Even dairy cows enjoy a good space to ‘loaf’ around in.
Brad and Karin Fischer’s herd of 600 dairy cows in Meningie West have their own one-hectare loafing barn to enjoy – and the benefits for cows and owners are clear.
“The cows are protected from extreme weather and are also feeding more efficiently, resulting in a 12% decrease in feed wasted,” Mr Fischer said.
“We have been able to build our cow herd up from 480 in a relatively short time and now we are milking three times a day.”
Mr Fischer said the shed has also resulted in a 12-14% increase in milk production with better milk quality and the added benefit of improved cow fertility and reproduction rates.
The new barn was built as part of a project funded through a recent South Australian River Murray Sustainability Program (SARMS) grant.
The second part of the project was an upgrade to the farm’s irrigation infrastructure, enabling dairy effluent to be treated and processed, then put back through the system to be re-used as irrigation water.
The long term benefits of re-using water includes improved soil condition and the ability to grow quality pasture with less water.
The fully automated irrigation system is also able to be run from Mr Fischer’s phone, saving both time and money.
“We are also saving money on the cost of power, as we run the system and irrigate when power is at the cheapest rate,” he said.
“This has cut at least 20 to 30% from our power bills.”
All of the construction and irrigation upgrade used local and SA businesses, and the farm has also increased its staff.
“With more staff and the automated system taking uncertainty from decision making, we don’t have extra workloads, especially on hot days,” Mr Fischer said.
“So, an unexpected bonus has been the ability to spend more time with the family.”
Completing a business succession plan about five years ago prompted the Fischer family to participate in the SARMS Irrigation Industry Improvement (3IP) Program.
Mr Fischer said the succession plans and subsequent grant has allowed their business to expand at a much faster rate.
“We’re probably 10 years ahead of where we initially thought we would be and we have planned this project with the future in mind, so we can extend solar power options onto the 1ha barn roof as its strong enough to take any extra weight.”
SARMS is contributing to the South Australian Government’s commitment and implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The 3IP grants program is supporting the sustainability of South Australian River Murray communities through investment in irrigation efficiency, water returns and irrigation industry assistance.