Attention to detail and spending plenty of time in the dairy have paid off for Jamie Berne, who has earned national recognition. Mr Berne’s Fossil Park operation at Meander was named among the country’s top 100 in this year’s Australian Milk Quality awards.
With no major changes this year, Mr Berne said the herd’s low cell count probably came down to getting a lot of little things right.
“It’s things I’ve done all the time and that’s part of it, just being consistent and keeping an eye on them,” he said.
Mr Berne milks 350 cows in a spring- calving herd on 130ha.
During the early part of the season when the cows are at peak lactation Mr Berne does the majority of the milking.
“That probably helps because I do both milkings and I know all the cows,” he said.
“If I see one that’s starting to get mastitis I can pick it up pretty quickly and treat it before it becomes too much of an issue.”
Mr Berne said he had also started teat spraying before and after milking.
“Since we started doing that it has made a big difference to the amount of sore teats we’re seeing, there are hardly any now,” he said.
“Spraying them before the cups go on has made a difference too. If the cow before has a bit of an infection then at least it’s not being spread to that next cow.”
Mr Berne herd-tests every month and said this was a good way to monitor how things were going.
A change in how the cows are managed during the off season has also been beneficial.
“We used to only dry cows and teat seal any of the cows that had mastitis through the season, but now we’ve started doing the whole herd,” he said.
“That has definitely made a difference because before we were seeing some cows coming in with mastitis right at the start and we’re not seeing that now.”
Most of the herd is registered under the Fossil Park Holsteins prefix.
For this reason Mr Berne said they kept good records of the cows’ bloodlines and heifer calves were identified soon after birth.
Production across the herd averages about 10,000 litres or 600kg of milk solids per cow each year.
While he is happy with the production level, Mr Berne said in recent years their breeding program had focused much more on health traits including fertility.
“We were having some trouble getting some of the cows, especially the higher production ones back in calf,” he said.
“That’s when we started look at a few different traits like daughter fertility and just longevity too. It takes a lot of money to get them into milk, so we wanted them to stay sound and be productive for longer.”
This strategy is now paying off. While the operation takes a lot of precautionary measures against mastitis, Mr Berne said any cows developing it for a second time in the same quarter were culled.
“Once they get it twice we get rid of them because it always seems to be an issue then,” he said.
The farm has two different soil types, one free-draining based over river stone and a heavier, wetter soil type.
At this time of the year Mr Berne said they were careful which paddocks they run the cows on to avoid them being in mud as much as possible.
Another strategy they have employed this year is to establish a calving pad right near the dairy.
With a woodchip base, the aim is the give the cows a dry place to calve. Being right next to the dairy they can also be monitored closely and assisted if needed.
Mr Berne said they normally leave the calves on the cow for 24 hours before they are first milked.
“Once the calf starts drinking and the teats open up that’s when the bugs can get in so we don’t like to leave them too long,” Mr Berne said.
Each year laneways surfaces are maintained to prevent too much mud building up. Mr Berne said this was challenging close to the dairy where there is more cow traffic, so he scrapes the laneways in those areas regularly.
Keeping cows out of water holes is also important for reducing cell counts.
“You find especially in summer if there is any water laying around in the paddocks they will go straight to it.
“You can bet that a couple of days after that we’ll start seeing a few cases coming up so we try to keep them out of those areas as much as possible.”
For the last couple of years Mr Berne has also been feeding the cows a probiotic supplement, which he says has helped with their overall health.
He said it was particularly helpful when the cows were transitioning from dry feed to pastures and grain when they first come into milk at the beginning of the season.
“This is the third year we’ve used it and it has made quite a big difference, especially when they first go out on to the grass,” he said.
Mr Berne said there was really no silver bullet when it comes to milk quality, it is more about managing things well right thought the operation.
Source: The Weekly Times, Karolin MacGregor