Riversdale Dairy, Rochester, Northern Victoria
Riversdale is a family run dairy farm located at Rochester in Northern Victoria. Established in the early 90’s by Mick and Heather Acocks, Riversdale has transitioned from a traditional pasture based system to the operation we see today. Currently milking 850 cows across a land base of 1400ha and producing 8 million litres of milk annually. In 2009 Tom and his wife Emma moved home join the business and began the process of succession to the next generation.
Dairy production in the region faces many challenges, competition for land, labour and water resources to name but a few. The changing landscape for Riversdale and others in the region is fundamentally driven by the competition and cost of irrigation water. This has seen Riversdale move toward a system that must grow more fodder per megalitre used. Changing irrigation practices and crop varieties have resulted in higher water use efficiency but are only one piece of the puzzle. To maximise value of fodder conserved there must also be significant investment in machinery, infrastructure and systems to turn feed into milk, without driving the cost of production over what is achievable in the current market place.
This has led Riversdale down the path of building facilities that allow for year-round production in a flexible fodder system. The first dry-lot was set up in 2011 and is low cost facility that offers shade, loafing and feeding areas to cows through the summer months. A transition into the second loafing barn happened in 2014 that can house cows year-round on a manure pack. This system has seen per cow production climb from 7000L per cow in 2009 to 10,700L in 2016. Like any livestock system there are specific management problems that arise from maximising output. Manure management is of particular importance at Riversdale as we try maximising the productive value of both irrigated and dryland farming assets. Emphasis has been placed on capturing nutrients from the dairy facilities and putting back onto farming land for fodder production, with the main goal of increasing soil organic carbon levels while reducing the amount of purchased fertiliser applied.
The issues that have been highlighted here are not unique to our business alone. It must be a priority of all participants in the food production chain to identify and refine cost effective practices that see us utilising available resources to their full productive capacity.