With two dairies on adjoining farms and a black spot for mobile phones, Cowley's Creek farmer Matt Grant had to come up with innovative solutions to improve herd health and communication.
A new system connecting the internet from his home to the two dairies has done the trick.
The DemoDAIRY Foundation, as part of the 2020 WestVic Dairy awards, gave Matt $2500 which he used for IT work to link the two milking sheds with a new electronic herd management system.
The innovation shown by Matt is the type being sought by DemoDAIRY Foundation for the inaugural Dairy Innovation Challenge.
Matt received the funding after being named the WestVic Dairy young farm leader of 2020, an award supported by the DemoDAIRY Foundation.
He has share farmed the family farm since 2009, and also operates the neighbouring farm purchased in 2016.
Although both dairies are operational, Matt tends to do the "hard work" such as AI, drying off and calving in one while the other just milks.
Matt has one herd which is split between the two dairies, and shifts cattle around depending on food availability, milk quotas, staffing and other factors such as joining.
Running two farms, milking about 430 mostly Holstein cows and calving three times a year means life is always hectic.
"We're constantly on the go with something...it's organised chaos," Matt said.
But he knows he needs everything to run smoothly and efficiently.
"I installed an Easy Dairy draft gate and herd management software system in 2015 to help manage the different calving groups," he said.
"The money from the award was used to get the internet from the house to the dairy and then to the other dairy and that was tied in with putting collars on the cows.
"Running Easy Dairy and the collars, it made sense to have everything talking to each other - it's awesome.
"It allowed us to do a full techno upgrade to help with the collars.
"Because of the way the farms undulate, we can't have all of the readers in just one spot.
"We needed the internet available to transfer the data between dairies.
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The collars help with heat detection which allows Matt to more accurately AI cows when they're due for joining, and the health monitor picks up any cows that may be having health issues early.
"This is a great feature as I don't get to eyeball the cows in both herds every day," he said.
"Previously I had to be in the dairy for every milking during joining, now the collars and the draft gate operate automatically reducing the reliance on skilled labour.
Matt said things like Easy Dairy, collars and the draft gate take the hard work out of running a complicated system and has streamlined operations.
"I've just got to make sure the data is up-to-date and the system ensures I know where every animal is," he said.
"Bringing the dairy computers online also means computer techs can have remote access to solve any issues and upgrades are no longer a USB from laptop to the dairy computers.
"Herd test results are instantly available to be loaded into the system.
"The more efficient you can be in your train of thought, the more you will get done in the day."
The award was particularly emotional for Matt.
Previous winner, Andy Powell, who died in a tragic surf lifesaving accident along with his father 'Po', was his friend, a teammate, and both have been heavily involved in the leadership team of the Port Campbell Dairy Discussion Group.
Matt welcomed the award from the DemoDAIRY Foundation.
"Collars, like most technologies, aren't a cheap investment so it's good to get anything that can help," he said.
The IT upgrade also helps with communication.
"We put in a repeater for the mobile phones so now we have service where one dairy had been a bit of a dead zone," Matt said.
"That was important because if the staff had an issue, they couldn't get in touch with me and vice versa.
"It was a safety upgrade as much as anything.
"In the long run, upgrading technology is always helpful."
The Dairy Innovation Challenge is now open and aims to unearth ideas and innovations that solve problems in the dairy industry.
Entries can be lodged at dairyinnovationchallenge.com.au
Nominations close on March 30.
The Challenge is offering up to $4000 in prizemoney and support to further develop ideas in milk harvesting, farm operations and management, fodder production and harvesting, sustainability and the environment.
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