Tuesday, May 20, 2014

May 19

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Day 7 started off by taking a trip to the New England University to visit the Agricultural Business Research Institute. ABRI's mission is to develop and implement world-class agribusiness information systems with emphasis on the needs of the livestock industries. The institute has been very successful since its establishment in 1970. A few inventions: pedigree and performance systems for cattle, sheep, goats, breed secretariat services, dairy herd recording, herdMASTER On-farm software, Australian cattle genetics export agency, and beef cattle breeding services. We met with Steve Skinner, the manager for their international beef recording scheme. He educated us on the general cattle industry in Australia, and expanded on their most renowned invention: BREEDPLAN. It is the world's most widely used genetic evaluation system for beef cattle. Within the BREEDPLAN system evaluated growth, carcass, and fertility EBVs together in a multi-trait model and much more. The database can be used for over 40 million animals. BREEDPLAN and their other databases are used throughout the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Hungary, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, New Zealand, Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina.

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For dinner we ate at the Apsley Arms Hotel where most of us had steak, salad and French fries. As Minnesotans, we like ketchup with our french fries, but this ketchup, or as Australians call it, tomato sauce,  was nothing like our American ketchup. The fries just weren't the same without it. Oh well, at least the steak was good!

Walcha Dairy sign
We continued on to the Walcha Dairy, passing by acres and acres of lush green pastures filled with Holstein and Holstein crosses. It was an incredibly beautiful sight watching the these animals graze. As we pulled up to the farm, we saw cure little calves romping around their pens, kicking up their feet. We also saw some buildings, with one building looking like some sort of tin shed, where we found 800 cows on their way to be milked on an 80 cow rotary parlor. Each cow is fed 7 kg of wheat and a pellet nutrition mix while milking. A full rotation takes about 7 minutes so from start to finish it takes two and a half hours to milk and clean up. Milking times are set at 4:00 am and 2:00 pm every day. After milking, the cows are let back out to pasture where they graze on perennial rye grass, clovers and other grasses.

New calves at Walcha Dairy

Workers milking cows on an 80-cow rotary system

There are many crossbred animals found on this farm with the main breed being Holstein, or as Australians call them, Fresians. They don't artificially inseminate their cows but use a bull for breeding. Their main breeding objective is to have the highest amount of milk production per cow. They don't keep the bull calves, but do raise all their heifers for replacements. The heifers start out at the main farm and then after 8 weeks, when they are weaned, they move to another farm to be raised until they are close to calving, returning then to the main farm.

It was hard to leave Walcha Dairy after spending an hour and a half learning about their practices, but we all loaded back onto the bus to return to Armidale for one last night. Tomorrow we head to Toowoomba for some more adventures.

Katelyn and Amy

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