Paradise through the lens

Yesterday the cows enjoyed the views from the Cooking School paddock

IMG_4325

Heading home (above) and enjoying the morning feed (below)

IMG_4279

But the day didn’t get off to the ideal start for the cows, the neighbours nor the person who forgot to open the gate to the paddock.

Road Cooking school Dixon  (1)

This is the entrance to the paddock where the cows camped until one of the neighbours saw them and told us

This is the entrance after the manure had been scrapped of the road. Heaven forbid 250 cows waiting to get into the paddock can you imagine the mess.  Less said the better then again as they say in the classics “shit happens”.

The Cooking School paddock you ask?

Yes Clover Hill is very unique. It is part of a dairy centric rural residential subdivision with 12 privately owned blocks ranging from 1 to 100 acres and one of these blocks used to be a five star cooking school. Just as well no cooking lesson were being held today.

Today one of the other neighbours was able to have the pleasure of sitting on their front veranda with the cows almost in their front yard.

Unfortunately John and Jenny did host the cows in their front yard uninvited a few years ago as have most of the neighbours at some stage. But as you can see the garden did recover quite spectacularly

IMG_4284

Much to our relief. In fact it was these very agapanthus that took the biggest battering

IMG_4260

And the cows were eyeing them off again today but they were disappointed. John has made the fence cow proof thank goodness.

Speaking of the fence – the rock wall made a magnificent backdrop for this photo today

IMG_4269

I have a Canon 600D which is their beginner top of the range but I do have the EF 24-105mm lens and this lens can turn even me into a decent photographer

Speaking of photographers John’s nephew is the well known photographer Toby Dixon Now this is photography. Check out his photo shoot with Jonathan Brown, Captain of the Brisbane Lions and Paul Gallen, Captain of the Cronulla Sharks here  http://tobydixon.com/blog/?cat=1

Toby has done some adds for Cadbury’s and a few others at Clover Hill as well

Like this classic

Cadbury 'Smooth' 03

This is Clover Hill’s very own  Mandelyn Skyframe Toni

Back to the amateurs

IMG_4375

How’s that view along the backline – might not be in Toby’s league but I am having fun

Weddings in Paradise

Believe it or not this is a story about growing grass.

Rolling green hills, seascapes and briescapes ( not that I think either of our processors make soft cheeses out of our milk – what a shame).

Recognise the backdrop

jamberoo-kiama-the-pavillio_med-22

Four days earlier it looked like this

IMG_3414

This wedding was in November and the bride and groom and the photographer Peter Merison did a rekkie for wedding photos at Clover Hill in late September.

When Peter knocked on the door and asked if he could take wedding photos in the front paddock little did he know how much preparation would go into the timing of the cows eating the paddock off in order to have the grass at the perfect height (and manure free- well almost) to provide the best experience for all parties concerned including most importantly the cows .

The weather was perfect, the grass was perfect, the photos look superb and if the wedding blog is anything to go by the wedding was perfect.

Now back to the finely tuned art form of growing grass for best practice pasture based dairying.

Greener than Green

Looking back from the west to the dairy and the paddock in front of my house  – can you see it?

This picture was taken in the spring and the grass in the forefront of this paddock is almost perfect. A nice blend of oats and annual rye grass at just the right height, with  high energy (carbohydrate) levels and balanced protein content.

Good dairy farmers know their grass so well they can pretty accurately estimate the energy and protein levels of the grass just by looking at it at any given point of the year. Take my word for it this grass is short and sweet and the cows quicken their step when they saw it.

During spring our rotation (number of days its takes the cows to eat off every paddock on the farm) is approximately fourteen days and thanks to the temperate weather and high rainfall this year our current rotation is still 14 days as the ryegrass is still hanging in there. As ryegrass is a cooler climate grass normally at this time of the year it would be too hot and the ryegrass will have died out or gone to seed (grass loses 40% of its energy content when it goes to seed) and the kikuyu will have taken over.

Good dairy farmers are always casting their eyes over their paddocks on a day to day basis to pick the best grass for their cows. If one paddock has got away (the grass is past its peak ) and another paddock is at the perfect stage you go with the paddock that is perfect otherwise you spend your time chasing your tail. Our cows go into a different paddock after every milking. This allows us to pick a paddock with good shade for the hottest part of the day. This means we need to pick three ideal paddocks every day.

Cows on heat  

Yesterday when we bought the cows home from Jack’s paddock we had a number of options which is always a good thing unless more than one paddock is past its best by date. We chose this one known as the dam paddock (for obvious reasons) or paddock 27

IMG_4068 

Each paddock has a number but they also have another name that often has no relevance to the present. Jack’s paddock has an historical significance. Jack and Viv used to own the 100 acres next door and as we have fond memories of them  I imagine this paddock will be called Jack’s paddock for a long while yet.

Back to the wedding. How impressive does this look

jamberoo-kiama-the-pavillio_med-45

and my favourite photo from the blog

jamberoo-kiama-the-pavillio_med-42

Wedding photos in this blog have been used with permission

Touching moments

Yesterday Michael and I went to get the cows in for the midday milking and I captured these touching moments between one of our cows and the next door neighbour’s horses

IMG_4019

A little banter over the fence

IMG_4022

Com’on girl time to go home for milking – OOh cant she stay

IMG_4024

Not listening?

IMG_4020

Kiss goodbye

IMG_4026

Long forlorn looks

IMG_4027

Till next time

Growing the milk business

In 2000 our dairy farm was a one man operation milking 80 cows twice daily.

In 2005 our cow numbers had increased to 180 and we moved to milking three times daily

In 2008 we took on a second lease farm and milked a total of 400 cows three times daily

Today we employ ten people and milk 500 cows on two farms

The home farm never ceases to amaze me.

In the last 35 years the amount of land we farm on has stayed the same.

The number of people working and the cows being milked keeps increasing.

IMG_4039

Clover Hill cows coming home for milking Boxing Day 2011

In 35 years the dairy has grown from a 6 bale walk thru to a 5 aside herringbone to a 14 aside double up herringbone.

IMG_4031

Michael reflects on the milk biz changes in his lifetime

And the milk vat. More than anything I think the milk vat gives the most visual story of the growth of our milk business

This week we installed a 30,000 litre milk vat.

When we installed the 5,000 vat in 1995 we never dreamed we would fill this let alone get to the stage were we filled it twice a day.   Its hard to believe 30 years ago our daily milk production fitted into a 1,000 litre vat.

Its no mean feat getting a 30,000 litre vat up our hill let alone finding enough room to put it at the dairy

The vat would replace two x five thousand litres vats we currently have

Blog (3)

Inside

Blog (4)

Outside

As you can see room isn’t exactly abundant

Milk vat0001 

So the sacrificial lamb was my garden – but all in a good cause

So now we had found the spot.  The next thing was to source a vat, only to find it had to be made in New Zealand and that took 16 weeks. Then it needed 2 cranes and a team of specialists all available on the same day at the same time to make it all happen.

Between the farm team we managed to capture this historic day via mobile phones and camera/video footage.

You can watch the video footage here

and see the photographs here

Blog (6)

Not one but two cranes

IMG_3626

The truck driver looked pretty pleased to get it there all in one piece. The trip from the dock wasn’t exactly a walk in the park with the vat shifting quite a bit to one side on the way as you can see

Blog (5)

 

IMG_3678

 

IMG_3689

But its amazing what team work can do

Blog (7)

or at least what Ozzie team work can do. Soon found out half the parts to make it work were still sitting on the dock in NZ

Blog (1)

Christmas at the dairy

It always amuses me when people assume the cows get a day off for Christmas. Do breast feeding mothers get Xmas off? I don’t think so.

After all when you take on the responsibility of caring for other living things whether they be animals or children it is 365 and 24/7.

No-one is complaining at Clover Hill – though Michael is not quite sure how he scored the midday shift at the home farm but then that still leaves 21 hours to celebrate.

On our farm Louise coordinates the Xmas cheer.

Louise is just one of those people everybody loves having on their team. Louise brings the festive spirit to the dairy like no other

IMG_3803

For the babies she looks after

IMG_0389

and this one just 4 hours old

IMG_3780 C

for Sean

IMG_3806

for Martin

IMG_3845

There is also rumour Louise has pictures of Michael and Nick with antlers on. They are yet to surface but rest assured I am on working on it. WATCH THIS SPACE

The girls waiting to be milked think all of these hijinks are highly amusing.

IMG_3730

Though they are a bit jealous when they find out Louise has Antlers for Eileen but not for all of them!!

IMG_3790

But then Eileen’s face is adorable and lends itself to superb photo opps don’t you think?

Its not all play and no work. The babies still get fed and weighed to make sure we are taking just as good care of them as their mums do.

and back at the Chook pen new life has arrived for Christmas

IMG_3904

But the girls got off the eggs before they had all hatched. So the farmers took over from nature and bought a few more into world

IMG_3915IMG_3916

Which we will give back to their mums in a few days

Craig saved Christmas for our next neighbour by finding and fixing her broken water pipe

IMG_3825

Michael said thanks Craig with a few beers.

IMG_3828

The grain arrives and gets unloaded and Col is still trying to find out why all the parts haven’t arrived from NZ to install the new 30,000 milk vat. OMG Can you believe someone can put a vat this size on a ship and let it sail it across the ocean and left all the other bits that make it work sitting on the dock which now all have to be put on a plane and flown over. All that CO2

And what do you know?  Its dawn and its all happening again.

The girls say “Do we really have to go down that big hill this morning?

and Nick and Sean bring the springers (cows calving in the next 3 weeks) home

IMG_3874

And next thing you know the girls are back in the dairy waiting patiently to be milked.

IMG_3716

Sean’s on the job

Wouldn’t give it up for quits.

Oh no not another whingeing farmer story

People say farmers are always complaining about the weather. When it’s supposed to be sunny farmers say it should be raining and when it’s supposed to be raining it’s supposed to be sunny.

So when I got a call from the local radio station wanting to do a story on the weather with the opening line “ Surely all you dairy farmers must be happy this rain will be making the grass grow” you can imagine little Ms #Agvocacy thinks to herself the last thing I want to do is a “whingeing farmer story”

But I thought no this is a good story to tell – there are many very good reasons for farmers’ preoccupation with the weather.

Farmers after all are no different to anyone else in business. Everyone likes to feel they are in control and the weather is one of the key things farmers want on their side but it is the very thing they have no control over. But whilst you can’t control the weather you can certainly control how you are prepared for it.

Rain is topical this year right across the country. In our region we had our so called 1 in 50 year flood in March when 500 mm or 20 inches of rain fell in 48 hours. So what does that look like?

Well here is a typical sunny day at Lemon Grove Research Farm for the cows

Photos0001

This is what it looked like in the same place at 10am on March 21st during our 1 in 50 year flood

Photos0002

The same spot one hour later. The water rose in front of our very eyes. So fast we almost didn’t get cows onto higher ground quick enough and five cows washed away and sadly one drowned.

Photos0003

And what was happening at the home farm?

Photos0004

  This is our neighbour Viv determined to get “that shot”. 

This was almost repeated two weeks ago when we had 8 inches (200mm) in 8 hours

This year we have had at total of 110 inches (2500mm) of rain. This is 65% more rain than our average good year but it is a “drought” compared to 1950 and 1974 when the farm had a whopping 140 inches (3500mm)

So what about all that green grass you ask?

Grass for cows (or should I say pasture) is all about quality not quantity. Cows are discerning diners as my good friend Milk Maid Marian says. They like grass that is short and sweet.

2214

It doesn’t get much better than this

Short. sweet grass is full of sugar. For plants to produce sugar they need plenty of sunshine.

Looking back from Easts to Cows in Yard Paddock 0011

Chocolate for cows 

In fact growing grass is a fine art that all good dairy farmers have perfected to a tee and there is a saying in the industry that the difference between a good farm and the rest in just two weeks.

In fact we are doing pasture trials at the Lemon Grove Farm just to prove the anecdotal evidence.

Michael in Lucerne @ Lemon Grove

Michael is a bit of a pasture guru as you can see

There is a great little story on how we grow grass at Clover Hill Dairies as part of the Jet and Emma Farm Management Series here if you would like to know the nitty gritty.

This is also time of the year when farmers often take advantage of the excess of grass to store some fodder for winter by cutting high quality pasture to make hay and silage.

It isn’t a myth. You do need to make hay while the sun shines but for that you need a 48 hour window of dry weather

tilly in haystacks

Making Hay on Jamberoo Swamp (Photograph courtesy of Linda Faiers copyright)

As I said earlier dairy farmers can’t control the weather but we can prepare for it and often that is just simple things.

For example cows are no difffrent to people when it comes to wet feet. Just like standing in water makes your feet soft and wrinkley so does standing in wet soggy paddocks for cows. So we do things like add extra zinc to the cows feed to help harden their hooves which helps reduce the incidence of sore feet.

Feed inj the dairy 0005

Each cow gets fed a specially formulated ration in the dairy at every milking. This is a perfect way to fine tune the diet when weather conditions and pasture growth aren’t ideal for cows.

We also make sure our laneways are super smooth highways and the team are very mindful of the cows and move them at very gentle pace during the wet especially on the home farm where the hills become very slippery.

Strongs veiw to the sea

The mountainside that looks so pretty can be turn into a cow slippery slide nightmare in a couple of hours

The perfect place to dairy

Jamberoo is the birth place of the Australian dairy industry and its still a great place to dairy for all the right reasons. We have great volcanic soil, which means despite all the rain the drainage is still excellent and the water moves away very quickly. Our cows aren’t whingeing as you can see.

IMG_2262

There is always plenty to eat Rain Hail or Shine

What about the radio interivew you ask?  Well except for managing to move the flood back a whole month ( cant believe I said that) it went off okay. You can decide here

WINNING DAIRY ENTRIES ANNOUNCED

 

Recognising all food fibre industries share common ground we have designed the  Archibull Prize as a cross industry partnership.

This year we showcased grains, beef, sheep, wool, dairy and the egg industry.

There are some superb dairy entries with Model Farms High School coming second overall.

This post is a tribute to all the schools who studied the dairy industry and showcases the winning dairy entries.

A special thank you to our Young Dairy Farming Champions Emma Visser, Erin Lake Stephanie Tarlinton, and Naomi Marks. You are all absolute stars

By the way just to reinforce that this month alone Emma has won her section of the Heywire competition and Naomi has been named Ms Dorrigo Showgirl !!!!!!!


THE ARCHIBULL PRIZE 2011 HONOUR ROLL

Archibull Prize  2011

Runner Up

Model Farms High School

Model Farms



Secondary School Winner

Best Blog

Model Farms High School
(Dairy Industry)



Secondary School Winner

Best PowerPoint
Model Farms High School
(Dairy Industry)


Primary School Winner

Best Video

Schofield Primary School
(Dairy Industry)


Technology Award of Excellence

Windsor Public School


The Archibull Prize was developed with the support of the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, Woolworths Ltd, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, NSW Department of Primary Industries, LandLearn NSW and Hawkesbury Harvest.


Want to join the Archibull Prize Team in 2012?

Opportunities are available for other organisations who share the same passion and vision as we do to be part of the Archibull Prize 2012

For more information please contact
National Program Director
Lynne Strong
105 Clover Hill Rd
Jamberoo NSW 2533
Phone 02 42 360 309
Mobile 0412 428 334
Email: lynnestrong@art4agriculture.com.au
Web: www.art4agriculture.com.au

Join the growing list of supporting partners for 2012