Most dairy farmers will say there's nothing more important to their business than their cows. But for Brodie and Kevin Game, their herd of up to 350 is their biggest asset.
It's the cornerstone of their business, their stake in the dairy industry and may one day hold the key to farm ownership.
"In a leasing system, cows are our biggest asset," Mrs Game said.
"Crossbred cows might suit some farming operations, but when it comes to the crunch and we want to buy a farm, a fully-registered, good producing herd is worth more," she said. "Thanks to our Genetic Management System (GMS) we can demonstrate that and show how much we have improved."
The couple lease 445 hectares at Bemboka, NSW, and started using ABS Australia's Genetic Management System about a year ago.
"It is good for us to be able to track where we are going, and show we are achieving things," Mrs Game said. "We are at a point of our business where there isn't a lot of cash, but we are improving the farm and cows, building wealth that way. It's wealth growth, rather than cash profit growth."
The Games have focused on improving their herd's genetic merit by measuring production through monthly herd recording, keeping good records and then using this information to generate reports on their breeding progress.
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Mrs Game admitted the initial attraction to the ABS Genetic Management System audit was that it was free, but with the assistance of ABS representative Kim Sultana they've used it across their business.
To start with, sire selection has been simplified.
"It saves time. Sure, we look at a cow, but she might not be doing the production or there's something in her genetics we can't see," Mrs Game said.
"All information from ABS's GMS is good to get any issue fixed, if you have a problem with a line of cows it will suggest a bull to help fix it.
"The ABS system it points us in the right direction from the get-go and that gives us an advantage.
"I guess, I also don't come from a dairy family or background, everything has been learning as I go. We use classification as a tool and visual assessment of the cows, but this, the Genetic Management System, is a free service that will help fast track the genetic gain of our herd. There's no commitment to use the bulls they recommend. For me, it is just another opinion I can draw on."
Mrs Game said their breeding philosophy had changed since they first established Blackjack Holsteins six years ago. Now they sought out bulls which best suit a grass-based production system and characteristics they believed determined the most profitable cow, such as a medium frame and a cow that delivered a margin over feed costs.
These breeding objectives are factored into the Genetic Management System. The Games used some of the bulls recommended by the system and with calves starting to drop now, they are impressed.
"They are lot more vigorous and the mortality rate in herd has improved," Mrs Game said. "They just want to thrive, they are happy, healthy calves."
The couple use the Easy Dairy software farm management software. Keeping this information up to date has been crucial and its easily passed to ABS to generate the GMS audit, via a USB stick.
Looking ahead, the Games want to investigate genomic testing as Mrs Game said the reports generated by the ABS Genetic Management System could also include genomically tested cows. "Measuring our genetic progress to improve profitability is very important to us and that's what we have found the GMS audit provides us right now," she said.
Supplied by ABS Australia, phone 4800 227 285, website www.absglobal.com/au.
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