PREMIUM
Dairy

Down the intensive path

Some of the Quinn family (from left) Greg, Michelle, Pat and Kaleb in the calf pens.

A desire to upgrade their mixed rations system, manage climate extremes and address water market volatility led the Quinns to upgrade their dairy farm to a more intensive operation.

The Quinns, who farm at Leitchville in northern Victoria, were also keen to lift milk production and improve feed conversion.

The family hosted a visit by about 200 farmers who attended Dairy Australia’s ‘Raise the Roof’ two-day conference at Echuca in May.

Pat Quinn told the visitors they had moved to convert their feedpad to a dairy compost barn in 2018.

The business — operated by Pat, his wife Michelle, sons Kaleb and Greg, and daughter Erika — has moved from partial mixed rations to a total mixed ration (TMR) operation over the past 20 years.

In the 1970s, the Quinns were milking about 170 cows in a nine-a-side herringbone shed on 180 hectares.

Today they have a herd of 700 milked in a 60-stand rotary on about 2000 hectares, which produces most of the feed.

The cows spend their lactation in the barn, with their ration mixed in a mixer wagon and fed on to the concrete feedpad that runs down the centre of the shed.

The cows’ standing area where they feed is flood-washed.

The mixed ration fed in the shed is supplemented by some grain and protein provided in the rotary dairy.

One of the key planks of Quilor Farms is the Quinns’ ability to grow their own feed, which helps stabilise input costs.

The farm grows 65ha of maize silage, 470ha of wheat, 430ha of barley, 65ha of oats and 560ha of vetch.

Most of the feed is cut for pit silage. The Quinns aim to grow about two tonnes of dry matter per cow each year in maize silage.

Pat said their location in an area with modest land prices had allowed them to expand their operation to generate their own feed, and access to reliable water was a key to supporting the development.

The family members are currently discussing whether to build another compost barn.

The business has inherited a split-calving system, from the days of pasture grazing, but is looking at calving year-round to assist with a flatter milk supply curve and to suit the application of employed labour.

The involvement of the extended family has enabled the Quinns to divide up management responsibilities.

Pat quips that he “writes the cheques”, so he and Michelle have a good overview of the business, while Greg mainly looks after growing the feed, Kaleb manages the cows and Erica has a part-time role focusing on cow health and fertility.

The farm employs 11 full-time equivalent people, including the family.

Pat Quinn speaks to the visitors in front of the compost barn near Leitchville.

FARM FACTS

Quilor Farms, owned by the Quinn family.

Location: Mincha West (near Leitchville), northern Victoria.

Annual rainfall: 360mm.

Irrigation: 965ha flood irrigation, 1550 Ml high-reliability water.

Dairy: 60-unit rotary.

Herd: 70 per cent Holsteins, 20 per cent Holstein-Jerseys, 10 per cent Jerseys.

Milk production: Annually 6.2 million litres, 9538 litres/cow, 749kg milk solids/cow.