DAMIEN and Brooke Cocker are a perfect example of what can be achieved through dairy share farming.
The winners of this year’s Tasmanian Share Dairy Farmers of the Year last week talked about their experiences at a field day near Sheffield.
The couple, who have three daughters, have been share-farming at Rushy Lagoon for the past five years.
Their hard work and dedication has helped them reach their long-term goal of farm ownership.
They bought a 106ha property at Sheffield 12 months ago. and the plan is to start milking 250 cows there when the new season kicks off in August.
Mr Cocker said share-farming had given them the opportunity to build enough equity to purchase their own farm.
At Rushy Lagoon they have been farming on two properties, the 320ha Cinderella Dai-ry and the 320ha Cygnus dairy.
Between the two the couple are managing about 1650 cows.
The Cinderella dairy runs a herd of 850 spring-calving cows while Cygnus has 550 autumn-calving cows and 200 spring-calving cows.
The Cockers operate on a payment system of cents per kilogram of milk solids.
Mrs Cocker is in charge of calf rearing, which has been an important part of their growth strategy by rearing extra dairy heifers each year.
She reared up to 500 calves a year to help them build up stock numbers.
“That’s what it was all about, so we put a big emphasis on rearing extra stock and there was the capacity to do that at Rushy,” Mr Cocker said.
During their time there they also managed to make significant improvements, including boosting overall production by 40 per cent.
They lifted production on both farms from 381,180kg of milk solids to 626,386kg.
One of the ways they achieved this was by focusing on their pasture feed base.
“Probably pasture utilisation is a key up there,” he said.
“Irrigation is another thing, there’s a lot of wind so in the summer time it can be challenging watering.”
Pasture utilisation in 2017- 2018 averaged 9.6 tonnes of dry matter a hectare and made up 79 per cent of the herd’s diet.
Mr Cocker started as an apprentice with Charleston Brothers at Wilmot in 1998. and went on to work at Rushy Lagoon and following that for Grant Archer at Mella.
He then took a break from the dairy industry before returning in 20013 when they took up at Rushy Lagoon.
The couple said they found the benchmarking program through DairyTas highly valuable.