Sustainable farming the way to go

Sustainable dairy farming the way to go


Farming Small Areas How To
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Victorian dairy farmer knows what it takes to be successful

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CREAMY: Fourth generation dairy farmer Stuart Griffin and his daughter Eloise enjoy some ice cream at an education day in Sydney.

CREAMY: Fourth generation dairy farmer Stuart Griffin and his daughter Eloise enjoy some ice cream at an education day in Sydney.

There are three main factors to consider when measuring how successfully your dairy operation is running.

Stuart Griffin, fourth generation dairy farmer on Spring Dale,near Westbury in Victoria, believes implementing practices which look at not only environmental sustainability, but people and animal sustainability are vital to a dairy's success.

And he should know.

Stuart's family has been involved in the dairy industry on the same property for 99 years and Griffin Time Dairy is one of the Victorian dairy farms that has been hand-selected to supply sustainable cream for Blue Ribbon’s new Crafted Ice Cream range.

Spring Dale is approximately 270 hectares, milking 520 Hollstein Jersey and Aussie Red cross cows.

Their cropping program is dominated by ryegrass pastures, but they also do turnips as a winter crop and chicory for a summer crop, both which they use for feed.

"A lot of people when they are thinking sustainability think only about the environment," Stuart said.

"We look at worker sustainability and animal welfare as well.

"A few years ago, Unilever (who own the Streets and the Blue Ribbon brand) approached the Australian dairy industry about getting accredited under their sustainable agriculture code.

"The industry jumped right on board and was already doing a lot of the things they wanted.

"Unilever came out for a look and Stuart's farm was part of that process.

"The Australian dairy industry was the first worldwide to gain this accreditation.

"On the back of that, Blue Ribbon have introduced a premium range of ice cream which only sources cream from Victorian farms with this accreditation, including ours."

Stuart believes that all three aspects are important to his dairy's sustainability.

"All three aspects - environmental sustainability, animal welfare and worker welfare - go hand-in-hand," he said.

"You can't leave one out without affecting the other two.

"If you are not looking after the environmental side, it affects both the animals and your people.

"The same as if you are not looking after your people, they won't care about your animals or the environment.

"These three main aspects are all inter-connected."

Stuart said that Griffin Time Dairy can see the benefits directly linked to these aspects.

"Environmentally, dairy effluent and nutrient management are key factors.

"We are required to keep all dairy effluent on farm which we do by having catchment ponds.

"It has a double effect - it keeps it out of waterways and gives us a good fertiliser.

"Why would we want that to run down the drain and then go and pay for fertiliser?

"The first pond uses anaerobic bacteria to break down the solid effluence which then runs into the second pond.

"This 'green water' is gravity fed down to a travelling irrigator which spreads it onto the paddocks.  

"The first pond will eventually sludge up and we will use that slurry on particular paddocks which may need it to boost cropping.

"In regards to staff, we are very conscious of their needs.

"Making sure they have a safe work space, both physically and mentally, is very important. 

"We understand that wages in the dairy industry can not be competitive with other forms of agriculture as our margins are so small.

"We counteract that by making our work space somewhere inviting for our staff - somewhere they want to come and work.

"We understand our team have families and lives outside of work, so we try to accommodate their needs. 

"We no longer have split-shifts and are as flexible as we can be.

"Part of removing split-shifts was moving to milking only once a day.

"We have seen benefits in our cows with this as well.

"It puts our animals under less stress and we have seen a reduction in lameness and an improvement in reproduction rates.

"All three practices done well can have excellent outcomes while any one of the three practices done poorly will affect overall results."

Stuart said there are good resources available to help manage an operation - large or small.

"While a big operation may have a person who focuses on each of these three practices, in a small operation it is usually the owner/operator," he said.

"I encourage all dairy farmers to use the wealth of resources available like those Dairy Australia provide including online fact sheets, videos, courses and information days to get across some of this stuff." 

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