Global farming: Irishman brings expertise to Australia

Producing a cow that can walk long distances and cope with rolling hills are important breeding goals of an Irish farmer who’s now running his own dairy farm in Australia

Brian Corr and partner Myrid Bartlett on their new farm at Moyarra, Victoria

Originally from Monaghan, Ireland, Brian Corr was managing two dairy farms in Victoria for an investment group but jumped at the chance to buy his own place when it came up for sale.

Brian bought his 153-hectare farm at Moyarra, South Gippsland, in July 2022, further leasing another 60 hectares of milking platform and 80 hectares of land for youngstock just 10km away.

Brian now milks 400 cows but has plans this season to increase to more than 500 making good use of the leased land.

He works full-time on the farm and is assisted by his partner Myrid Bartlett at weekends, as she’s a full-time teacher.

“I grew up in Monaghan on a mixed enterprise farm and worked in Ireland, UK, and New Zealand before finally settling here in Australia,” he says.

Drought conditions turn the grass dry and brown in the summer months

“I previously managed a farm for a large company about 20 minutes away, where I owned the cows and leased them to the farm.”

When it came to buying the farm, Brian says he was lucky to have an understanding bank manager who knew the farm in question.

“We were lucky to have a bank manager who understood what we wanted to do and also knew the history of the farm we were buying,” he says. 

“At that time, the milk price was great and interest rates had not risen much, so we were quite lucky with our timing. The manner in which we came across and were offered this farm was also quite fortuitous and while it took substantial saving, planning, and support, we’re aware that there was some simple good luck involved, too.

Brian’s farm has its own challenges sitting in the rolling hills of Victoria

“Our original plan was to milk 270 cows, but we were able to lease 60 hectares of land next door, and on 1 September, we signed up another 20 hectares of milking platform lease. Most of the farms we looked at that were within our budget were only capable of milking 200 cows. This farm had good pasture and a good-sized dairy, but everything was run down, so it has taken a lot of work to get it up to scratch,” he says.

Breeding goals

Breeding for milk production and a cow that can handle the Victorian hilly terrain is important to Brian, who’s a big fan of the Jersey Friesian cross cow.

“During our first season here, we milked 400 cows, of which 40% were heifers.

Brian finds the Friesian Jersey cross cow suits his grazing system the best

“Around 100 cows and 50 heifers came with us from the previous farm, and I bought the rest from the previous farm owner and three local herds.”

The majority of the cows are Friesian Jersey crosses but there are also some pure Friesians and Jerseys. AI is used for six weeks and bulls for a further six weeks.

Last season, the cows produced 380kg of milk solids per cow at 4.8% fat and 3.7% protein.

“This season we’re aiming for 440kg of milk solids per cow while expanding to 500 cows. Our milk is sold to Saputo, a large Canadian company, at $9.40 per kilo of milk solids or 77 Aussie cents a litre.

“We aim to breed a medium-size efficient cow that’s very fertile, can walk long distances, and cope with our hills, using the New Zealand breeding worth index, as it aligns with our system the best. I want a cow that produces one kilogramme of milk solids for every kilo ofliveweight.”

Silage is made to buffer feed the cows in the winter months

Brian’s cows graze outside all year round in one herd. The only sheds on the farm are a calf unit and a 30-unit herringbone parlour using a combination of GEA and Milfos equipment.
“As the farm is still developing, we’re trying to keep investment in machinery and technology to a bare minimum and use contractors for everything apart from feeding and fertiliser,” says Brian.

“Our silage is made in round bales and fed out with a Hustler bale unroller on a 75hp Landini tractor.

“Most of the investments we have planned are for basic things, such as laneways, to allow for more efficient grazing. We plan to extend our collecting yard and replace our milk vat with a bigger one and add an autodraft system.

I would like to have an automated heat detection/health system, but that’s probably another year away.”

Brian sows chicory to provide green feed in periods of drought

Looking to the future, Brian’s goals are to pay off debt and expand cow numbers on leased land. He’s rearing more than 200 heifer calves this year to allow for milking more cows in two years.

“Hopefully, we will get the opportunity to buy more land around us, including some of what we currently lease,” he adds.

“I wouldn’t rule out a second farm in the future but developing this one is the current priority.”

Like many other dairy farmers worldwide, obtaining labour is a problem for Brian, who currently employs one full-time worker and two casuals during calving.

“Other challenges here include dry summers, but we sow chicory as a crop to provide green feed early in the season.”

Cows are milked in a 30-point herringbone parlour

The chicory will provide eight to 16 tonnes of dry matter per hectare depending on rainfall in the first summer and then it’s over-seeded with perennial ryegrass.

“This year, we’re planting eight hectares of fodder beet to provide homegrown feed in late summer and early autumn.”

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