This is a quick update to let you know that I’m still alive and kicking. I’ve been flat out for the past two weeks preparing and delivering the DEDJTR South West Fertility Field Days, which saw roughly 30 dairy farmers and service providers come together to share their ideas about improving farm fertility. We had some great suggestions come out of the days, which is always one of the best parts about doing dairy extension. You never know what’s going to get thrown at you! (This also applies to audience members who were haphazardly pelted with chocolate frogs – sorry about my aim).
Our case study farmer at Cooriemungle was Andrew Powell, who was a great sport about putting up his farm fertility results for the group to see. With over 25 years of fertility data at hand, we were lucky to be able to track his farm reproductive performance as it began to decline (an all-too familiar story in our industry). It was then immensely satisfying to follow his fight to raise it back up again, ultimately exceeding industry targets and expectations.
The take home message from the day was how possible it is for farmers to improve farm fertility. It doesn’t happen immediately and requires a lot of effort – but Andy’s proven that it’s achievable and highly rewarding. You can improve, and having good data on hand is essential for tracking progress and the outcome of your decisions.
Our Tyrendarra case study farmer was Bruce Knowles, who runs a large 1200 cow operation out near Heywood. It was a good day with a lot of input from our participants – getting fiery at times as we debated the merits of different management decisions. Bruce had always felt like fertility was tracking well on farm, but it was good to have this confirmed with an independent assessment. And true to expectations, his overall results were very strong.
I think the message from this day was the benefit of being able to identify areas of improvement, using benchmarking and farm data. Even a well-oiled machine like Bruce’s farm had small opportunities for improvement. Benchmarking helps us prioritise which parts of the farm we should work on, and lay advice for non-urgent matters to one side. We aren’t super heroes, so it makes sense to work on 2-3 things at a time instead of trying to fix everything all at once.
A big thank you to both farmers for their help with putting on both days. It takes significant effort from farmers and their workers to prepare ahead of time. In this case it also required a lots of patience as I collected data and asked nosy questions about their management decisions. Andy and Bruce taught me a lot about the practicalities of dairy farming.
A special thank you to Michelle for lending me her coat on a freezing cold day, and also to Bruce’s dog for urinating next to the microphone amp instead of on it. And finally, thank you to the people who were able to make it – your input makes the effort worthwhile.
If you attended and wanted the InCalf book for dairy farmers or to express interest in the In Charge Fertility Workshops, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or let me know in the comments below.