed their 140 cow milking herd on a 235-hectare property.
Much of the pasture available is ryegrass, with about 12ha sown with annual pastures.
Haydn said in recent years, they have tried to balance their fertilisers instead of relying on nitrogen.
“We’re surprised how well the clover has come back,” he said.
Haydn recently took part in a Feeding Pasture for Profit course through Dairy Australia, and has been putting his knowledge into practice.
The system relies on rotational block feeding, with an emphasis on timing the grazing to the leaf stage.
Haydn said they tried to graze as late in the third-leaf stage as possible, but before canopy closure.
They have already seen benefits.
“We’ve fed two kilograms of grain a day less this season, compared to the previous,” he said.
“Purchased feed is our biggest expense, so the more homegrown feed we can produce, the better the bottom line for us.”
Haydn said the principles were similar to the system already used on the farm, but with more structure.
He said instead of using a “gut feeling” to assess feed availability, they were able to use “triggers and signals” to determine if they were using the correct rate.
The Pococks traditionally ran Holstein cows but in the past few years have incorporated a Jersey-cross.
Haydn said in one season, his father had to assist 35 heifers to calve, even when using genetics selected for easy-calving.
Since then they have joined their heifers to a Jersey bull.
“Since making the change, we haven’t had the same calving challenges,” he said. “It’s also helped with our (milk) components.”
The older cows are still joined with Holstein bulls or Wagyu beef bulls, through AI, with the beef offspring sold through Dairy Beef Alliance.