Paul Moloney doesn't believe dairy farming needs to be complicated.
At his Terang, Vic, farm, simplicity is the key, and this approach underpins his breeding decisions. He wants cows with good fertility, longevity and he needs them to thrive on pasture.
Put simply, he wants cows to suit Australian conditions. "I still think we need bulls proven in Australia, for Australian conditions," he said.
"Our cows live outside. Overseas, cows have their food sat in front of them; if they can't reach it, a machine comes and pushes it in for them. It's nothing like the conditions here.
"Our cattle cover a lot of ground, they have to be able to forage and be aggressive in their foraging as there are so many cows per hectare. We need longevity, structure and cows need to be able to live through all sorts of conditions."
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Paul, his wife Christine and father Peter own two dairy farms in south-west Victoria. Paul and Christine, along with employee Oscar Baxter, run the home farm milking 330 cows, made up of Holstein, Jerseys, their crosses and "the occasional" red. A sharefarmer operates the second farm.
The home farm runs across 121 hectares with an additional 53ha leased and a 190ha out-paddock. The herd produced 2.1 million litres or 150,000kg of milk solids last season, and calves for two months from the end of May.
DataGene's Balanced Performance Index (BPI) plays a role in the Moloneys' sire selection each year. Some bulls are handpicked with a focus on certain cow families or sires from Terang breeders, but others are chosen purely on their BPI ranking," he said.
"I want to be able to cull the cows myself, not them cull themselves because of structural breakdown. If you are culling them, it means they have done a great service four-five calvings with no troubles, maybe six or seven calvings and there's one there which has had 10 to 12 calvings."
Temperament is also important. "They need to settle-down quickly, within a fortnight to three weeks. I don't have time for unsettled animals," he said.
Paul attributes the genetic improvement in his herd to the use of artificial insemination and focusing on young sires. All cows are artificially inseminated, and an AI program is used on the heifers, followed by a mop-up bull.
"With AI, you are using better bulls all the time, and we always get an improvement in our herd," he said.
Confident in the genomic technology, Paul said increasing the proportion of genomic semen had helped reduce his breeding costs in the past couple of years.
For nearly 30 years, Paul has had a role in helping to prove young bulls by reporting workability traits of new heifers. Workability refers to three traits that describe how easy a cow is to have in the herd.
He saw this as a way to ensure the industry gets "better bulls earlier" and diligently filled-out workability paperwork annually, recording a heifer's temperament, milking speed and likeability.
The paperwork still arrives at his farm, but now the process is much simpler thanks to automation.
"It is easier to do them now on the platform," he said.
"In my dairy, the computer is beside me with a revolving screen and voice activation highlights cows as they go past. I look at them individually and record their workability.
"I report on nearly every heifer from AI. In my system, every heifer is automatically highlighted, within a month of her first lactation.
"This is good because a she can go past you in 15 to 20 seconds. You know all your bad ones, but you don't know your good ones. That's because they just get on with it and you get on with it."
Three selections are available to rank the workability traits, and these are recorded for the industry to use in bull proofs.
Historically, 70 to 80 heifers enter the herd at the home farm each year. This year, there's 200 heifers to come in across the two farms.
For more information, contact DataGene, phone (03) 9032 7191 or email email@example.com.
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