April, 2015

WOFWG members met in April to see and hear from Gippsland dairy farmers, the Bramley family, and share farmer Wijbren de Boer. It is a tale of commitment, innovation and growth in an important rural industry.

With a science and mathematics degree Geoff Bramley taught for 30 years, at the same time, moving in 1982 to 142 acres of dairy country in Nar Nar Goon. Geoff’s dual milking and school life began with eighty cows. The herd grew so another 67 acres were soon added. Currently the farm covers 320 acres with a further 220 acres being leased.

An original dairy shed was improved to a 16 aside herringbone, with a final upgrade in 2003 to a 50 unit rotary dairy. This caters for up to 300 cows. The unit has automated feeders and cup removers. Additional improvements, for cow and handler alike, include automatic drafting gates, and computer reading of electronic ear tags for individualised rations.

Geoff added a long concrete feed pad in 2008 to hold one hundred and fifty cows. In 2014 another feed pad was built. In wet times, cows are fed silage, potato and citrus pulp, lucerne and grass hay on these pads, keeping animals and machinery from damaging paddocks.

350 cows are milked daily with calving occurring year round. AI (artificial insemination) is practised, with semen sexed to conceive heifers. AI is also used for genetic improvement of the herd. The farm achieves sufficient heifer birth rates for the 20% needed annually for herd replacement.

Wijbren de Boer and his family recently began share farming with Geoff. Wybren was born in Holland, dairied in Canada then in Australia. In 2014 when the Bramleys needed a new share farmer, Wybren joined them. He brought along his herd of stud Jerseys and some cross breeds, adding them to the Bramley Friesians.

Geoff is passionate about encouraging investment in the dairy industry and its workers’ future. He emphasised that farming needs to be sustainable for farmers, animals and the land. With herd size and quality in mind, and with clear production goals, Geoff also balances the support needed for workers in his enterprise. Coupled with an efficient, innovative shed and safe facilities this farm presents as a notable model of sustainable dairying.