A Scotts Creek farmer is enjoying a 10 per cent increase in milk production, a 33 per cent reduction in feed waste and improved animal health after his first season using a new dairy shelter.
Andrew Vogels said the shelter built by Dairy Shelters Australia was the best investment he’s made in years.
Andrew and his wife Zoe along with Andrew’s brother Jamie and his wife Sheryn run Scotts Creek Dairies in south-west Victoria.
They milk 630 Friesian-cross cows off their 365-hectare main farm with a further 242-hectare outpaddock for young stock and silage and hay.
Their farm is in a high rainfall area, leaving many paddocks inaccessible and damaged each winter.
“We’ve always had problems with heavy soils and pugging and trying to manage cows on the farm during July and August,” Mr Vogels said.
“We needed a place to put cows where they could be fed and be comfortable.”
The 3200sqm shelter has been a success since the first cows entered for calving last May (2018), easing pressure on the paddocks over winter and allowing strong spring growth.
“We calved close to 500 cows in May-June (2018) and then another mob in September (2018) and the shelter made life so much easier,” Mr Vogels said.
“It’s right beside the dairy, the cows are undercover and the calves are being born in a nice, dry environment. Rather than trashing paddocks with springers, a month before they were due to calve, we put them in the shelter to start their lead-feed process and then we moved them into the other half for calving.
“It saved a large part of the farm.”
Mr Vogels said feed was being better utilised in the shelter. “There wasn’t wastage from them pushing it into the ground; I reckon we’ve saved a third of our feed and it’s more efficient from a staff perspective. Rather than travelling up to 5km to feed cows, we can feed them here and it’s a better use of our time.”
Mr Vogels said the farm had made 700-800 additional rolls of silage and hay; an increase of about one-third over previous years.
“It’s hard to tell first year and because we’ve had a good season but the shelter has definitely helped. The pastures have held up a lot better and we’ve put in crops for the first time because we won’t have to use those paddocks in winter if it gets wet.”
The farm has used the shelter for A.I. cows and during peak milking time Mr Vogels rotated a third of the herd through the shelter every three days.
“Not having to walk up wet hills has made a huge difference to those cows,” he said.
Pasture management was the main reason to build the shelter but it’s had other benefits.
“We built it for a purpose and it’s definitely served that purpose,” Mr Vogels said. “It’s helped with reducing feed wastage, pasture growth and cow health and comfort, but it’s worth it just for making calving easier.
“It’s also good for farmer mental health. I reckon every farmer has been lying in bed at midnight listening to the rain belting down worrying where am I going to put the cows tomorrow. Now they can go in the shelter.”
Mr Vogels will consider expanding the shelter in the future.
Scotts Creek Dairies hopes the shelter will pay for itself in five years. “With what we’ve seen so far, we’re confident we will do that,” Mr Vogels said.
Dairy Shelters Australia was the brainchild of Victorian dairy farmer Simon Rea and vet David Colson and uses New Zealand-made Redpath clear-roofed, deep-litter shelters customised for the Australian dairy industry.
Source: Dairy Shelters Australia
Featured Image: Andrew and his wife Zoe