Young herd leads to gold award for Katunga farmers

By Rodney Woods

The Cavallaro family, from Katunga, has taken out a gold award for producing some of the country's best milk as part of Dairy Australia's 2020 Milk Quality Awards.

The awards recognise farmers producing the country’s best milk based on bulk milk cell count (BMCC).

Gold awards are given to the ‘Top 100’ dairy farmers nationally for milk quality and Alex Cavallaro said while it was nice to be recognised, the family didn't do it for awards.

“Even if they didn’t do it (the awards), we still would be doing the same things but it's nice to see we are being recognised,” he said.

Mr Cavallaro, who farms with his parents, Cosimo and Rosie, and his wife Anna, said the family had milked about 2500 Friesian cows ever since they started dairying in 2000 and explained the secrets to their success

“We keep a young herd,” he said.

“We cull pretty heavily on any old cows, we don't employ people — just have a family-run business — and keeping an eye on the cows and selling off mastitis cows instead of treating them for too long (are reasons for our success).”

Mr Cavallaro said the biggest change they had implemented on-farm was changing crops to adapt to the water availability issues.

“We used to grow summer pastures but we've gone from permanent pasture to annual rye-grasses.

“They are not as reliant on water and you get better quality feed.”

According to Dairy Australia, focus on low cell counts helps increase milk yields and can improve the milk income received by farmers.

Most processing companies pay a premium for milk with a cell count below 250,000 cells/ml and Dairy Australia analysis estimates that a farmer milking 300 cows who lowers their BMCC from 250,000 to 100,000 would be financially better off to the tune of $39,000 a year.

Data for the Milk Quality Awards is supplied to Dairy Australia by dairy companies across the country.

To be eligible, dairy farms must have data for a minimum of nine months in a calendar year.

Monthly averages are then used to calculate the annual average BMCC for each farm.

Other northern Victorian winners:

Ashdale 55 Pty Ltd

Ashley J Fiedler

BD & KL Mitchell

C & R Cavallaro

JR Campbell

CL Freemantle Pty Ltd

Coowonga Family Trust

D & M Colbert

JW & VL Douglas

C & N Hibberson

SG & SJ Jones

RA & HJ Doolan Pty Ltd

RJ & JR Rixon Pty Ltd

RJ Perkins & SF Evans

SJ & AK Christopher

SC & VJ Winchester

H & S Stephens

NJ Wild NJ

WJ & A Stammers

To see the full list of winners, visit: dairyaustralia.com.au/farm/animal-management/mastitis/milk-quality-awards/2020-milk-quality-award-winners