Walking when too much is not a good thing

At Clover Hill Dairies we milk 500 cows three times daily on two farms.

Milking three times a day is not the norm but we do it for a multitude of reasons which are good for people, cows and the planet.

Milking three times a day means lots and lots of health benefits for our cows but those health benefits rely on good time management.

Good time management is essential because cows need at least 12 hours a day to sleep. ( If you want to read the heavy science you can find it here.)

So as our cows walk backwards and forwards to the dairy three times daily we need to make sure they do that with as much cow comfort as we can provide so they can do it as quickly and efficiently as they can.

cows in line

Cows travel super highways at Clover Hill  (special thanks to Penny Scott who took this gorgeous photo)

To help them do this we have created a series of “supermoo highways” on our farms.

Lynne Strong images (2)

Like this and this –  Cars and people like them too. We get lots of the “keep fit” crowd walking up this road


50% of our farm is rainforest and part of our role as land stewards is to make sure our farming practices do not impact on the native vegetation or the wildlife.

So we have supermoo highways through our rainforest as well .

Here is a great example of development of one through the rainforest

Cows Walking thru rainforest

This one was fine like this when we milked twice daily but it looked like this when we got a lot of rain and the cows started using it three times daily


So what did we do. We got some advice from rainforest experts and some cow comfort experts and we did this

Cows on Picasso Laneway  0006

Picasso Corner

Firstly we separated the cows and the rainforest with a fence.

Cows on Picasso Laneway  0001

Then we poured concrete on the laneway.  We had happy cows and a happy farm team who found the cows liked the new comfortable road and were very keen to come back to the dairy for milking.

Then we needed to spend some time nurturing the rainforest. So we found some more experts to give us the right advice like Erin and the team at Landcare Illawarra


Erin with Tony Hepworth and Mike Swanson from South East Landcare 

The troops came in and did their bush regeneration thing and achieved some great outcomes like this

10 July Picasso Corner  (12) 

Confidence to Grow Photos for Facebook   (13)

What about those cows getting their 40 winks!!!!!!!!!!

Yesterday I went for a walk and it gave me great pleasure when I came across the cows in the paddock at the end of the laneway we call Picasso Corner (another story) and saw this paddock full of very happy cows RESTING

Erin and Ann 0002

Great outcomes all round me thinks

Next Gen giving our farm lots of TLC

It was a huge day at the farm on Wednesday with our eco warrior Erin Lake leading a team of volunteers in revegetating an important area of our riparian (areas around our waterways) zone.

Little aside on Erin – Erin has passion for biodiversity like no other and she takes every opportunity to share her passion with the world

In her role as a Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champion


Here is Erin with the Castle Hill High School Archibull Prize entry team. See the video she made for her school presentation to Castle Hill High School here. Its awesome

Out in the streets hunting down and eradicating the dreaded evil Madeira Vine

Madeira Vine

or waging the war against the nasty environmental invaders on farms across the Illawarra and south coast

Erin Lake and Jake Proust  Clover Hill Dairies Bush Regeneration team

Here she is with fellow A team bush “regener” Jake Proust

Or organising community events like Dune Day

View album

Erin Lake event organiser

or spreading the good eco messages thru the media

Erins Passion for the Land

Or engaging with and encouraging young people to have a greater appreciation for the landscape

Erin Blog Post0002Erin Blog Post0001

Now back to today’s story –  the volunteers hailed from the National Green Jobs Corps– a youth training and employment program encouraging young people to be involved in the NRM ( natural resource management) industry.

Erin identified an area in one of our creek lines as an important wildlife corridor which links together two significant stands of Rainforest on the farm, and in need of a little help to get re-established.

So the wonderful Michael (Strong) arrived at the site before any of us were even awake, to slash the Kikuyu to make it easy for the volunteers to plant into. And what an amazing job he did! Oh and as usual- he did it with a big smile

Michael and Lynne Strong

Michael my hero – ooooooooooh palpitations

The Green Corps arrived early to get stuck into the planting. They were very excited when they found out that they were going to be getting a lift to the site in the back of Erin’s Ute (albeit very slowly) – but just as excited when they found out they were going to be revegetating some important sub-tropical rainforest.

Back of Truck

The trees that were used in the planting were nothing short of amazing- there was a huge variety of local species supplied by Richard Scarborough from Landcare Illawarra. Richard tells us that these trees were grown from around 7 different local nurseries and this makes sure that there is a wide genetic diversity in the plantings, which is very important for biodiversity.


Richard Scarborough – local legend

The trees we planted included some of Erin’s favourites – Native Tamarinds (Diploglottis australis), Black Apple’s ( Planchonella australis)

and even a couple of Giant Stinging Trees (Dendrocnide excelsa)- which are a very important local rainforest trees apparently ie if you can forgive the almighty sting you receive if you brush against one of the leaves! and I dont find myself very forgiving in this instance particularly after the day I thought a young one was a Tobacco Bush which I decided to pull out withy my bare hands. Oh how I regretted that little “do good” effort

Baby Stinging Nettle Tree

Stinging Nettle Trees love the soil at Clover Hill – I don’t love them  – baby ones popping up everywhere – that “thing” with the big round leaves next to the Red Cedar ( love them)

So the Green Corps did an amazing job of planting nearly 200 trees and we were very grateful for the use of a Petrol Auger that was supplied by Landcare Illawarra!

Erin and Mick returned on Friday to put on the tree guards (thanks to Couriers Please for your as always delayed service… LESSON TO ALL NEVER EVER USE “COURIERS PLEASE”).

We are trialing the use of Milk Carton Guards as they are biodegradable and very appropriate for a planting on a dairy farm!


And seeing some of our milk goes into PURA cartons I think we should be able to get a better deal on our next purchase and I can assure you it wont be “Couriers Please” who bring them to the farm

Our maintenance regime will be just as important and our plan is to mow and snip to keep the Kikuyu down and use a light Glyposate mix to keep the grass away from the plantings. This is where the guards will be very useful- they highlight where the trees are to the mowing contractors, and they protect the plants from any spray drift while they are only little. Once they grow to a metre- they will need very little maintenance and they will grow into beautiful trees before we know it.

So all in all a great day and another example of how effective partnerships can make a huge difference and lead to great successes in Natural Resource Management on Australian dairy farms and help keep our cows happy and healthy.

AYOF  (3)

Erin is a great advocate for the Nationals Green Jobs Corps Initiative. “This is a program that works. I have been lucky enough to be involved with a number of these groups and I have found that their team leaders are consistently brilliant- patient and very enthusiastic about training these young people- and learn a lot themselves from working with such a diversity of people.” says Erin

Well Done Green Corps and Erin!


My family has been farming for 180 years. 180 of great farming stories waiting to be told. But how, but where and to whom. My family aren’t alone farmers across Australia have great stories to tell.  So I decided to fill this gap and what better audience than our future, our school students, the next generation of consumers, decision makers and our workforce.

So Art4Agriculture was born. Our signature program is the Archibull Prize and now we have paired the Archibull Prize with the Young Farming Champions program which I hope will be my ongoing legacy.


The Archibull Prize Awards and Exhibition Day is the highlight of the Art4Agriculture year 

It was yesterday and it was huge. Woolworths rolled out the red carpet and hosted the event. The Hon Katrina Hodgkinson not only presented the winners she spent considerable time viewing the artworks and talking to the students  


I love the Archibull Prize. Every entry gives me one of those ‘feel good’ moments.

It reminds me that young Australians are interested and positive about the future and they are filled with hope.

Don’t believe what you read in the papers – our school students are engaged, they are talented and they are truly inspiring!

And this competition proves it!

This year was second time we have rolled out the program in Western Sydney with 5 primary schools and 15 secondary schools participating.

20 bulls have made their way to the judging ring and today we found out which schools have triumphed in each of the categories and who is the Grand Champion Bull


Once again it has been an outstanding success

I thought the entries last year were impressive – but the schools who participated this year have taken things to a whole new level.

  • We have some amazing examples of fine art
  • We have discovered digital technology we didn’t no existed
  • We have entries that have astounded the heads of the food and fibre industries our schools have showcased

World class is the only way to describe the efforts of the teachers and the student participants in the 2011 Archibull Prize

and the winners are ?

Announced by the Hon Katrina Hodgkinson Minister for Primary Industries and Small  Business


Primary Winner

Secondary Winner


Macarthur Anglican School


Caroline Chisholm College



Macarthur Anglican School


Model Farms High School



St Michaels Catholic Primary School


Colo High School ($250.00)

Model Farms High School ($250.00)


Schofield Primary School


Caroline Chisholm College


Overall 2012 Archibull Prize Winner

Caroline Chisholm College ($1,000.00)

“Moobiks Cube”

Artwork Award of Excellence

Hurlstone Agricultural High School

Quakers Hill High School

Richmond High School

Innovation in Technology Award of Excellence

Windsor Public School


See all the picture from the Awards and Exhibition Day on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/art4agriculture/

Something isn’t quite right in paradise

This week the milking cows are taking their morning feed (4am to 12 noon) in the paddocks in front of my house. I so look forward to this part of the grazing rotation which at this time of the year comes around every 14 to 18 days.

Now the cows seem to know I have a new camera and are doing their best to provide the rural idyll but this morning things were a little too perfect.

Firstly there was this


that was fine. Then there was long lingering looks like this


Then there was thousands (never let the facts get in the way of a good story) of looks like this


Quick turn on of the tap at the kitchen sink confirms my suspicions lots of thirsty looking cows means broken water trough. Michael to the rescue once again

You are our hero Michael – shame about the shorts


Creepy crawlies live in paradise too

I am a sixth generation farmer but I don’t like snakes, rats and spiders any more than your average city person

I grew up in NSW heartland and saw plenty of brown snakes that knew to keep well away from my father and his shotgun.

At Clover Hill there are no shotguns but plenty of red belly black snakes and no shortage of pythons including the one that has been living in the Illawarra Flame tree just outside my kitchen window scaring the bejesus out of my visitors when he/she suns him/herself on my front steps and my chooks 24/7


Yesterday I was enjoying a freshly made latte with milk straight from the udder so to speak before joining my sister for a Foodscape Tour and looking out the kitchen window I spotted what was causing all the commotion in the chook pen


Now I didn’t have time to take pictures of this snake let alone video footage ( yes I did that too) and then discover this snake was indeed stuck in the netting and in desperate need of rescue.

So who do you call?  WIRES of course and who was the best person for this job at this time? Michael of course. Though not happy that I thought he had more time than me to do this.

But its not just about time is it? In this case he was the person who could lend a hand if necessary (and there was no way in the world I was going to wear that hat) and besides I had a Foodscape Tour to join

So what happened to “Clover” the snake you ask. Yes Hugh from WIRES called our snake Clover

Find out if here if there is a happy ending for Clover

Hugh from WIRES and Clover our friendly python who ate too many rats at once–thank god it wasn’t my chickens

A picture paints a thousand words

When people ask me where I live I invariably reply I live in paradise and I am using this post as one of many to give you pictorial reasoning for this claim.

Clover Hill Dairies is located on two farms in the Jamberoo Valley the birthplace of the Australian dairy industry but more famous today as the place “where you control the action”

The home farm is located on the north east face of Saddleback Mountain in very steep rainforest country. In fact 50% of the farm is rainforest so when you run possibly the most intensive pasture based dairying operation in Australia and farm in this very precious environment you feel a huge responsibility to do what is right for the landscape, the cows and the wider community.

There is no denying it is a challenge but oh so worthwhile.

On Friday the cows where outside my house between the 4am and the 12 noon milking. My camera captured their noon stroll to the milking shed.

Paradise 101

  View from my front verandah. This becomes below when the cows move in.



Michael begins the midday milking roundup


There is no rush. Always time for a two way pose.


And no shortage of cows with plenty of attitude. 1453 is called Mandelyn Storm Favourite and she looks like she has been in the good paddock a bit too long not that she is complaining.



Michael has discovered why the cows are taking a bit longer than usual. There seems to be some silly woman standing in front of them taking pictures


He just shakes his head and gives me one of his cheeky grins

The cows were back in the front paddock when I went to town the next day


This is what I saw looking back on my house and the cows when I drove up Saddleback Mountain Rd.

Paradise – we are giving it a pretty good shot don’t you think?