Summer strategies in spotlight

By Country News on January 20, 2016

Farmanco facilitator Cameron Smith presented a series of workshops across the region to help farmers make management decisions over summer and into autumn.

Tough seasonal conditions prompted Murray Dairy to host a series of workshops across the region in October, focusing on optimising summer strategies.

Covering a variety of topics including drying off pastures and restarting them in autumn, feed values versus cost, feed rations and the many tools available to assist dairy farmers with budgeting and planning, were discussed.

Farmanco facilitator Cameron Smith presented the workshops.

He said the most important piece of advice he could give to farmers for the year ahead was – you should know exactly where your business is sitting this season.

“The baseline is different for every farm, because every farm is different,” Mr Smith said.

“It is important that you know how you are travelling-in the black, break even or in the red, so you can make appropriate decisions.”

When Farmanco did its first round of budgets for clients in August, it found the ‘average’ dairy farm was looking at making a $40,000 profit (before tax). Tough climatic conditions and increases in water prices have pushed that figure down to a break even scenario.

(The average farm is based on data collected from Farmanco clients using figures collected from last season and consists of a 330 cow herd milking off 210ha.)

“There are so many variations in the way farms are set up these days,” Mr Smith said.

“For a farmer with enough high reliability water shares (HRWS) to grow their fodder requirements, this season will not be significantly different to last year, but for those with no HRWS and complete exposure to the water market, they are in a great deal of difficulty.

“The baselines are different for everyone and it is appropriate to budget accordingly.

“Make sure you take advantage of field staff, Murray Dairy and other organisations that are there to help you.”

Koondrook dairy farmer Skeeta Verhey has cut a fair bit of silage and already purchased his hay requirements.

He opted to irrigate his farm twice in spring and will do the same again in autumn.

“I have taken water out of the equation now and focused on hand feeding until April so I know where I am at,” Mr Verhey said. 

“This has taken the pressure off us and if water is not affordable, then I am of the opinion why worry about it and try to make it work.

“We can’t control the price so focus on things you can, like buying hay early in the season when it is at its cheapest.”

Calivil farmer Norm Humbert has been farming for 40 years.

He finds it very beneficial to attend events like this workshop.

“You get off the farm, have a yarn and pick up odd things that jolt your mind and get you thinking,” Mr Humbert said.

“You are never too old to learn new things.”



Every northern Victorian farmer is familiar with the state of the water market - reduced allocations, tough seasonal conditions and increasing demand have pushed water prices up over $300 (at the end of October).

Farmanco said the majority of its clients will need to purchase water to fulfill their irrigation requirements for the 2015-16 season.

Many are using up the last of their allocations in October/November and will be looking to enter the market.

Some farmers have chosen to sell some or all of their allocation and use it to fund the purchase of bought-in fodder.

When budgeting for water requirement, use conservative figures, anything better is a bonus.

Know where the cut off dollar value for water purchases is and consider buying in feed tested fodder.

Forward purchasing water for next season can be a good management tool and can help with peace of mind, although careful consideration must be given if prices are at the higher end of the scale.

Carrying over water season to season against low reliability water shares (LRWS) is another option, although five per cent is lost every year.

The other risk is the rules could change and this may not be an option in the future.




Research indicates that yields on established lucerne stands will not be impacted if irrigation ceases.

Anecdotal evidence suggests fescue and paspalum dominant pastures are more resilient then ryegrass dominant pastures.

Pasture that has gone a month without irrigation will survive better than something that has gone three months without irrigation.

When drying perennial pasture off for an autumn restart there must be pasture cover which unfortunately means no final grazing.

A summer rainfall event can turn things around.

If drying pastures off early be prepared for over sowing costs in autumn.




Assess your feed requirements and budget accordingly and don’t be afraid to redo your budget if you have to.

Purchasing fodder at the start of the hay season can often result in cheaper prices rather then later in the year, when demand is at its highest. 

Calculate the cost of dry matter, energy, protein and fibre and purchase according to needs.

Prior to purchasing bought-in fodder check out the physical characteristics if possible.

Get a sample feed tested and feed some to the herd to check palatability.

When determining feed rations, take into account dry matter intake, energy, protein, fibre and micro nutrients.

Take advantage of the many on-line tools available to help you with your budgeting.


Some helpful tools:

DairyBase -

Murray Dairy business tool and feed and water budget tool -

Water pricing comparison -

DietCheck -


By Country News on January 20, 2016

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