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The case studies provide a snapshot of how winners from each region have achieved their high milk quality.

The Milk Quality Awards recognise the dairy farmers across Australia who have achieved outstanding milk quality, based on their bulk milk cell count (BMCC).

The case studies below provide a snapshot of how winners from each region have achieved their high milk quality.

  • Copy Link South West Victoria - Lex and Rachael Moloney

    Lex and Rachael Moloney named gold medal winners in 2020 Milk Quality Awards

    South West Victoria's Lex and Racheal Moloney - 2020 Milk Quality Awards gold medal winners

    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. 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,” Rachael said.

    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. 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,” Lex said.

    “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,” he added.

    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. 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,” Lex said.

    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 20%. 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,” Lex said.

    “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,” Lex said.

  • Copy Link South Australia - Brett Fiebig

    ‘Keeping it simple’ pays off for SA dairyfarmer

     Strathalbyn farmer Brett Fiebig  listed in the top five per cent of producers in 2020 Australian Milk Quality Awards

    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 five per cent of producers in the 2020 Australian Milk Quality Awards. The awards recognise the farms with the highest milk quality in Australia based on bulk milk cell count (BMCC).

    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 explained.

    “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 explains.

    “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”.’

    Dairy farmers can access a range of resources to improve milk quality and prevent mastitis our Mastitis page. 

    More information on Cups On Cups Off courses can be found by contacting Dairy Australia’s Regional Development Programs in each dairy region.

  • Copy Link West Gippsland - David Johnson

    High standards and animal care get this West Gippsland farm into the Top 100 

    West Gippsland farmer David Johnson

    For West Gippsland farmer David Johnson, high milk quality isn’t just a matter of pride or receiving a premium milk cheque - it’s about producing high-end cheese that value adds to his farm business.

    David’s 400 cow farm at Neerim South has been named in the top 100 of the Dairy Australia Milk Quality Awards.

    The award is recognition for David and his staff, who are all committed to producing high quality products under the Tarago River Cheese Company brand, as well as supplying Burra Foods.

    “It’s always nice to keep improving,” he said.

    “My staff are the ones that are doing the grind, day in day out, and it is good recognition of their skills.”

    David said it’s the high standards of staff and the care they take of the animals that helps keep the cows healthy and producing milk with low bulk cell counts.

    “I believe if you focus on doing the little things well the results take care of themselves,” he said.

    “Having content and quiet cows that aren’t stressed also helps.”

    When it comes to the nitty gritty of mastitis prevention, David cites teat spraying, blanket dry cow and teat sealing at dry off, good shed hygiene standards and herd testing as the four key steps towards success.

    Maintaining high standards over a long period is a challenge for any farm, with David viewing communication as a key plank in an ongoing mastitis prevention program.

    “It’s mainly chatting to other farmers and learning what they are doing,” he said.

    “We also meet often with staff to discuss and improve systems and there’s plenty of material online and on the DA website that we can access.

    “I’ve also done Cups On Cups Off along with my two key staff.

    “If staff are training and learning new skills they seem to get more satisfaction from their work. The ESKI and DA website are both very good resources for our industry.”

    The bottom line for David is high quality milk means a better experience for his customers.

    “Having excellent quality milk and low cell count gives our cheesemakers the best chance to produce excellent quality cheese,” he said.

    Dairy Australia’s Milk Quality Awards recognise farmers who produce the nation’s best milk based on bulk milk cell count (BMCC). Gold Awards recognise the ‘top 100’ dairy farmers nationwide for milk quality, while Silver Awards are given to the top five per cent of producers.

    Go to the Milk Quality Awards winners page to see the full list of winners or to access milk quality resources.

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