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Longevity breeds long-term success

Markus Lang never wanted his herd to be an overnight sensation or a one-hit wonder, instead he’s enjoying the long-term benefits of his 2,000 VikingHolstein cows in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley, Australia.

Improved longevity has changed the focus of his Tatura farm in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley, allowing it to reduce the number of replacements and build a more profitable milking herd and an extra income stream.

Since moving to VikingGenetics more than a decade ago, the compounding effects of breeding several generations of cows with strong health traits from a reliable and strong data set are reflected in the healthy and robust herd.

Even with 2000 mostly Holstein cows at the Tatura farm, they don’t need to run a sick herd and the number of replacements continues to dwindle every year, easing staffing requirements and cutting costs.

“When you think about it, there’s definite change happening,” Markus says. “Improved longevity has absolutely changed our focus for the better.”

A prosperous family dairy business

Lang Dairies was established when Markus’ parents Werner and Josie arrived in Australia from Switzerland in 1982, settling at Tatura with 50 hectares and 90 cows.

Markus and his brother Phil took over management of the business in 2015, while Werner and Josie continue as active farmers.

They now operate as one business spread across three farms and 1500 hectares, sharing resources and machinery and employing five full-time staff and three part-timers.

The breeding success has allowed Markus and Phil to change and improve their business model, protecting it from variables such as feed costs and labour availability.

“We’ve noticed a big difference in our business with the improvements that have happened since we’ve been using VikingGenetics,” Markus said.

“Due the quality of stock we’re breeding, we’re needing less replacements, we are down to around 17 per cent replacement rate”, he says.

“The animals we breed survive longer in the herd because they perform better so we don’t have reasons to replace them. Better longevity means we can get away with a small portion of our total herd being young stock.”

Improving in all possible areas

The improved fertility, longevity and health has a positive impact on their business and profit.

“Because we don’t need as many replacements, the larger proportion of our total herd are milking animals. This improves the total business feed efficiency and come tough times when feed is expensive, more of the feed we grow, and purchase is going towards making milk rather than growing out young stock. We are becoming more self-sufficient with our forage needs.”

Beef on dairy – already a practice

The breeding success has also opened a new revenue source with Lang Dairies adding beef to the mix.

“Rather than going down the export heifer market we’ve moved more towards beef so we’ve got the option of going either way, depending on the market,” Markus said.

The shift has protected the business from the impacts of COVID on labour and international markets.

“We know the domestic beef market is booming and it means we don’t have to worry about the international market, but it’s also helpful from the labour point of view,” Markus said.

“A number of backpackers went home so we were tight for staff, which has been an industry-wide problem. We were able to focus on our main job of milking and feeding cows while cutting down on things less important to the business.

“All our beef calves went at a week, but now we’re back to a full team we’ve got the option of doing more with those beef animals.”

Markus said beef remained a sideline and wouldn’t detract from the dairy business, “but it’s another string to our bow made possible by the fertility, longevity and health of the herd”.

He continues to enjoy the cows created through VikingGenetics.

“We’re breeding a moderate-sized cow that is robust and has longevity which better suits what we’re trying to achieve,” he says.

“A breeding goal for us is to have an easy-to-manage herd and an easy-to-manage system and that takes the stress out of running the business.”

We’ve noticed a big difference in our business with the improvements that have happened since we’ve been using VikingGenetics.

Facts of the farm

  • Size: 1,500Ha
  • Herd: 2,000 Holsteins
  • Average production litres per cow: 6,800
  • Fat: 4.41%
  • Protein: 3.47%
  • Kg/MS: 536
Read more about VikingHolstein

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