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.


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.


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

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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

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Not one but two cranes


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

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But its amazing what team work can do

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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

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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


For the babies she looks after


and this one just 4 hours old

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for Sean


for Martin


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.


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


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


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


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


Michael said thanks Craig with a few beers.


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


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


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


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


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.


And what was happening at the home farm?


  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.


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

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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.


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



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 !!!!!!!


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

Join the growing list of supporting partners for 2012

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.

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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

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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

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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