TACTICS for Dry Times Shed Days have continued to be rolled out across South Gippsland.
The low key events, which are run by GippsDairy and Dairy Australia using dairy service levy funds, are aimed at helping farmers recover from a tough season and set themselves up for a successful 2016/17.
Shed Days were held recently at Les and Lyn Hornby’s Outtrim farm and at Damian and Trudy Murphy’s Dumbalk North property.
The Hornbys, who milk 290 cows on their 135 hectare share-farm, have been a rare success story in the district this year, managing to grow enough fodder to get them through until the autumn break.
The secret to their success has been a turnip crop that has managed to grow well despite the dry conditions.
“We have enough silage for another six weeks and we have another month of turnips,” Les said.
“We decided it was going to be dry, so we put in about 28 hectares of turnips. People say if you grow a lot of grass you don’t need them, but you can always use them to cut down on grain.”
Les said his experience a decade ago during a dry spell at Yannathan taught him that buying in grain could be a costly exercise.
“We were a lot worse in ’06 than we are now,” he said.
“We learned a lot and lost a lot of money, so we weren’t going to go down that track again.”
For Shed Day facilitator Matt Harms, Les and Lyn’s success with their turnip crop has made a pleasant change from the hardship being felt across much of South Gippsland.
“That would have been a gamble that a lot of people wouldn’t have taken this year, but for the Hornbys it has paid off because they are still feeding now and still have another three to four weeks of crop left,” he said.
“If it had failed, they could have had 28 hectares that they put into a crop at reasonably high cost and got nothing out of it. That is something other people weren’t willing to do.”
At Dumbalk North, Damian and Trudy Murphy would be typical of many in the area, battling through the tough conditions and hoping autumn can bring a change of fortune for their 280 cow farm on 100 hectares.
Plenty of neighbours turned out for Thursday evening’s barbecue at the Murphy farm as, ironically, solid rain fell throughout the ‘Dry Times’ event.
Damian said the last few months have been a case of battening down the hatches and waiting for conditions to improve.
“It’s been a tight season. It started off alright, we had a fairly mild winter and spring started OK but then it shut off really quickly,” he said.
“Almost half way through spring we were really scrambling to get grass into silage and just keep things growing. By the middle of November it got even tighter and from then it was just a case of hold on.”
For Damian, the benefits of events like Shed Days can be felt beyond just those who turn up.
“The guys here are alright because they are the ones coming out and having a bit of a social night, but hopefully the message is to go back and check on your neighbours,” he said.
“I think that might be the important thing to come out of tonight.”
GippsDairy projects and events coordinator Karen Romano said the original concept for Tactics for Dry Times has been formulated with a March autumn break in mind, but ongoing dry conditions forced a rethink of the program, extending it out to the ongoing Shed Day events.
“It hasn’t really rained now in mid-March and farmers don’t have much hay or silage left,” she said.
“Even if it rains now it will take four or five weeks for pastures to recover, which means they will need to keep on a long rotation.
“This means they have to add supplements in the meantime so cows are fully fed.”
Further Shed Days will be held in coming weeks. Check www.gippsdairy.com.au for details.
Turnips prove a smart tactic