By Kirra Grimes
WHILE Holsteins and Jerseys remain the breeds of choice for most dairy farmers in South Gippsland, it’s becoming increasingly common to see red cows in the milking shed, and a recent field day was a chance to find out why.
Organised by the Australian Red Dairy Breed (ARDB) association, the field day invited farmers and other industry reps to inspect two high-ranking herds of Aussie Red cows, and hear first-hand how Leongatha South farmer Paul Cocksedge and the Leppin family of Bena had built up successful, award winning businesses using the breed, a relatively recent introduction to Australia.
At the Leppin’s farm, consultant Matt Harms gave an in-depth presentation on a business set up that had kept costs low and brought in consistent returns over 23 years, despite variables including large fluctuations in production and changes in management structure.
Toby Leppin, who runs the farm with wife Lyn and son Nick, said Aussie Reds had been a big factor in the family’s ongoing success, which included winning the Weekly Times Coles Dairy Farmers of the Year Award in 2015.
“They’re just more efficient, and we don’t have the vet bills or the stock losses we might have with other breeds,” Toby said.
In terms of milk production, Lyn said Aussie Reds had proven to be a good “middle ground” between high fat, lower volume producing Jerseys and low fat, high volume Holsteins.
“We’ve always had Reds but we’ve dabbled in other breeds and we’ve found Reds are more even in terms of the components,” Lyn said.
In sharing his own experiences with Aussie Reds, Paul Cocksedge highlighted health factors as the main reason he’d stuck with the breed after trying them out as a “more or less experimental” exercise in the early 1990s, shortly after the genetics were introduced to Australia with the combination of Scandinavian Red genetics and Australian Red breeds such as Ayrshire, Dairy/Milking Shorthorn, Illawarra, and Red and White Holstein.
“They were fairly new into the country when I jumped on board and I’ve continued with them mainly because of their health traits, like low cell counts and high daughter fertility.
“As well as good milk production, they’ve got great survival rates. They get fewer health problems [than other breeds] and they’ve got good strong feet and legs. They keep their condition very well. And they’re very low maintenance – they look after themselves.
“So, if you want cows that’ll work for you, and not the other way around, they’re a good choice.”
Paul said interest in Aussie Reds appeared to be growing in the local area, as more farmers discovered the benefits of the breed.
And as an ARDB member and breed director, he was pleased to see farmers from all across Victoria and as far away as Queensland attend the field day.
“Interest is slowly growing as they’re being promoted as a good alternative to more popular breeds.
“Around South Gippsland, there aren’t many farms with straight Red herds, like the Leppins, but a lot of people have got a few and a lot of people are looking at them as a good option for cross breeding.”