Farm System

"macalister demonstration farm"

The farm runs a Spring calving herd only, with replacements reared under contract off-farm and milkers carried at home during the dry period.

It has a low capital feed infrastructure (no wagon, no concrete feed pad) and milks twice per day in a low capital dairy.

The MDF runs a high stocking rate (4 per ha) and relatively high pasture inputs and purchased feed supplements, mostly wheat (with minerals) but no crops.  If a margin seems apparent the supplement is fed.

The farm management system is guided by DPI/Dairy Australia packages such as Target 10 Grazing, Target 10 Soils and Fertilisers, Target 10 Cow Nutrition, In-Calf, Countdown DownUnder, The People in Dairy, and Feeding Pasture for Profit.

Feeding performance is monitored in a Margin Over all Feed analysis against twenty local farms as part of the MID Tracker Project.

Farm Layout

""macalister farm paddock numbers"
The MDF is a commercially operated dairy farm of 92 hectares with a milking area of 72 hectares that is all sown to a pasture of perennial ryegrass. The farm renovates about 10 ha per year, sowing one variety per paddock.



"daily pasture growth"The milking area of 73 ha is irrigated and is all sown to perennial pasture. The farm renovates about 10 ha per year, sowing one variety per paddock.

The rotation right tool is used to allocate feed in each paddock – down to 28 days in spring to 55 days in winter.  Grazing management aims to graze to a 7 cm residue but will err on side of leaving residue rather than push the cows to eat into it. We mow to waste about every third grazing rotation.  Very little silage is conserved and is mostly taken only to clean up any build up of residue.



Feeding is based on the Feeding Pasture for Profit principles that sets the grazing rotation on leaf stage. Pasture consumption around 13 tonne per hectare and 3.3 tonne per cow.

Feed supplements are used to get the desired grazing residue, diet balance and to make sure the cows are full.

The MDF transition feeds the cows cereal hay, 1 kg grass, and anionic salts.


 The farm carries out soil tests in ten paddocks in most years.  Soil Phosphorus is high but, on advice, we have recently decided to apply a little anyway.  Soil Potassium is slightly low.   We have recently started using lime in the low pH paddocks.

Nitrogen is applied after each grazing at a rate of about 350kgN/ha/year. The farm has recently switched to Green Urea that trials indicate is more efficient in warm weather.


Dairy Herd

"dairy herd"The herd is the result of a long term AI program with semen from Genetics Australia.  The herd is 30% Friesian with the remainder Friesian-Jersey crosses and some Red Breed crosses.

Empty cows are milked until they get to 10 litres.

Mastitis control has been very successful – the BMCC hovers around 100,000 and the farm is often top ten at factory and received a DA Top 5% in Australia award.


Cow fertility

 By applying In-Calf best practice the herd fertility is slowly improving.


6 week in-calf rate

Not in-calf rate


56 %

13 %


57 %

9.6 %


63 %

7.3 %



The Future or Goals

Strengths of the business:

"paddock work"The MDF is able to achieve its profitable production levels because of:

High stocking rate;
Relatively simple, self-contained system;

  • Capable farm manager;
  • Attention to feed margins;
  • Not much debt; and
  • Is in God’s own country! (Or at least in the best dairying area in the world)


Challenges for the business into the future :

"farming community"At a high stocking rate the challenges to the business are in the form of risk:

  • Low water allocation;
  • High feed price;
  • Low milk price; and
  • Is dependent on a good operator.