The road to intensive farming

Rochester's Tom Acocks spoke about his experiences establishing an intensive dairy system at a Dairy Australia conference on May 10 and 11. Photo by Rodney Woods

Two speakers at the Dairy Australia ‘Raising the Roof’ seminar last week emphasised the importance of research and getting good advice when developing a more intensive dairying operation.

Rochester farmer Tom Acocks manages a mixed farming business incorporating dairy, cropping and livestock.

In 2000, his family farm endured a prolonged drought and a different type of farming system was investigated.

In 2009, Mr Acocks moved back home from overseas and he and his wife Emma have built a 6000-square-metre, 150-metre long shed to house their 700-head herd.

They use most of their 1200ha for cropping and there is no grazing.

Speaking at the conference, Mr Acocks urged farmers to consider their motivations for wanting to step up into a more intensive system.

In his case, access to water and the impact on their feedbase were important considerations. They were also looking for a better environment for their cows and a way of increasing their feed efficiency.

They were also interested in creating a better working environment for their family and staff.

“Your milk solids should increase, but so will your costs,” Mr Acocks said.

He said he travelled and consulted extensively before he and his wife made their major decisions.

Engineer and dairy barn designer Jake Martin, from the United States, also urged farmers to learn from others’ mistakes and visit other farmers to see what worked.

“Don’t go too deep, too soon; and figure out how you will make it your own,” he said.


    Tom Acocks’ key points for farmers planning to step up to an intensive dairy operation:

    • Do your homework.
    • Build your feedbase.
    • Spend time with others who have gone through the process.
    • Understand that change takes time.