Local Produce

Walcha Dairy

A new industry for Walcha, the dairy has been established at Dumby Park, about 20km south of Walcha. Opened in August 2009.
A Victorian company purchased the property that Walcha Dairy project manager Peter Best said will be capable of producing five million litres of milk per year.

Once established Mr Best will return home to Victoria, leaving the business in the hands of manager John Crittenden who is living on the property with his wife Susan, sons Matthew, Aaron and Joseph and daughter Megan.

Between 700 and 800 cows will be milked at the dairy owned by Peter and Elaine Notman, Notman Agricultural Services, Poowong, Victoria. They also run a large dairy there and are part owners of Purkis Rural.

Mr Crittenden has come from managing a dairy on the NSW South Coast. His son Matthew will be the assistant manager and younger son Aaron a trainee at the dairy.

“I originally come from Taree and have worked extensively in the dairy and poultry industries,” he said.

The 80-stand rotary dairy is fully computerised and records milk production and conductivity and can detect any abnormalities like mastitis. It then automatically drafts those cows into a separate pen.

Milk production is linked to feed requirements and as the cow steps onto the platform, its radio tag is read and each animal gets a tailor-made ration.

“If a cow is averaging 30L a day in milk it will need about 12kg of grain,” Mr Crittenden said. “We may have to give them more grain in the cold weather, but we haven’t worked that out yet.”

The farm has been sown with high-performance rye grass and clover and the 1000 acres of pasture will be well established by the time the first cows arrive in mid to late September.

“With a bit of warm weather the grass will go crazy,” Mr Crittenden said.

Most of the farm has been fenced into bays with electric wires to allow rotational grazing. The fences have been angled toward the milking shed to assist cow flow and reduce walking times and all the tracks have been gravelled for all-weather access and to keep the cows clean. A trough system has been installed, with a trough in every paddock.

The property will be fertilised regularly with chicken litter that will be stored in a bunker created by a temporary gravel pit.

The yard leading into the rotary platform is on a slope so the wash water can be collected in an effluent dam and re-used for irrigation.

“The effluent pond is linked to an underground irrigation system and will be pumped onto a couple of hundred hectares of pasture that will be watered in the warmer months,” Mr Crittenden said.

The dairy will have a 40,000L refrigerated vat to store two-day’s milk that will be sold to the domestic market, as well as a back-up generator in case of mains power failures.

Mr Crittenden said there would be three to four calvings per year to ensure even milk production across the seasons as the milk processors pay incentives during winter and autumn to encourage year-round supply.

There will be no bulls on the property, with all cows to be artificially inseminated to prevent any accidental matings and keep control of calving times. Heifer calves will be raised as replacements, while the bull calves will be sold at five-days-old.

The holstein friesian cows should produce between 6000 and 7000 litres per cow per year and the about 300 cows had already been purchased.

The development of the dairy has created a great deal of local interest, but Mr Crittenden said in his grandparents’ time dairies in the Northern Tablelands were common.

“Now it’s turned into sheep and cattle country, although there are a lot of dairies on the coast and around Tamworth,” he said.

School groups have already contacted Mr Crittenden to arrange excursions to the dairy and he said visitors were welcome, but by appointment only.

And the lack of dairies around Walcha could make sourcing staff more difficult.

When it’s fully operational the dairy will have three full-time workers and three or more casuals.

“Cows have to be milked twice a day, seven days a week rain, hail or shine,” Mr Crittenden said.

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