Brett family dairy is cream of the crop

A commitment to herd health has put fourth-generation Ferguson Valley dairy farmer Matt Brett in the national spotlight for milk quality.

Mr Brett’s farm and its 180 cows have been named among the nation’s best in the 2018 Dairy Australia Milk Quality Awards.

The awards recognise farms which have achieved the best milk quality based on annual average bulk milk cell count (BMCC) across Australia’s milk processing companies.

A low cell count is an indicator that mastitis is well controlled in the herd, improving milk production, cow health and welfare.

Mr Brett said the health of his herd was his top priority and he felt great satisfaction knowing his cows were in good shape.

He said milk quality was also about ensuring sound, consistent milking practices and the ability to monitor the whole herd to stay on top of emerging issues.

“I focus on health and make sure we’re feeding the cows well. We do herd recording every month which is very helpful and gives you a sense of how your herd’s going.

“I can have a cell count of 40,000 one day and it can spike to 200,000 the next if a cow gets mastitis. A lot of people say if you’ve got a small farm, you have it easier. But you’ve still got to stay on top of it.

“We’ve got filters we use to check every cow and we check them all for mastitis. We also have our machines serviced every year and check them ourselves thoroughly every six months to make sure they remain in good condition.

“Attention to detail is the most important thing – once you achieve high milk quality, it’s easier to maintain,” Mr Brett explained.

The farm’s continued best practice approach and success has also been assisted by Dairy Australia’s Cups On Cups Off course and its Countdown resources.

The two-day training course is delivered by Regional Development Programs and trained experts in mastitis and milk quality. They help dairy farmers achieve best practice in milk harvesting, with emphasis on the detection, treatment and prevention of clinical mastitis.

Mr Brett said he had read the Countdown resources and the recommended practices were perfect for his farm.

“Our farming practice is in line with the Cups On Cups Off theory. We are always looking to make improvements so our milk quality stays consistent,” he said.

“I employ a full-time staff member now and even though he’s had experience on a much larger farm, I’ll be encouraging him to take the course and see what more he can learn.”

Mr Brett and his family hope that other farms embrace best practices in their milking routines for the benefit of the entire industry and future generations.

“This farm has been in my family for more than 100 years. It’s always been in my blood. I helped the old man out whenever I could when I was a little guy,” he said.

“High milk quality is important to the whole industry and helps tell our story. If we can keep our milk quality high, it means the industry has a brighter future.”

To register for the next round of Cups On Cups Off courses, contact your local RDP.

Background: Data for the Australian Milk Quality Awards is supplied to Dairy Australia by dairy companies across the country. To be eligible, dairy farms must have data for a minimum of nine months in a calendar year. Monthly averages are then used to calculate the annual average BMCC for each farm.

A Dairy Australia analysis found a farmer milking 300 cows who lowers their BMCC from 300,000 to 200,000 would be financially better off to the tune of $35,700 per year.

For further information and interview: Contact Jessica Andony, Western Dairy Research and Extension Officer, M: 0435 174 719,

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