Farm driven by herd improvements

13 Jan, 2018 04:00 AM
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Ted Bingham and Connie Parkes have a strong focus on technical improvements.
It's becoming more reliable and cheaper, so it's worth investing in.
Ted Bingham and Connie Parkes have a strong focus on technical improvements.

IT IS the opportunity to network with Australian breeders and overseas breeding representatives that takes Ted Bingham and Deborah Parkes to International Dairy Week (IDW) each year.

It is also the opportunity to learn about improvements in the technical side of farming that attracts them to the event.

The couple have been attending IDW since its inception, missing only one or two years in the interim.

They operate Wildwood Dairies, alongside Debday and Dumbarton Holstein studs, at Lardner, in Gippsland, Victoria, milking 478 commercial cows off 194 dryland hectares.

With an average annual rainfall of 1000mm, the Lion producers collectively manage 600 breeders, including the stud cows.

Fifty per cent of the herd is genomically tested.

"Some have turned out exactly as expected, according to the testing. We're continually improving," Mr Bingham said.

The Holstein herd produces an average 7500 litres per cow per annum, with four per cent fat and 3.2 per cent protein.

Their bloodlines are mostly Canadian, with a little bit of American genetics and this year they used Australian sexed semen in their heifers.

"It's become more reliable and cheaper, so it's worth investing in," Mr Bingham said.

While Mr Bingham and farm manager, Connie Parkes, run the farm fulltime, Deborah Parkes, a past president of Holstein Australia, is responsible for the artificial insemination (AI) and embryo transfer (ET) breeding program in the herd. She also operated her own AI company for dairy and beef farmers, for 15 years, in the Yarra Valley and Pakenham area.

Daughter, Connie, is responsible for machinery maintenance, growing and managing pasture and fodder conservation and feeding.

The focus on the farm is feeding cows to maintain condition. Milkers are fed six kilograms of barley each, twice a day, in the bail; and six tonne of wet silage for a 300-day lactation.

Connie Parkes's focus is on harvesting 2000 tonnes of wet silage, 270 rolls of silage and 100 squares of hay each year. The pastures are ryegrass-based.

The trio are looking forward to four days of IDW, although they have only shown cattle once - in 2013 - achieving 10th (against 25 entries) in the Junior Second-Class with a Perfection heifer, sired by a Ladino bull's semen.

Instead IDW was an opportunity to re-connect with friends, find out about the latest dairy management techniques and equipment and discuss genetics and breeding.

"Normally you can get access to the overseas AI company representatives - the companies spend a lot of money sending them to Australia, so they send those people who know what they're talking about. You can get some pretty good advice from them," Mr Bingham said.

"Because Australia's such a small dairy market now, IDW is the opportunity to talk to reps about getting semen at the same time as it's released overseas."

Mr Bingham said it was also a good opportunity to promote his own herd to these representatives and to other breeders.

"Quite a lot of business is done at IDW, buying semen," he said.

"Most of the time, people are right up with knowledge about what's out there.

"We've noticed an increasing reliance on leasing bulls rather than purchasing outright, as a result of the downturn in dairy incomes in the past couple of years."

As the event has evolved into an agricultural show, it also offers the opportunity to investigate machinery.

"It's quite an agricultural show, nowadays, with a lot of the latest equipment there, everything associated with dairy farming," Mr Bingham said.

The family also like to sit in on the various workshop presentations.

"There's a lot of farmers who speak about their business and a lot of overseas guests," Mr Bingham said.

"There's also education opportunities with the farm tours of the local district. It's the biggest cattle show for some breeds.

"We go there to select the genetics that will help us achieve our goals on the farm."

Having full traceability through several generations at Wildwood Dairies has been advantageous with the changes to the export diary heifer market.

"We can demonstrate three generations of records and that's what export buyers want - they want heifers with a background history of cows calving successfully to sexed semen", Mr Bingham said.

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