Cleanliness and record keeping are the hallmarks of Cathie and David Harvey’s dairy philosophy.
The dairy is part of their 2300 hectare mixed cropping and cattle property at Narrung called Tauwitchere, which has been in the Harvey family for three generations.
When Cathie and David took over in 1992 they focused on improving the dairy and invested in a 60 bale rotary dairy in 1998. “It was one of the first single operator dairies in Australia,” Cathie said.
“It was difficult to get staff, so we stayed reasonably small with our dairy – about 300 cows – to keep it to one milker most of the time.”
David and Cathie both work on the farm and they have two long-term, reliable staff also working in the dairy. Those staff are trained in Tauwitchere philosophies, systems and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
The Harvey’s record keeping system involves a Jantec computerised herd identification system and hand written dairy diaries.
The Jantec system accurately identifies cows as they enter the platform and records events such as calvings, matings and treatments. The system keeps herd test records of milk volume, cell counts and other factors against each animal.
“Because we were previously certified organic, we had to be absolutely on top of cow health,” said Cathie, who is also a qualified veterinarian.
“Our philosophy is to keep the herd as clean as possible. We continually monitor mastitis pathogens in the herd and deal with it according to the known conditions that cause infection and spread of it.”
Record keeping is key at Tauwitchere. “We have monthly, quarterly and annual checklists which include SOPs that we all follow. This keeps staff focused on the activities that must be done,” Cathie said.
“When you have more than one person in a dairy, you need to ensure everyone is doing the right tasks at the right time and in the same way.
“We have a dairy diary where we record all daily information including the paddock, the milking records, feeding and so on. We also have a record book at the crush and a detailed calving book.
“We’ve been filling in our dairy diaries for 33 years, since we took over the dairy from David’s father. We now have hundreds of little books in my office!
“The key is to keep the dairy, yards, calving paddocks and calf yards as clean as you would want it – scrub it, disinfect it, do what you need to do to keep it clean. I think if you’re providing a good environment, good food and shelter, you’ll get excellent milk.”
The Harveys continue to upgrade their now 20-year-old dairy to keep pace with new technology and recently invested in a fully automatic teat sprayer on the platform.
The Harveys are also part of the Dairy Australia pilot program called Dairy Passport, an IT system that allows dairy farmers to manage all the members of their teams via an online platform and link them to the key tasks that need to be undertaken. Key information for each team member is displayed on a dashboard, showing the on-farm tasks and relevant SOPs and policies.
“I can see in the future a program like this might take the place of our dairy diaries,” Cathie said. “It’s good to explore opportunities to improve what we’re doing.”
They Harveys were a certified organic dairy until recently. Their declining pasture forced them to apply fertiliser to improve soil fertility and health. “We’d like to get back to organic, but improving the pasture is what’s best for the business now,” Cathie said.