If you stuff up it pays to tell everyone

On farm field days are a great way for farmers to learn from other farmers. The successes and the stuff ups that farmers share are equally insightful.


Overview of research and down to the paddock to see it in action 


At the Lemon Grove Research Farm field day we hosted in July as part of the 2013 Dairy Research Foundation Symposium I bit the bullet and shared the “Wish we had the knowledge, skill sets, attention to systems detail and time to do x,y & z better – Clover Hill Dairies story”

What I particularly liked was that I also got the opportunity to identify farmers in our region who were systems focused and balancing all four to get great outcomes for their cows, their farms and their staff whilst keeping the bank manager happy.

One of the keys to profitability in the dairy industry is having milk in the vat in the quantity and quality you and your milk processor want it to be all year round.

Milk yield of a dairy cow depends on four main factors: (a) genetic ability; (b) feeding program; (c) herd management; and (d) health. A good dairy feeding program must consider the quantity fed, the suitability of the feed and how and when the feeds are offered.


Paying attention to herd nutrition in the 90 days prior to calving through lead feeding (aka transition feeding) can mean an extra $200 in milk production per cow.  But it’s not just about the dollars – an effective transition program also makes life less stressful for dairy farmers as well as making their cows’ lives safer and easier.

For smart farmers good herd management also means having your herd as “fresh” as possible. Now that doesn’t mean feeding your cows oysters, it means ensuring you have as many cows as possible in the herd at peak milk production. This means managing herd fertility well is paramount.

The top farmers in our region work with the team from Sydney University Livestock Veterinary Teaching and Research Unit.

The Livestock Veterinary Service operates commercial on farm personal herd health and treatment and consultancy services. Activities range from routine procedures such as pregnancy testing through to more complex project planning, clinical trials and disease investigation. A philosophy of the Livestock Veterinary Teaching and Research Unit is to promote application of science and technology to problem solving on the farm.

The Livestock Veterinary Service also provides veterinary students with an opportunity to get hands on experience working with livestock and post graduate veterinarians with an interest in livestock an opportunity to pursue specialty training.

Luke Ingenhoff Vet from Sydney UNI  testing  (5)

Dr Luke Ingenhoff  from the Livestock Veterinary Teaching and Research Unit preg testing cows at Clover Hill Dairies

I identified Phil and Craig Tate from Albion Park as the farmers I believed would share their story with the field day participants in an honest and open way that would resonate with other farmers like us who wished we were just a little better at it.

Craig Phil and Assoc Professor John House

Craig and Philip Tate with Assoc Professor John House tell their story at Lemon Grove Research Farm field day 

Philip and Craig outlined their reproductive system to delegates describing the ‘systematic
routine’ that they believe is the secret to their success.

When it comes to being successful in business, one must create systems. Systems provide a framework for your team to use. In order to create high-levels of efficiency you will need to constantly update your systems and be on the lookout for ways to improve your business’s way of operating. Creating systems will take time, but it will more than save you the time on the back-end.

‘‘The system is the solution.’’ — AT&T motto

BTW I had Craig and Phil’s presentation with Assoc Professor John House videoed so you can watch it too. See link below

So impressive was Phil and Craig’s presentation that Holstein Australia commissioned Lee-Ann Monks to write a story for their journal readers and guess who was invited to take the pictures. Well after all who else would do for nix (when oh when am I going to value my time?)

So off I went with my trusty Canon to Macquarie Holsteins, home of the Tate Family dairy and now the workplace for two of our former employees.

What a delight  are Craig and Phil, such great farmers yet so humble and so proud of their cows   


Craig and Phil making use of Smart Phone technology to keep good records

Easy Dairy IMG_5103

Good records in the dairy ensure everyone is in the loop. Knowledge is power

Communication is the true lifeblood of a successful organization – a high flow of information so everyone and everything is connected. Easy to say, hard to do.

1258 IMG_5083

The herd favourite 1258

Craig and Phil IMG_4932

Please note Craig took his helmet of for this stationery pix – trust me he does wear it when the bike is moving

Phil IMG_5060

Mutual respect between farmer and cow is very evident at the Tate Farm

Lousie MacMaster Calf Rearer IMG_5325

Louise Macmaster –  Phil and Craig’s calf rearer extraordinaire

and of course looking after the next generation requires team members who treat the calves under their care with as much love and attention as their children


and what of former Clover Hill team members John and Tim pictured below at our field day?


Tim (left) is now managing the farm across the hill and John is working at the Tate’s along with Louise. 

See and hear Craig and Phil Tate share their successful herd fertility management strategies with the farmers, students and researchers at the 2013 Dairy Research Foundation Field Day at Lemon Grove Research Farm here 


‘‘You must analyze your business as it is today, decide what it
must be like when you’ve finally got it just like you want it, and
then determine the gap between where you are and where you
need to be in order to make your dream a reality. That gap will
tell you exactly what needs to be done to create the business of
your dreams. And what you’ll discover when you look at your
business through your E-Myth eyes is that the gap is always
created by the absence of systems, the absence of a proprietary
way of doing business that successfully differentiates your
business from everyone else’s.’’
— Michael Gerber

A case of obscured vision… Guest post by Julian Cribb

One of my many hats is being a director of the Dairy Research Foundation which is involved in all sorts of exciting research which includes Future Dairy which bought Australian farmers the Robotic Dairy. You can see the trials being undertaken at the Sydney University Research Farm at Camden here

In honour of the upcoming Dairy Research Foundation Symposium keynote speaker Julian Cribb has agreed to write me a blog post

I draw your attention to this reflection from Julian on our shallow society where people like Craig Thomson take centre stage and the real issues stay in the dressing room

“Back in the 1960s, we’d clearly seen an emerging world food crisis and had launched the Green Revolution to prevent it, lifting global food output by almost 200% in barely 25 years.

Our failure to repeat the miracle in the 2030s and 40s was down to a loss of foresight – we were so obsessed with the trivia of society we simply failed to see what was going on around us. Especially, we failed to make the necessary investments – in knowledge, in skills and in sustainable urban and rural food systems.”

A case of obscured vision ……….

A Case of obscured vision

Dear Children: this is a picture of an Australian policymaker of around 2012 formulating a national food security plan.

I think he is saying something like “She’ll, be right, mate!” but it is hard to be sure, as the voice is rather muffled.

Anyway, you’ll understand that this picture explains all the famines, hunger-wars, failed states, shortages, refugee tsunamis and shockingly high food prices you are experiencing in 2050. Terribly sorry but, besides stuffing the climate, we also didn’t do enough to ensure you had a sustainable food supply. We simply couldn’t see the dimensions of the problem and we left it far too late to do enough to prevent it.

Of course, looking back from 2050 it is blindingly obvious:

– After losing 1 per cent of our farm land a year for the past half century, to degradation and city sprawl, there isn’t enough left to grow double the food

– We ran out of water to grow food in the 2030s, thanks to the megacities and giant resource companies stepping in and taking it off the farmers

– Oil prices went off the chart when the Saudis staged an ‘Arab Spring’ – and food prices went with them. Most farmers and truckers couldn’t afford fuel as we simply hadn’t bothered to develop a sustainable source of transport energy. Several megacities of 20m+ people starved.

– Ditto fertilisers. After the Moroccan revolution (and they supplied two thirds of the world’s P) most farmers simply couldn’t afford it, leading to a yield collapse, especially in high-tech cropping systems.

– After cutting back on agricultural R&D in all western nations for quarter of a century, farmers were left in a massive technology pothole – another reason yields stagnated.

– Two degrees of global warming, accompanied by greater droughts and floods made traditional agriculture much more challenging almost everywhere, cutting food output by around 20%.

This is all rather strange, as we knew that food demand would double by the 2060s, driven by growing populations and rising living standards. Back in the 1960s, we’d clearly seen an emerging world food crisis and had launched the Green Revolution to prevent it, lifting global food output by almost 200% in barely 25 years.

Our failure to repeat the miracle in the 2030s and 40s was down to a loss of foresight – we were so obsessed with the trivia of society we simply failed to see what was going on around us. Especially, we failed to make the necessary investments – in knowledge, in skills and in sustainable urban and rural food systems.

In short, we had our heads up our arses.

Those of you who are by now clutching the ejector seat handle and demanding an escape from this horrible world of the future should front up to the DRF2012symposium to find out how we’re gonna do it!

You only get to hear the good news if you take part.

– Julian Cribb