East Gippsland dairy farmer Stewart McRae says he has permanently split his herd in two after achieving increased milk yields by participating in a research trial through Dairy Feedbase.

“We got better results than expected. While it took a bit of work to split the herd, there was a clear rise in the daily milk yield at around 1.6L per cow. Now that the hard work is done, we are benefitting from what began as a small research project,” Stewart said.

Facilitated through Dairy Feedbase, the Smart Feeding research project aims to offer dairy farmers strategies to optimise the nutrient intake of their herd resulting in increased milk production without increasing total feed requirements.

Research into milking order and improved methods of feed allocation has been shown to increase milk production for cows that are last to return to the paddock.

Stewart and his partner Nita have three dairies which milk 1500 cows. They have participated in several research trials through Dairy Feedbase including Smart Feeding and First 100 Days – a project aimed at improving feed efficiencies.

Typically, a small experiment will take place at Agriculture Victoria’s Ellinbank research farm. If the results are positive, researchers will look to commercial farms to test results on a greater scale.

“It’s important to try new things. We have always been very open to learning in general and on our farm. Once you see the results on a small scale, it makes sense to put your hand up to help push forward research,” Stewart said.

“Every trial has been slightly different. We have enjoyed having researchers on farm to test and study different strategies or methods. It has been very interesting, easy to implement and an overall positive experience with good people.”

Research plays a vital role in advancing dairy farming by providing insights into innovative practices, technologies and solutions that enhance productivity, sustainability and product quality, empowering farmers to make informed decisions and adopt tailored best practices.

DairyFeedbase is a joint venture between Dairy Australia, Gardiner Foundation and Agriculture Victoria. It is also one of the dairy industry’s leading innovation programs designed to improve on-farm profitability.

Agriculture Victoria’s Research Scientist, Dr Meaghan Douglas, says it’s important for farmers to get involved in research to test different strategies that may improve their bottom line.

“You can reach out to us at Ellinbank and we can have a more in-depth discussion about what we’ve done and how you can implement it on farm,” Meaghan said.

“The team at Ellinbank, have done the research to show the effects of time away from pasture and demonstrated mitigation strategies that have the potential to increase herd average milk yield and provide more nutrients to the cows that return to the paddock.”

“But farmers are still going to be the ones that know best what can be done on their farm to try and alleviate the negative impacts of time away from pasture and trying to implement a mitigation strategy that will help them, because they’re the ones that do the work day in and day out.”

“Every farm is managed slightly differently. So, they’ll be the ones that can take the information that we’re providing and implement it on their farm.”

Stewart says implementing research is about going forward and making impactful changes on his farm to benefit his wider operations.

“We’re not going to go forward if we’re not trying things. There’s no guarantee in the real world on what a trial might result in, we may see an improvement, we may not,” Stewart said.

“The interest is around getting better, learning and working with others to try new things in order to advance the dairy industry.”

Pictures from the 2024 Ellinbank SmartFarm Innovation Open Day and supplied by Dairy Australia and Gardiner Foundation.