a2 Milk™ dairy farmers on NSW’s Mid North Coast improve profitability while making operations more sustainable
Four certified a2 Milk™ dairy farmers on the NSW Mid North Coast are looking to the future by investing in technology, infrastructure and land management that is improving their dairy profitability and reducing the impact on their local environment.
Supported by a partnership between a2 Milk™ and Landcare Australia, the farmers were recipients of a2 Milk™ Sustainable Agriculture Landcare Grants in late 2019. The grant funds supported efforts to make their dairy farm operations more sustainable. The farmers recently reported on the outcomes of each of their grant projects.
Benefits of installing solar panels and heat recovering system
Tim Billing and his son, Jonathan on their Dorrigo dairy farm.
In Dorrigo, Tim Billing, an innovative farmer who wanted to reduce his on-grid reliance and carbon footprint, used his grant to install solar panels and energy efficiency technology to cut his reliance on on-grid power.
Tim says, “We compared our usage from November to February 2020 with the same period the following year and noticed we cut on-grid power by 25 per cent overall.”
Tim explained the two systems worked well with the operation, with the solar panels at times providing 100 per cent of the power for the grain milling when operated in the middle of the day. He also explained the heat recovery system has two inverters that are synchronised with the dairy’s operations, drawing on solar energy when it is available.
Another dairy farmer to install solar was Leo Cleary, who bought a solar pump to supplement on-grid power. The pump, now integrated into his operation near Taree, helps irrigate pastures when the season requires and is used to recycle water to clean down a cement-paved feeding area by the milking shed.
Leo and Sue Cleary on their dairy farm, Hastings Park.
Improving dairy herd health and the environment
Mark Perry with his dairy herd, near Bellingen.
Mark Perry, whose dairy is near Bellingen, used his grant to pave the laneways his cattle use to move between paddock and milking shed. The area is prone to high rainfall that turned the lanes into muddy bogs causing hoof problems and mastitis in his livestock.
“The cement laneways have improved things significantly. We don’t have to cull as many cattle out of the herd due to health problems, and it’s made the task of moving the livestock easier and more seamless, which is good for the cattle and our workers,” Mark said.
Using effluent as fertiliser
The Grays on their farm, near Kempsey.
Paula Gray wanted to make better use of the effluent produced on her dairy near Kempsey.
Extending infrastructure already on the farm to spread the effluent onto pasture as fertiliser, Paula said the grant allowed them to prevent build up and concentration of nutrients in one area.
“Spreading the effluent over a smaller area created a risk the excess nutrients would flow into the creek that runs through our property,” Paula says. She adds the newly installed pipes, funded by the grant, allow the manure to be spread across a greater area of pasture.
As an added benefit, Paula says they are seeing cost savings as more effluent is being used as fertiliser and they have been able to reduce their use of chemical fertiliser.
All the farmers report that the investment to improve the sustainability of their operations was an excellent opportunity to stay in the dairy industry and improve their productivity. Tim Billing added the grants have given them an opportunity to invest in technology that may otherwise be out of their reach or would take a substantial time to save for.
Since its inception in 2017, the partnership between Landcare Australia and The a2 Milk™ Company has provided more than $600,000 of funding for sustainability initiatives with positive environmental and business outcomes for a2 Milk™ farms.
a2 Milk™ Sustainable Agriculture Landcare Grants projects, funded for up to $35,000 each, focus on different initiatives to enhance sustainability and achieve positive environmental and business outcomes, such as increased biodiversity, reduced erosion, improved productivity, and improved pasture health, as well as energy reduction initiatives.