Marcus Crowden, Tasmania

Converting a run off block into a profitable dairy farm

For the Crowden family, DeLaval’s VMS offered a way to turn a run off block into a highly profitable dairy farm.

Marcus Crowden and his wife Zed, dairy with his parents Denis and Sheryl, operating two properties at Caveside near Launceston, Tasmania. When the home farm had reached its milking capacity, they looked at options for expansion.

Marcus said VMS enabled their 80ha run off block to be converted to dairying, even though 30ha is used for forestry.

“The run off block is 5km from the home farm, so VMS was a profitable way for us to increase our milking herd without buying more land or employing more staff. In 12 months we increased the combined herd from 320 to 450 cows and increased production from 2.4 to 3.2 million litres,” Marcus said.

Production is expected to increase further next year when the combined herd will go up to 500 cows.

Marcus operates the VMS dairy by spending 2-3 hours a day on-farm on week days, and as little as 20 minutes a day on weekends.

“What I really like about the VMS is its ability to be managed remotely. We can control the robots, smart gates and feeding system from the computer at home, or from my mobile phone, even if I am in Melbourne on holiday,” he said.

Marcus and Zed both found DeLaval’s DelPro Integrated herd management software easy to learn and user-friendly.

“It has given us a lot of flexibility – we work when we want to work, not when we have to. I prefer to put a bit more time in on Fridays and Mondays so I can have most of the weekends off, especially during the fotty season,” Marcus said.

FutureDairy recently analysed the labour efficiency of the Crowden’s VMS, calculating that the 205-cow herd operates with 0.75 labour units. That is equivalent to 270 cows per full time equivalent; well over double the Tasmanian average of 100 cows per FTE and considerably higher than the average of the top 25% of Tasmanian farms (137 cows/FTE).

The Crowdens initially installed two VMS robots and three out of parlour feeders (for individual grain feeding). They were so pleased with the performance that within 12 months they had installed an additional robot and three more out of parlour feeders.

And when the dairy on their home farm needs replacing in 7-8 years’ time, VMS will be top of the list for consideration.

“We have been delighted with the performance of our VMS. We were warned it could take 12 months to adjust to voluntary milking; but our system was running smoothly within just four months,” Marcus said.

Key statistics:

Marcus Crowden, Tasmania

Tasmania, Australia

HERD SIZE:

450

HERD TYPE:

Cow Herds

MILKING SYSTEM:

Automated Milking

FARM AREA:

50ha plus a run off block

Equipment overview:

DeLaval equipment: 3 VMS units, 6 out of parlour feeders, 4 Smart gates, DeLaval milk cooling, Delpro herd management system

Production: 550kg milk solids/cow; 2000kg ms/ha

Herd size: 205 in 2013 (to increase to 240 in 2014)

Local dealer: Laurie Hooper, Agritech Tasmania.

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