Having brainwashed his children into realising the joys of Robin Hood (oo-de-lally), I’ve left Rob’s pad to travel three hours south-west to a place called Busselton.

As well as some fantastic beaches and scenery, Busselton is home to Ed Cox,¬† the last of the Nuffield chums I’m visiting.

Ed farms 1000 dairy cattle on his 300ha farm, producing about 6.2m litres of milk a year which he sells to Fonterra, the New Zealand milk co-op, for a current price of about 32 cents/litre (about level with his cost of production). He’s hoping the price will average out over the year to just below 40 cents.

cows

Milk production isn’t under quota as it in the UK, so Ed’s able to produce as much milk as he can, which mainly supplies the Western Australian market. A small amount of milk powder is exported to Asia.

The cows are friesian/jersey cross which are artificially inseminated with semen from New Zealand, producing a fairly short and stocky animal compared with UK cattle. Ed’s able to tell when it’s the best time to serve the cows thanks to a fancy Israeli-produced system on his 60-head rotary parlour: as the cows hop on to be milked a chip on their collar records data including milk production levels and temperature. Ed’s discovered if he inseminates the animals just as their period ‘on heat’ is coming to an end then he can record high AI success rates of about 55%.

The cattle are milked twice a day, with about 300 of them passing through the parlour each hour. They graze on grass and clover during the winter but as the rainfall drops off they’re given a mixed ration of grass and maize silage, hay and grain. The cost and challenges of freight across such a whacking-great country mean processors prefer a high-protein product which they can dilute at a later date, so Ed aims to get pretty high butterfats and proteins of about 3.6%.

Ed's cows

The size of the herd has been growing steadily over the past few years but it’s pretty tough¬† to expand farm sizes here thanks to stupidly expensive land prices. An influx of hobby farmers who want to live close to Perth and the beach means land prices are about $4000/acre in some places. Ed’s overcome this by sending his youngstock to his brother’s and dad’s farms about six-hours south in Esperance where they’re grazed for a couple of years before they come back to Busselton.

It’s a system that seems to suit Ed well – it still gives him the oportunity to spend time with his children and to scare his English friends by taking them swimming in rivers filled with scary nippy things…

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