THE benefits of hybrid vigour are well known in the beef industry, but one dairy farming family at Forbes is now also reaping the rewards of extra performance due to crossbreeding.
Clayton and Kristy Alley run Moo Moo Dairies on “Riverie”, which includes 180 head of crossbred dairy cows, using the breeds Jersey, Ayrshire, Normande, Aussie Red and Fleckvieh.
The couple select for performance and milking ability, rather than on specific breed traits.
Mr Alley said his grandfather had Jersey and Jersey/Holstein cattle when he was dairying.
“But he used to say the best milking cow was a brindle cow, and that’s the philosophy I’ve followed here,” Mr Alley said.
The fourth generation dairy farmer and wife Kristy run their dairy along the southern bank of the Lachlan River, about 25 kilometres from Forbes, while his brother Anthony and wife Leanne run a Holstein herd next door.
The Alleys’ crossbred cows produce an average 16.5 to 17 litres of milk per day in two milkings.
What’s more, Moo Moo Dairies receives from Dairy Farmers Milk Co-operative (DFMC), which supplies to Lion, a year-round average of 60 cents a litre and has another five years on their contract.
“My milk is averaging 4.7 per cent fat and 3.7pc protein,” he said.
“The industry average is 4pc and 3.2pc and 0.53c/l.”
The Alley family’s dairying history began in 1914 when Mr Alley’s great-grandfather, Reginald Alley, stopped driving trams after returning from the Boer War and bought some country at Elands near Wingham, which he cleared and began a milking career with three cows.
Clayton’s grandfather Neville, took over from 1950 to 1972 when he moved his family to the Taree district and retired in 1980.
His father, Ian, took over and continued dairying there until moving to Forbes in 1997 and retiring in 2007.
“We had a couple of brindle cows back then at Taree and both dad and pop used to say brindles were good for milk production and temperament,” Mr Alley said.
Breeding at “Riverie” now starts with a Jersey joined to an Ayrshire, and progeny then joined in rotation to a Normande, Aussie Red and Fleckvieh.
The cross rotation began with the use of artificial insemination (AI), but Mr Alley said he now preferred to use a purebred bull within the herd.
Bulls are put out for four week intervals every three months, and Mr Alley said paddock joining had improved conception rates.
“Bulls will get 70 per cent of cows in calf the first time,” he said.
Newborn calves are left on their mothers for their first four days to make sure they are suckling properly, and then weaned on to whole milk out of the dairy for 12 weeks before being put on to grass and hay.
“They are then put on pasture at six months of age,” Mr Alley said.
“Heifers are joined at about 14 to 15 months, and calving in the herd by the time they are two years old.”
And while crossbreeding had improved both milking rates and fertility in the Alley herd, management practices also played a role.
“That all ties-in with a good pasture mix,” he said.
“A good mineral uptake of the plant means more minerals for the cow.”
Paddocks have a mix of lucerne, natural and planted ryegrass, clover and sub-clovers, paspalum, chicory and plantain, with oats and barley having been introduced this year.
Fertiliser for pastures comes from on-farm effluent, stored in a nearby dam and put out using a standard spray rig two to three times a year at 150 litres a hectare.
Mr Alley also has a K-Line irrigation system fed by river water, which covers 30 hectares with 50 millimetres of water in a three-day period.
Soil test comparisons during a four-year period using these methods resulted in an increase in minerals on average by five per cent.
This keeps cows on a high nutrition plane without supplementary feed, except in exceptional circumstances.
Moo Moo’s masterstroke
CLAYTON Alley’s herd of 180 crossbred cows produce high fat and protein in their milk, have few health problems and a quiet temperament.
Mr Alley said his grandfather thought crossbred cows were the best milkers and quietest cattle.
“People said I couldn’t get high milking cows from crossbreds without using Holsteins,” he said.
“But I have proved them wrong.
“These girls are producing an average 16.5 to 17 litres of milk each day and returning me an average of 60 cents per litre.”
Hybrid vigour, along with good nutrition has, also led to milkers with strong constitutions and limited mastitis or foot complaints.
Mr Alley said the mineral uptake of fertiliser from the mix of grasses, legumes and herbs within his irrigated paddocks was a major contributing factor.