Farming down Under
G'day folks. This is my first post for 2014 from Down Under. Today we're near Brisbane in Queensland and the forecast is 41 degrees no less!
I've been here for a week, visiting my daughter Charlotte and we're touring the Gold Coast up towards Cairns in the north. Yesterday we managed to visit a dairy farm and their 220 Holsteins. Even in this extreme heat of high summer, the relaxed cows are outside strip grazing grass and wandering back to the shade of the barn where water sprinklers cool them down while they wait their turn to go through the robotic milking stalls. They have four robots and the cows choose when to be milked with an average of 2.7 times in 24 hours.
We listened to the excellent Farmer Gregie explaining the process and his attention to cow welfare and cow comfort with water mattress cubicles and rubber matting on top of the walkways featured everywhere.
Due to milk price pressures, this forward thinking family now processes all their milk (5000 litres per day) on the farm in the brand new milk bottling plant and distribute it to local outlets daily. This farmemploys 12 people and markets its milk as '4 Real Milk' from the Scenic Rim. As there are only about 450 dairy farmers left in the whole of Queensland, all their milk is mainly sold in the domestic market, leaving milk producers in Victoria and Southern Australia exporting their milk products across the world. In fact, all the milk products in the shops are mostly Australian with some imported cheeses including our very famous Stilton Cheese!
It was interesting hearing all the same economic problems we face at home, but Farmer Gregie has a much better work/life balance than my husband does!
Although robots are doing the lion’s share of the milking, it's not a labour free farm. A young cow was calving and still needed a hand from Farmer Gregie and the strip wire in the paddocks needed moving. The computers also need constant adjustments but overall the whole operation ran smoothly and is fairly stress-free for both the cows and the farmer.
Most of the time, Farmer Gregie spends his time talking about the benefits of real milk through farm visits, talking to groups and the local media. Pasteurised but not over processed. This model was refreshing to see in a country of extremes and the trip, a great eye opener for me.