Data helps with the drought

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Farmhand Reubin Ellis, farm owners Barry,
Anthony and Suzanne Cliff and farm hands
Gemma Mowbray and Matthew Byrne

DATA has helped the Cliff family from East Gippsland better negotiate drought.

Anthony, Prue and Poppy Cliff, farm with Anthony’s parents Barry and Suzanne at Stratford on 445 hectares, including leased land, with 202ha of private irrigation.

With sky-rocketing feed costs, the Cliffs can’t afford to be milking “passengers”.

Herd numbers are down to 600-620 from 750 last season.

They’ve turned to data to ensure they cull cows without affecting the long-term viability of their business or set-back their breeding program.

This data includes herd records, herd test and pregnancy test results, backed-up by genomic information from their involvement in DataGene’s Ginfo program - Australia’s genetic information reference herd and pregnancy test data.

In particular, the Cliffs refer to a cow’s production index (PI), which is a measure of a cow’s actual production compared to the herd average.

This was the first season in the family’s 74 years at the property that has had a winter crop fail. Harvest was also disappointing – the volume of hay cut was down 86% on last year and the soil’s “dry down to six feet”. Following a 44-degree day in late January, pasture quality and quantity reduced.

Data was used to determine which autumn-calving portion of the herd – up to 20% of the herd calves at this time of year – would be dried-off.

“We used it to determine which of the cows were doing the best as some had fallen (in milk production) and were close to having to be dried-off early,” Anthony said.

“We decided those with a higher PI, for example the top 20% of the autumn calvers, would be given a little-bit more of a holiday, kept and dried-off earlier.”

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