Looking for a future in dairy

05 Jan, 2017 01:07 PM
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I want to stay in dairy but it's hard enough without knowing you're not making money out of it.

The Brown Swiss cow that helped lead the 'Save the Dairyfarmer' rally in Melbourne will be part of the team Ben Govett takes to International Dairy Week (IDW) this year.

Tandara Sarajevo, an 11-year-old, is a veteran of IDW and won champion cow in the Brown Swiss class in 2015.

"She's just calved again so she'll be there," Mr Govett said. "The public's moved on so the dairy crisis is not front of mind, but for farmers it's a day-to-day reality."

Mr Govett is also a veteran performer at IDW, participating in the youth activities and showing his own team to considerable acclaim.

But he worries that the exit of dairyfarmers from the industry and continuing low milk prices will have long-term impacts on his and other's genetic breeding programs.

"I want to stay in dairy but it's hard enough without knowing you're not making money out of it," he said.

"Since returning from uni, we've had droughts, flooding and poor prices.

"My business focus is around genetics and making milk. No dairy industry has a significant impact on sourcing and finding good genetics."

Tandara Stud's breeding program, set up by his parents, focuses on functional type and production that continues to this day. A long-term artificial insemination program was recently varied with a few purchased heifers and embryos.

"We're not looking to make extensive changes," Mr Govett said.

"We want a cow that can produce a lot of milk and remain productive and healthy over time."

His focus is on lifetime cow health, from the day the calf is born. Feeding and care ensure longevity in production, so a daily portion of grain and hay begins at one week of age.

"We don't try and limit feed at any stage," Mr Govett said.

"Out whole farm approach is to look after the cows, feed them well and take a whole lifetime approach to the cow from birth."

Heifers are joined at 400-450 kilograms, so are 22-26-months-old at calving. Split calving enables those not up to weight to wait for joining.

Tandara Sarajevo's star turn at the Melbourne dairyfarmer rally aside, Mr Govett wishes politicians, government, processors and supermarkets cared as much about the dairy industry as farmers do.

"Like other dairyfarmers, I couldn't sit back and do nothing," he said. "I had a cow I thought could handle the noise and attention.

"She got a lot of news coverage and every politician wanted their photo taken with her. They all said they wanted to help but there hasn't been a lot of change since then.

"I want to know there's a future in dairy for me."

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