Paul Venturin has spent significant time and money upgrading the Cleland Dairy in Tooperang since he purchased the farm 1.5 years ago.
The 400 cow rotary dairy, which supplies Bega, has a new computer controlled auto wash system and two new hot water systems, to ensure the dairy is being cleaned at the correct temperature.
Farm manager Jackson Nesbitt said improvements also include a new touchscreen computer system with an upgrade to a herd management system called Easy Dairy which automates cow management including feeding.
“Each cow is fed individually depending on the parameters we’ve set for them, which has had a really positive impact on milk quality,” Jackson said. “We also make our own feed recipe with the assistance of our nutritionist Mikala.
“We have endeavoured to improve the milk quality and the cow health has improved significantly. We herd test every three months and each time the cows are getting better and better, so everything is going in the right direction.”
Like all dairies, Cleland’s milk is tested at pick up by their transport company, and Bega requires certain quality benchmarks to be met. Bega tests their milk every third pick up, and supplies Cleland with the somatic cell count, the bacteria count and the proteins and milk fat of the cows.
“We’re always keeping an eye on it because you’ve got to be constantly cleaning and keeping the somatic cell count down, so you’re always monitoring for mastitis in the cows,” Jackson said.
“We have a very old herd – the majority of our cows are 12 years old. By doing the herd test regularly, we can start selling off the girls that have high somatic cell count, which goes up just from age.”
Jackson said the aim was to replace 10 percent of the herd every year.
“We try to give them the best life possible while they’re with us. We also raise all the calves at my house, and the girls come back to the dairy after a couple of years and start the milking process. At the moment we’ve got 200 plus calves, so my yard is very full!” he said.
“It’s definitely a different kind of lifestyle, but I’ve always wanted to work with animals, so I’ve finally got there.”
The dairy industry is reasonably new to Jackson and Paul, who come from backgrounds in the beef and vegetable industries.
“Paul is my landlord and he approached me one day and said, “I’m thinking of buying a dairy, would you mind managing it for me?” Jackson said.
“It’s been stressful at times, but it’s also very exciting and every day I learn something new.”
As well as the improvements to the dairy and the use of the Easy Dairy system, Jackson also uses the iAuditor App to conduct internal weekly and monthly audits.
iAuditor is a free inspection app that provides visibility and insights to help raise safety and quality standards across a business.
“It has online templates that provide checklists for every aspect of our business. You can use the existing templates, or you can make one from scratch,” he said.
“Once you’ve set up your business on the app, you can set alerts to remind you to check off the activities associated with each area of the business.
“For example, in our weekly audit, I have questions such as ‘is the VAT holding four degrees or below?’ And if the answer is yes, it will go to the next question, but if the answer is no, it’ll ask why and if a repair is needed, it’ll automatically send an SMS to the person you’ve allocated for the maintenance.
“Or it will ask about the chemical levels, and if chemicals for the wash are low, it’ll automatically send me a text that I need to call Agri Dairies and order some more chemicals.”
The App also includes a menu called ‘issues’, where users can see their outstanding issues that need to be addressed.
“It’s a little bit to get your head around, so that’s why it’s good that you can use other people’s templates. You can work from those while you’re learning and even edit them and make them more relevant to your business if you don’t want to start from scratch,” Jackson said.
As well as helping him to run an efficient dairy, the iAuditor App also helps him with external audits.
“When I have an external audit coming up, such as my Dairysafe audit, I just print out our monthly iAuditor inspections and I have the documentation in place already. It makes life that little bit easier.”
Jackson said the focus at Cleland Dairy is now on increasing the herd size, reducing the herd age and continuing to improve milk quality.
“There are more incentives from Bega for us if the milk quality is high. We are in a premium milk grade for pricing, so we need to keep our somatic cell count as low as possible.
“We’re hitting that premium grade most of the time, so that’s good, but we’ve had a couple of months where it started getting out of control, and that’s when we realised there’s was an undetected cow with mastitis.
“We’re now monitoring very closely and jumping on any issues immediately to ensure they won’t impact our milk quality.”