Dairy farmers producing Australia's best quality milk have been named in Dairy Australia's 2020 Milk Quality Awards.
The awards recognise farmers producing the country's best milk based on bulk milk cell count (BMCC).
Gold awards are given to the 'Top 100' dairy farmers nationally for milk quality.
Together with silver awards winners, these farmers are the top 5pc of Australian producers for milk quality.
Dairy Australia Managing Director Dr David Nation congratulated the 2020 winners.
"The industry can take pride in the achievement of all winners of these awards," he said.
"Getting to this level takes consistent focus across the year on all aspects of the milking process, including effective mastitis control and maintaining a high level of attention to detail.
"This dedication underpins the high quality of Australian dairy products."
A focus on low BMCC helps increase milk yields and can improve the milk income received by farmers.
Most processing companies pay a premium for milk with a BMCC below 250,000 cells/ml and Dairy Australia analysis estimates that a farmer milking 300 cows who lowers their BMCC from 250,000 to 100,000 would be financially better off to the tune of $39,000 per year.
Dr Nation said Dairy Australia's Countdown program had helped support an industry wide focus on profitable mastitis control in dairy herds.
The organisation has also launched a new online/on-farm learning platform this year called Milking and Mastitis Management, which was designed to help farmers train new and inexperienced milking staff.
"Dairy Australia's Countdown program is the dairy industry's flagship program to assist farmers and their advisors to achieve profitable mastitis control," Dr Nation said.
"In recent years, closer ties with milk quality specialists within the major processors has led to better uptake of Dairy Australia resources and improvements in milk quality across the industry.
"Dairy farmers can improve milk quality by attending training courses nationwide provided by our eight Regional Development Programs.
"We also have a network of nearly 300 Dairy Australia trained Countdown Advisors, including vets, machine technicians, factory field officers and herd improvement staff across the country.
"Farmers can also access a range of online resources on Dairy Australia's website and use other services like DataGene."
Data for the Milk Quality Awards is supplied to Dairy Australia by dairy companies across the country.
To be eligible, dairy farms must have data for a minimum of nine months in a calendar year.
Monthly averages are then used to calculate the annual average BMCC for each farm.
Lex and Rachael Moloney named gold medal winners in 2020 Milk Quality Awards
After multiple silver awards for milk quality, Lex and Rachael Moloney have been named as gold medal winners in the 2020 Milk Quality Awards.
Lex and Rachael have been back on Lex's family farm at Dixie, near Terang for six years.
Over that time they have overseen an increase in cow numbers from 280 to a now 500 strong, autumn calving herd.
Throughout that period of expansion, a strong focus on herd health, investment in infrastructure and a consistent approach to mastitis management has enabled their milk to remain in the top band for milk quality.
"I don't think we do anything different to other farmers," Lex said.
"We are consistent in what we do.
"We keep a close eye on the filter sock and I check the SCC on a daily basis, when there are clots on the filter or the SCC goes over 100,000 we start looking where the issue is and strip the herd to find the culprit.
"We only strip the herd when there's an issue, it isn't something we do as a routine."
The 50-stand rotary dairy is fitted with ACR's and auto teat spray. Inflations are changed every six months, with the plant serviced in line with Quality Assurance guidelines.
The increase in cow numbers has led to two full-time employees joining the farm team. Both have completed the Cups On Cups Off training course.
"It's something we happily put employees through if they are interested, especially with less experienced staff," Rachael said.
"It helps them develop their skills and helps the farm too, so it's a win-win really.
"The guys working here now are very good at mastitis detection which certainly helps."
Lex and Rachael have worked with their vet to develop treatment protocols for when a case of mastitis is detected.
The severity of the infection is graded and then treated accordingly, with more severe cases receiving intramuscular antibiotics and anti-inflammatories in addition to intramammary tubes.
"When we find a case of mastitis the cow is drafted out and milked at the end to minimise the risk of cross contamination," Lex said.
"Then we will look at the cow and her history to decide on the best way forward.
"Cows that are treated with antibiotics are well marked and milked at the end of milking to reduce the risk of antibiotic contamination.
"We do have a fairly strict culling policy, especially when it comes to cows getting reinfected in the same lactation, particularly if it's the same quarter. All factors are considered before deciding on the best course of action.
"If we have a few cases close together we often take samples and send them off to be cultured so that we know exactly which bug we are dealing with and can treat it accordingly.
"There have also been times that we've frozen a sample and then sent it to be tested if a few more cases are found.
"On-farm culturing is something we are interested in looking at.
"Being able to take a sample and know in 24hrs exactly what we are dealing with and have written protocols around each of the potential results is something to work towards."
A technology that has already been embraced is cow activity monitors.
The herd was fitted with collars in February this year.
In addition to the data regarding heat detection, the couple has already noticed the potential for rumination information to assist them in identifying unwell cows earlier, including those with mastitis.
"Early detection of mastitis is key to maintaining a low SCC and our team are very good at that, but we are always looking for ways we can improve," Lex said.
"With a bit more time and understanding of all the available data, I think the collars will help us further improve cow health as well as hopefully improve in-calf rates."
When it comes to dry cow therapy, all cows receive dry cow tubes and are teat sealed.
"The first season we were back on the farm we had a lot of heifers come in with mastitis, probably about 20pc," Lex said.
"We didn't want to go through that again so started teat sealing them and now all the cows have that as well as blanket dry cow antibiotics.
"Selective dry cow therapy is something we may look into, but we don't herd test, so I'd be cautious about not doing, say the first calvers, then having issues in the next lactation..
"Going forward there are areas we will look to improve on, but overall, we are pretty happy with where we are at. We will continue to concentrate on herd health, prevention is always better than cure.
"I enjoy taking pride in what we do and in the quality of the product we produced."
'Keeping it simple' pays off for SA dairy farmer
A singular focus on the health and happiness of cows has paid off for Strathalbyn farmer Brett Fiebig, who has just been been listed in the top 5pc of producers in the 2020 Australian Milk Quality Awards.
For just under four years, Brett has been leasing 240 acres of dry land milking between 100 to 130 cows all year round.
Prior to this he was sharefarming with his parents in Mt Gambier for six years.
"After starting my own dairy farming business in 2017 - and leasing the owners cows - I have since bred up my own numbers of registered animals to the point where I no longer need to lease cows," Brett said.
"This has resulted in a younger herd of cows which has led to a higher quality cell count."
The listing in the 2020 Milk Quality Awards still came as a surprise to Brett, who admits it wasn't something he was particularly aiming for.
"Being listed in the awards is an honour, and makes me realise that the focus I've had on the health of my cows does pay in the end," he said.
Brett said there was no 'big secret' to producing high quality milk but credits it to keeping a close eye on each cow's health and wellbeing, maintaining thorough hygiene practices, and having a passion for the dairy industry.
Brett is a sole operator, doing all the milking himself which allows him an extra level of vigilance on his cows. In turn, his herd has minimal mastitis issues with the payoff being a quality cell count.
He attributes the quality cell count to factors including low stress stock handling by not using dogs, eliminating water around udders when milking, and maintaining the milking plant to a high standard.
"My top three priorities are to keep a close eye on cows milking out correctly, teat spraying and keeping the cows well fed," Brett said.
"I believe the low bulk milk cell count is very much related to the health and happiness of the animals, and my approach is pretty simple - happy cows equals quality milk."
Top 100 suppliers in Australia based on bulk milk cell count
- ASHDALE 55 PTY LTD
- ASHLEY J FIEDLER
- BD & KL MITCHELL
- C & R CAVALLARO
- CAMPBELL JR
- CL FREEMANTLE PTY LTD
- COOWONGA FAMILY TRUST
- D & M COLBERT
- DOUGLAS JW & VL
- HIBBERSON C & N
- JONES SG & SJ
- RA & HJ DOOLAN PTY LTD
- RJ & JR RIXON PTY LTD
- RJ PERKINS & SF EVANS
- SJ & AK CHRISTOPHER
- SC & VJ WINCHESTER
- STEPHENS H & S
- WILD NJ
- WJ & A STAMMERS
- A N BUCKLEY
- ARALUEN PASTORAL HOLDINGS P/L
- BALLANGEICH RUN PTY LTD
- BIDGEMAH TRUST
- BLAIN DAIRYING PTY LTD
- BOYS KJ
- CA & AL DURO
- CA & KL SPOKES FAMILY TRUST
- CARRAKOORTE NORTH PTY LTD
- CL & CL COSTIN
- CL & JM DRAKE
- CP & MJ NIJSKENS
- CRABBE HF
- CW & AM SMART
- DC JOHNSON PTY LTD
- DENBIGH PASTORAL TRUST
- DG HALLYBURTON & RS HALLYBURTON
- DIXIE RIDGE FARM PTY LTD
- FIELDING L
- GA & JL CROTHERS
- GARDINER M & L
- GF & RL LLOYD
- GLENMEAD PTY LTD - ATF SMITH FARM TRUST
- GUYE FAMILY TRUST
- HOWARD FARM TRUST
- HU VOGEL AND S VOGEL
- HW & BE ELLIOTT
- IR & JA RHODE
- J S & T BROWN PTY LTD
- KANGERTONG FARMING PTY LTD
- KP CAMPBELL & THE CAMPBELL FAMILY TRUST
- LAANG FARM PARTNERSHIP
- LJ BALCOMBE GENERAL TRANSPORT P/L ATF
- BALBAT TRADING TRUST
- LOWE HF & FA
- LUCAS AH
- MASSEY KA
- ML & KE RYAN
- NOLANE INVESTMENTS P/L ATF LESTIN INVEST
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- NUNN IG & RL
- PA & KM FINLAYSON
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- RF & NP BOURK
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- THE TRUSTEE FOR B & R COUCH FAMILY TRUST
- THE TRUSTEE FOR EIRENCLARE FARMS UNIT TRUST
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- TJ & CJ BEASLEY
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- WILLIE TA & SON
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- D & S MCCANN
- DW & CG & FC & DL ARMSTRONG
- GREEN DG & DL
- J H CUTHBERTSON PTY LTD
- JIM & HEATHER HARVEY
- MOSS TK & SP
- PF CREA
- RL & B LADE
- S & J BLAND
- S B & I F DERRICK
- TL GEARY (91-1)
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- THE TRUSTEE FOR POTTER FAMILY TRUST
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- L FITZPATRICK
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New South Wales
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- PUMP GJ
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