Climate variability drives on farm innovation

Nov 23, 2015

A concerted effort to reduce power costs and dairy’s environmental footprint is seeing increasing numbers of Australian producers implement more efficient, ‘green’ on farm practices.

In Athlone, Gippsland former mechanical engineer and seventh generation dairy farmer, Lindsay Anderson is harnessing solar energy to the benefit of reduced on-farm costs. Converting all his large single-phase motors to three-phase motors using variable speed drives as phase converters, Mr Anderson has implemented renewable technology throughout his business. He devised a 5 kilo-watt grid-connected solar system which supplies power to his automatic milking system, his workshop and farm house.

This system provides enough power to feedback through the grid for a payment each quarter – providing some additional income for Mr Anderson.

“This system can save me between 15 to 33% of electricity consumption,” Mr Anderson said. 

It also means there is even less diesel used on the property so the environment will also be better off.

According to dairy’s 2014 Sustainability Framework Progress Report, Mr Anderson is one of many dairy farmers adopting energy efficient procedures on farm. Since 2012 40% of farms have installed some form of renewable energy installation.

Chair of the Sustainability Framework Steering Committee, Chris Griffin said that dairy producers have always been stewards of the land, and are constantly getting smarter about energy efficiency on farm.

“Dairy farmers have a real commitment to managing land and water responsibly, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting natural resources for future generations. They are constantly reviewing their practices in response to seasonal conditions and a changing climate,” said Mr Griffin.

“As a bonus, many farmers are finding that these measures are cost effective.”

Working with Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) and Dairy Australia, the ADIC has lobbied hard to secure Government funding to support uptake of energy efficient technology on farm. Combined with industry investment, Federal and state programs have assisted farmers and manufacturers with the upfront capital costs in energy efficient or renewable energy technology, and therefore increased uptake.

The dairy industry has seen the benefit of such co-funded initiatives through Dairy Australia and the Federal Government’s Energy Efficiency Information Program. These nationwide assessments have already helped 1,400 farms. Guidelines have also been developed to complement these assessments and provide information about where energy is used in dairies, as well as identify where greater efficiency can be found.

In two years since the Sustainability Framework was implemented, manufacturers’ use of fuel and electricity has reduced by 14.5%. Together, the whole value chain is vigorously pursuing its target of reducing the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020.

“We will continue with programs and projects that are guiding the industry toward improved returns, while minimising our environmental footprint and improving the wellbeing of our people and animals,” Mr Griffin explained.

“There is still work to be done, but we are most definitely headed in the right direction.”

Earlier this year, ADF shifted its climate change policy, calling for joint industry and government investment in adopting energy efficient technologies on farm. Chair of the ADF Natural Resources Policy Advisory Group, Daryl Hoey said the revised policy highlights to Parliament, consumers and the broader community that the industry remains actively engaged in reducing its environmental impact.

“The scientific evidence, international policy, and public interest in increased climate variability justify industry action. Our whole value chain strives to continually reduce its environmental footprint, through uptake of new technologies, improved management and adoption of farming systems to suit climate variability,”

“The Australian Government can promote the industry’s effective response to climate variability through sustained investment in agriculture R, D&E and the uptake of energy efficient technologies on farm.”

This includes new solutions that both reduce emissions and improve profitability, international research collaboration, and methodologies that support a whole-farm-systems approach in reducing emissions.

“The Australian dairy industry is keenly observing the Government’s response to the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference taking place in Paris this December,” Mr Hoey said.

“We are aware the outcomes of this event may impact the Australian Government’s approach to emissions reduction policy. We want to ensure any policy initiatives do not undermine our trade exposed industry, but instead support dairy farmers’ ability to manage risk, innovate and adapt to climate variability.”

For more information on ADF's policy on carbon emissions and climate change click here

Dairy’s Big Day Out in Western Vic

Aug 13, 2015

The Western Victorian district dairy industry is set to be pumped full of inspiration at an event focussed on positivity and capacity building this September.

The inaugural Dairy Inspire, held in conjunction with the Milk-it-for-More workshops and Profitable Feeding Systems Expo, has been dubbed ‘Dairy’s big day out’ and looks at filling the attending farmers and industry leaders with inspiring stories focussed on resilience, positivity, successful goal building and strategy, market growth and essential communication tools.

Sponsored by the Gardiner Dairy Foundation and WestVic Dairy, the ‘big day out’ is aimed at giving farmers the tools to increase personal capacity and on-farm profitability.

WestVic Dairy Executive Officer Paula Doran said the event on September 2 was firming up to be a significant event on the dairy calendar.

“It’s a mixed bag full of insights to build the skills of our farmers into the future with the over-arching theme of how to make the most of the opportunities we have before us,” Ms Doran said.

Analyst Michael Harvey from Rabobank will speak about short term commodity insights and futurist Paul Higgins will talk about future trends for the coming decades and beyond.

Tanami cowboy Rob Cook will talk about his near-fatal chopper crash on his remote Alice Springs property, and his journey back to life-on-the-land as a tetraplegic, and the resilience and fighting spirit that got him there.

Ms Doran said the day celebrated the dairy industry and the drive for growth, culminating in a dinner in Camperdown that day.

For more information contact the WestVic Dairy office on (03) 5557 1000. Get your tickets here.



R,D&E Levy report handed down

Jul 17, 2015

On 30 June 2015, the Australian Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee released its report on the Australian agricultural levy system.

The report titled, “The industry structures and systems governing the imposition of and disbursement of marketing and research and development (R&D) levies in the agriculture sector” endorsed the current model of Rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) as well as suggesting improvements to current operating processes.

The Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) submission into the inquiry advocated in support of the (RDCs) model and the opportunities for dairy farmers provided by Dairy Australia (DA). Whilst the ADIC considers that the Levy Poll framework provides an important opportunity for DA to talk to levy payers about their levy investment, it was also acknowledged that there is scope to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the process.

The diversity across the various commodities subject to levies was recognised by the report, as was the need for each industry to determine their own method of consultation and changes to the levy poll process.

Key points for dairy:

  • The report emphasizes that levy payers should be able to trace their levy payment to investment and return, and be able to have their say on investment of their levy.
  • The report notes that dairy currently undertakes a levy poll in order to change the levy rate, however it does not support such a poll for every industry, nor does it state that a levy is not an appropriate method.
  • The role of industry representative bodies, such as ADF, in the levy system is endorsed noting that peak industry groups play an essential role in providing opportunities for levy payers to influence investment decisions.
  • The report finds that the method of consultation is currently a burden on time, resources and industry and therefore should be streamlined.
  • The report emphasizes the importance of having a levy payer database as crucial for the system and engagement with levy payers.
  • The report does not conflict with where the DA levy poll review process is heading.

Overall the report has reaffirmed the importance of Australia’s Agricultural R&D levy system as crucial to the continued sustainable growth of the Australian dairy industry. The report highlights that there are always improvements to be made which will provide farmers with greater returns on their levy investments, while not recommending any substantial changes to the existing arrangement for dairy.

The Government will next formally consider the report and provide its response. For more information and to download a copy of the ADIC’s submission, click here.


Dairy looses leading innovator

May 05, 2015

On 26 April, the Australian dairy industry sadly lost leading software innovator and visionary, Dr Mike Larcombe to a lengthy battle with motor neurone disease.

Dr Larcombe founded MISTRO software, which is responsible for processing 95 per cent of herd testing information in Australia and is recognised as one of the most flexible and cost-effective herd recording programs in the world today.

His work continued with the development of a genomic database system for the Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme (ADHIS) for storing and analysing DNA profiles of animals for artificial breeding.

As a long-standing member of ADHIS’ Record Standards Committee, ADHIS General Manager, Daniel Abernerthy described Dr Larcombe as one of Australia’s leaders in data, data transfer and herd improvement systems.

“Mike was a truly gifted man, with the ability to transfer his skills across many areas.

“Aside from playing an integral role in the design and redevelopment of our genomic evaluations systems and computer models, Mike also was a major contributor to Dairy Australia’s InCalf and mastitis reporting tools,” Mr Abernerthy said.

Dairy Australia Program Manager – Genetics & Data Management - Farm Profit and Innovation, Matt Shaffer, said Dr Larcombe’s impact on the industry had been phenomenal.

“Mike showed an amazing commitment to farmer outcomes through his work developing MISTRO as a key farm management tool for farmers and herd test centres, as well as the UDDER program which is still being used by more than 60 consultants in Australia and New Zealand,” Mr Shaffer said.

In 2011 Dr Larcombe was awarded the prestigious National Herd Improvement Association of Australia Meritorious Service Award, recognising the significance of his achievements and his standing among peers.

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