Steve and Deanne Hore’s farm near Leitchville in northern Victoria has been a good breeding ground for top-quality cows.
Their latest investment is part of a long-term plan to manage seasonal variability, with animal welfare and risk management at the heart of the move.
The Hores have constructed a 150m x 45m shed to house the herd, providing the cows with shelter, fans and a sprinkle of water when needed.
The shed is part of a move to a total mixed-ration system, which is part of their strategy to better manage their feedbase to respond to climate and water variability.
It is a big investment, but it has revolutionised the farm.
As he nears 50, third-generation farmer Mr Hore hopes innovations like the shed will ensure a fourth generation continues to farm the land.
Daughter Kelsie also works in the dairy industry with Genetics Australia and helps on the farm and promoting the family’s Elmar Holsteins stud.
Elmar Holsteins showed five cows at International Dairy Week this year. All finished in the top 10, including a two-year-old that won the best udder in her class and was reserve intermediate champion.
The stud has previously won four champion cow titles.
The new shed evolved out of plans for a concrete feedpad.
The heatwave last summer prompted them to go further.
‘‘After last year’s hot spell, we realised we needed to better house the cows, so we added the shed to the concrete feedpad to improve cow comfort,’’ Mr Hore said.
The shed has a concrete centre alley and the cows live on either side on a compost pack.
The cows moved in at the start of January and the Hores are already noticing the benefits.
‘‘They now have sprinklers, fans and shade and they’re happy and comfortable,’’ Mr Hore said.
Along with animal welfare benefits, Mr and Mrs Hore hope the new shed will lead to better production and feed utilisation.
‘‘Weather plays a big factor in production loss, especially the heat, but the wet can also affect us,’’ Mr Hore said.
Mr Hore has noticed the weather getting hotter in recent years.
‘‘The seasons seem to be changing a bit; the hot weather seems to be coming later and lasts a bit longer, and the wet is more unpredictable.’’
As part of the move, the farm’s grazing strategy will also change.
‘‘The cows might get out in the autumn, but we’ll use the land for growing fodder and the cows will be housed 24-7 in the new facility avoiding the heat,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ll grow more crops and harvest more silage.
‘‘We’ll use water in a different way by growing more dry matter per megalitre by not grazing paddocks and growing more forage crops, such as maize, vetch and cereals.’’
He expects increased production to justify the cost of the new infrastructure.
Mr and Mrs Hore did extensive research before green-lighting the investment.
‘‘There are other farms in Australia using the system and most of North America is the same,’’ he said.
‘‘We’re using their resources and knowledge to do it out here.
‘‘We love what we do; we’re passionate about it and still young enough to want to be farming.
‘‘We’re always trying to improve things and make it easier for us and the cows.’’