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Feature

 Victoria, South Eastern Australia

Below are some pictures I took while on a working holiday as an AI technician in Victoria Australia during the 2014 breeding season. Working for Numurkah Nu-Genes, a herd improvement company, I travelled to 15-20 herds every day to inseminate cows. I was also involved in many synchronized breeding programmes, a practice which more and more large Australian farms are turning to in an effort to get cow’s incalf. Popularity is growing rapidly because it is becoming harder to achieve acceptable submission rates as herd size and yields increase, especially in large corporate where skilled labour is in short supply.  
Average herd size is close to 400 in this region. Holstein is predominant cow breed. But pure jersey cow herds a quite common also, as traditionally they would have been the most used dairy breed. The jersey breed copes better the very warm weather conditions which can peak at 45 degrees! Many herds are cooled off before milking each evening by spraying them down with cool water. This ensures feed intakes remain steady.
Most large herds are milked in rotary parlours, commonly 50 units, and tend to be very simple, many would not have ACRs or auto drafting. Most farms will not have a cattle race as all AI, injection and treatment work is done in the parlour. The dairy is usually the only shed on the farm as cows are not housed.
Grass, alfalfa and sorghum are the most popular crops. Silage is ensiled in round bales and is fed during the summer when grass is dormant from drought. Wheat is usually bought in from tillage farmers and fed to lactating cows. Some farmers also use compounded feeds  
With such a dry climate irrigation is essential. Flood irrigation is used on the vast majority of dairy farms.  This is releasing water from a canal to flood a paddock with 2” of water approx. All paddocks are graded level across with a slight decline down the down the field. This process is repeated once to twice a week depending on conditions. In recent years, following 8 subsequent years of drought water usage has been greatly meaning farmers can’t use as much, shortening the growing season. This along with drought is the greatest threat to dairy farming in Australia
Breeding is focused towards producing as many heifers as possible to supply the huge export market of incalf heifer to China. This means all cows calve to dairy breeds, some to sexed semen. American and Australian genomic bulls are most commonly used, but many farmers are using Scandinavian and New Zealand semen.Below are a few photos I took in New Zealand on my way home. Paul Molloy