Opportunities to learn excite dairy farmer

31 Aug, 2017 09:18 AM
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It is great to see young farmers returning, but the availability of water is the "great unknown".

Nick Minogue is proud to continue the family tradition of dairyfarming at Katandra West, Vic.

After completing a Bachelor of Agriculture at the University of Melbourne, Nick returned to the farm. He now works closely with his dad John, and his mum Ann Maree is a great help when required. Nick’s brothers also lend a hand, although Nick said their interests lied outside of dairyfarming.

During Nick’s school years at Shepparton, Vic, he wasn’t exactly sure what career he wanted to pursue, but he always loved the farm.

Nick completed his final year of the university course at the Dookie campus, which meant he was able to live at home and help his parents more.

“And I suppose I never left,” he said.

The university course has helped Nick evaluate advice including from agronomists and veterinarians, and make more informed, better decisions.

The family farms on 80 hectares. They have grown the herd in recent years from around 170 cows, and this year they’ll hit 200 cows.

“That’s about the upper limit for our land,” Nick said.

In their ryegrass-based system, about 70 per cent of the pastures are permanent. They also sow down a mixture of annual pasture species and a bit of lucerne. Nick’s parents have about 300 megalitres of high-reliability water allocation.

All of the cows and heifers calve down in spring. Nick said they aimed to make as much grass (and milk and silage) in spring.

They also feed about a tonne of grain per year per cow in the shed.

This year the Minogues installed a new mill that lets them mix grain. They’ve found a mix of half wheat, half corn has worked well.

The Minogues have quite a young herd.

Three years ago, the family engaged consultants from mastitis control specialists, Dairy Focus, to help reduce their somatic cell count.

The herd’s count was above 300,000 bulk milk cell count, but by following strategies including herd testing, using teat seals, calving in clean paddocks, keeping the dairy clean, they have reduced it to about 100.

“It’s taken all the stress out of milking, we don’t have to stress about cell count anymore," Nick said.

“It’s one of the best changes we’ve made.”

Nick is keen to continue learning and seizing opportunities open to young people in the dairy industry.

In February, he was one of six young farmers that went on the eight-day Gardiner Dairy Foundation UDV New Zealand Study Tour.

He said it was great to see other farming systems. Nick also learnt new skills and gained confidence by doing presentations about the tour, including at the UDV conference. In late July, Nick also went to the Dairy Research Foundation's 2017 Symposium in Port Macquarie NSW. Dairy Australia’s Young Dairy Network sponsored the trip.

Nick would like to continue the family business and one day go into an ownership role.

His parents have helped him build equity by letting him rear the calves born from joining a Jersey bull to maiden heifers.

While Nick said it had been great to see more young farmers return to family dairy farms in the region, the availability of water to irrigate was the “big unknown”.

“While we’ll have to be more flexible and use water more efficiently, it’s unknown whether there will be access to it,” Nick said.

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Laura Griffin

Laura Griffin

is a journalist for Stock and Land
Twitter: @Laura_Grif

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