John Tindall, the patriarch of the Withnell Dairy Company in south-western Victoria, always keeps an eye on the latest technology.
“We’re early adopters,” he says. “We’ve been steadily investing in technology over the past 25 years. If there’s something that looks useful and it’s profitable, we’ll invest.”
John is currently looking at some of the latest automated heat detection technology to tell him the best time to inseminate his cows. He’s also interested in virtual fencing, an innovation using GPS that allows a farmer to control the location of livestock without the need for an actual fence.
The company has a 50-unit rotary dairy with computerised feeding.
“The computers feed each cow to her production level,” John says.
The operation also uses a smart tagging system that monitors each cow’s real-time milk production and mastitis status plus lifetime health, production and breeding information.
“We’re investing in as much automation and computerisation as we can. It reduces pressure to find labour in an environment where it can be hard to come by.”
The company has also expanded into wagyu beef.
“Next door was for sale so I went to have a sticky at it,” John says. “The agent started talking about the returns from wagyu. I thought about it and bought it. It’s a niche market. Beef prices are at a historical high, but wagyu won’t drop as much when they inevitably fall,” John says.
More recently, the family has invested in an agronomist who is trialling different grasses at the property to see which is the most suitable for this dryland farm.
With a constant eye to the future, the business also has a grain consultant who is helping it invest in the market.
“We’re dabbling in grain futures, mainly as insurance for the next drought,” John says.