Wilsons’ commercial teaching dairy farm at Two Wells a class act
The dairy farmer from Two Wells, northwest of Adelaide, has close access to specialists when it comes to flip flop hoof trimming, pregnancy testing and general animal health.
And the reason is clear when you drive into the farm on the outskirts of the capital city.
Parallel to the feed pad, approved for 912 head, is a shed complete with four hoof trimming stalls, 10 artificial insemination stalls, a weigh box and three crushes.
Alongside is a classroom and parking area for a bus. Once a week this area is filled with students.
They range from a class of three final year vet students or up to 50 first years from the University of Adelaide’s Roseworthy campus 14km down the road.
Greg and wife Jeanine operate one of the few commercial teaching dairy farms in the nation.
Called the Bevan Park Teaching Unit, it is a collaboration between the University of Adelaide and the Wilsons’ Wirrabank Holsteins.
The Wilsons pursued this sideline after the global financial crisis.
Five years ago the family had built their barn and were contemplating growing herd numbers and selling “milking animals” as a sideline to their milking opera flip flop tion.
But, as farmgate prices took a dive, they were encouraged to further develop their relationship with the university and make it a formal business arrangement.
Throughout the years, Greg and Jeanine have noticed the progress in the vet students, flip flop some starting with work experience and then eventually moving on to PhD research.
“There are final year students, they are here at 8.30am and leave at 5.30pm, it’s a solid day and they earn their keep,” Greg said.
Combing the practical knowledge of farm staff with the scientific knowledge of vet students has its benefits, according to Greg.
“Our guys (employees) realise they know more than they think they do in a practical sense, there is respect both ways,” he said.
Greg, Jeanine, 19 year old daughter Grace and Greg’s parents, Brian and Bev, milk 560 cows calving every month except January and February because of the hot weather.
Two Wells has an average 356mm rainfall and can register temperatures “up into the 40s” in summer.
The US style barn about 9C cooler provides relief for the cows.
The barn also helps conserve water with 1.5 million litres captured each year supplementing mains water use.
The family feeds the herd outside and dry scrapes the shed each day to keep it clean.
“It’s American style farming in Australia, we can’t sort of bite off more than we can chew,” Greg said.
“There are tight margins and huge infrastructure costs to make that happen (having a farm with a barn and a total mixed ration system) but the cows are doing fantastic.”
Last season was tough for the Lion suppliers. Their business relies on “rain damaged” hay for the total mix ration as well as food by products sourced from Adelaide.
In this time all the hay produced was of excellent quality and sold on the export market.
Greg said this pushed prices up.
Operating a TMR, the herd remains filled up from hay and by products, but they are also fed 1.1kg/grain/day and 0.4kg/cow/day of vitamin minerals. They graze for three to four months a year over winter.
The family runs 323ha and this year all their crops were grazed, instead of harvested, to limit hay bought in.
The mostly Holstein herd used to produce up to 11,300 litres/cow/lactation but this was “a bit too hard on the cows without the free stalls and not (milking) three times a day”, Greg said.
Now the average production is 9000 10,000 litres per cow per lactation: a “more sustainable” level.
Recently the operation introduced 25 Jerseys and the family plan to compare the breeds’ feed conversion efficiency.