Having a fully computerised system has transformed the Taylor family’’s dairy operation well beyond the milking system. As well as saving a labour unit and changing the way they go about their daily tasks, it has freed up time and energy for the couple to focus on other aspects of the farm business.
Casey and Bonnie dairy with Casey’s parents, Peter and Wendy, at Heathmere near Portland, Western Victoria. In 2009 the 30 year old dairy was replaced with a DeLaval 40-unit rotary, complete with automatic cup removers (ACRs), autodrafting, milk flow meters and Alpro, DeLaval’s herd management software.
“At the time we had no idea that it would have such a far-reaching impact on our operation,” Casey said.
Combined, the automation and herd management software have enabled the Taylors to expand the herd from 370 to 480 cows without employing any additional labour. The family runs the farm with help from a full time employee, a school based apprentice and two part time milkers.
Casey said that the combination of automation and Alpro had changed the way he approached routine tasks of dairy farming, freeing him from the need to be in the dairy as often.
“Alpro allows me to plan ahead and organise tasks in advance. I can set the system to draft certain cows several days ahead. This is really handy for jobs like drying off, blanket inseminations and culling. “If the vet is coming, I can set the computer in advance to draft the cows to be examined and then it doesn’t matter if I’m milking that morning or not. I use that advance planning all the time and it has given me a lot of flexibility and reduced the daily pressure,” he said.
“Without having to give so much attention to the day’s urgent tasks I have time and energy to think about the bigger picture of our dairy business and where we want to take it.”
Casey schedules regular time to review Alpro reports. “With in-line milk meters we have daily access to the sort of information we previously only got when we herd tested. Because the information is available daily, we have a more accurate picture of our herd and we make more timely decisions and responses."
Casey finds the alert system particularly useful in early lactation and at joining. “It’s helped us pick up and treat animal health issues earlier, such as retained foetal membranes and lameness. We’ve also noticed that some cows will drop production when on heat and that’s helped us pick up heats that we may otherwise have missed.”
Casey also uses Alpro to allocate concentrates according to individual milk production. “Some cows in early lactation get 3kg a day while others get 7kg. Rather than blanket feeding the herd, Alpro allows us to identify which cows will convert the extra feed into milk and which ones will not deliver a profitable return on the extra feed. He also has the system set to send him an ‘alert’ under certain circumstances, such as a sudden drop in a cow’s milk production.
“We probably buy about the same amount of feed per year, but these days we use it more wisely, so we get a better return on our investment in concentrates.”
Bonnie uses the herd management system for managing the breeding program and calf rearing.
“We usually rear about 50 surplus heifer calves and Bonnie uses the herd management system to identify which ones to sell for export and which ones to keep. She also uses it when making breeding and culling decisions.