A singular focus on the health and happiness of cows has paid off for Strathalbyn dairyfarmer Brett Fiebig, who has just been been listed in the top five per cent of producers in the 2020 Australian Milk Quality Awards.
The awards recognise the farms with the highest milk quality in Australia based on bulk milk cell count.
Mr Fiebig was one of two SA dairyfarmers recognised with DO&KM Hunter, Nangwarry, named among the top 100 producers nationally.
Gold Awards are given to the 'Top 100' dairyfarmers nationally with Silver Awards winners going to the top 5pc of Australian producers for milk quality.
Dairy Australia managing director David Nation congratulated the 2020 winners, saying it was something for the industry to be proud of.
"Getting to this level takes consistent focus across the year on all aspects of the milking process, including effective mastitis control and maintaining a high level of attention to detail," he said.
"This dedication underpins the high quality of Australian dairy products."
A focus on low BMCC helps increase milk yields and can improve the milk income received by farmers.
Most processing companies pay a premium for milk with a BMCC below 250,000 cells/ml and DA analysis estimates that a farmer milking 300 cows who lowers their BMCC from 250,000 to 100,000 would be financially better off to the tune of $39,000 per year.
Data for the Milk Quality Awards is supplied to DA by dairy companies across the country.
To be eligible, dairy farms must have data for a minimum of nine months in a calendar year with monthly averages used to calculate the annual average BMCC for each farm.
The listing in the 2020 Milk Quality Awards came as a surprise to Mr Fiebig, who admitted it was not something he was particularly aiming for.
"Being listed in the awards is an honour, and makes me realise that the focus I've had on the health of my cows does pay in the end," he said.
For nearly four years, Mr Fiebig has leased 97-hectares of dryland country, milking between 100 to 130 cows all year round.
Prior to this he was sharefarming with his parents in Mount Gambier for six years.
"After starting my own dairyfarming business in 2017 - and leasing the owners cows - I have since bred up my own numbers of registered animals to the point where I no longer need to lease cows," Mr Fiebig said.
"This has resulted in a younger herd of cows which has led to a higher quality cell count."
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Mr Fiebig said there was no 'big secret' to producing high quality milk but credits it to keeping a close eye on each cow's health and wellbeing, maintaining thorough hygiene practices, and having a passion for the dairy industry.
He is a sole operator, doing all the milking himself which allows him an extra level of vigilance on his cows.
In turn, his herd has minimal mastitis issues with the payoff being a quality cell count.
He attributes the quality cell count to factors including low stress stock handling by not using dogs, eliminating water around udders when milking, and maintaining the milking plant to a high standard.
"My top three priorities are to keep a close eye on cows milking out correctly, teat spraying and keeping the cows well fed," Mr Fiebig said.
"I believe the low bulk milk cell count is very much related to the health and happiness of the animals, and my approach is pretty simple - 'happy cows equals quality milk'."
Dr Nation said Dairy Australia's Countdown program had helped support an industry wide focus on profitable mastitis control in dairy herds.
The organisation has also launched a new online/on-farm learning platform this year called Milking and Mastitis Management, which was designed to help farmers train new and inexperienced milking staff.
"Dairy Australia's Countdown program is the dairy industry's flagship program to assist farmers and their advisors to achieve profitable mastitis control. In recent years, closer ties with milk quality specialists within the major processors has led to better uptake of Dairy Australia resources and improvements in milk quality across the industry," he said.
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