"The Centrus has eased our learning curve"
As any dairy farmer will tell you, going into dairying with no former experience is a fairly steep learning curve. That was the challenge facing the Nankervis family of Corryong in North East Victoria, Australia. And it’s one they have overcome, thanks to strong determination, great advice, a good herd and the right dairy technology.
The current generation of the Nankervis family – Alex, Will and Jane – are the sixth generation of the family to live and work on the land. Jane is a midwife but works on the farm whenever she is home.
Alex says the 485-hectare property was primarily a beef farm. “Around 25 years ago dad started to diversify from beef by growing peppermint on an irrigated portion of the farm. We built a distillery, harvesting and extracting oil from the crop. We started talking about converting around 365ha of the farm to dairying when I was at university. I was doing a mechanical engineering degree so hadn’t planned on a career in dairying but the family’s decision to convert coincided with a downturn in the engineering industry and I came back to the farm.
“The remaining 300 acres were to remain in beef and we also leased a 141-ha farm for dry cows and to grow supplementary feed like silage. Our aim was to milk all year round with autumn and spring calving. Aside from the odd relief milking job we had no dairying experience so it was going to be a real learning curve.” The conversion to dairying was comprehensive with new fences, laneways, paddock subdivision and water supply.
When it came to building the farm dairy, Alex Nankervis says the family wanted a level of automation to ease the transition to dairying and to make the farm an attractive work option for backpackers. “The dairy needed to be easy to operate so the same high standards, of milking and plant performance, could be maintained no matter who was in the shed. The goal was to milk up to 400 cows and so we never considered anything other than a rotary as throughput was important. We looked at a number of dairies around the region and were impressed with the sophistication and simplicity of Waikato Milking Systems’ Centrus Composite Rotary platforms, opting for a 60-bail.
“The build went well and Matt Nichol (Nichol Dairy Services and Welding) in Wodonga, Northern Victoria showed us how to operate most of the machinery and handle certain issues as they came up. Overcoming issues proved to be one of the best ways to learn and ins and outs of the system. Matt’s support has been vital; I’ve been able to ring him at any time of the day and night and get the advice I need. That level of back-up is really important.”
The family is now in the first season in the new shed and “it’s going well. The biggest challenge is managing the herd and the health and nutrition side of things.” The 390 cow herd is predominantly Holstein Friesian with some crossbreds and grain is fed at every milking. Alex says the level of automation in the dairy has eased the transition to dairying.
“We’ve got SmartECRs, SmartD-TECT, SmartSPRAY and Bail Gates all of which give us a level of reassurance that the cows will be well milked and we will get early warnings of mastitis, protecting the health and productivity of the herd. “The composite surface of the Centrus rotary platform is easy to clean so the dairy always looks clean and tidy making it an attractive place to work – for us, and potential backpackers.”