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Withnell Dairy Company

Withnell Dairy Company case study

Automation and computerisation keeps the company on the cutting edge of dairy farming.

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.

Smart tagging

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.

Niche market

“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.

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as financial product advice. Agri Insights canvassed 1,405 Australian farmers about their intentions for their farm enterprise over the coming 12 months, as well as the past 12 months. We spoke to a representative sample of rural producers across Australia. Fieldwork was executed by Fairfax Agricultural Research and Marketing using its database of more than 100,000 rural producers, and the research was managed by Kynetec. Calls were conducted in September 2017. Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 AFSL and Australian credit licence 234945.