GLENN Dalton doesn't buy cows.
He and wife Mandy run a closed herd, milking up to 160 cows, at Nullawarre in Western Victoria.
- AT A GLANCE
- Who: Glenn Dalton
- What: dairy
- Why: a focus on breeding
- Where: Nullawarre, Victoria
But a few years ago a cow family came through the sale ring at the Camperdown Stars of the West sale that prompted him to bid.
"We had some Donantes in the herd and I liked her family history. I (also) bid on some of the Goldwyns out of the same dam," Glenn said.
Securing Donante 3935 as a yearling for $2000, Glenn was convinced that, with her breeding history, she could "easily be one of (their) 10-12-year-old cows".
In her second lactation, Donante 3935 was crowned the inaugural Noorat and Warrnambool Agricultural Societies' ABS on-farm challenge winner from a field of 183.
A "no-fuss, no-bother cow", she easily sits in the top five in the couple's registered herd.
"She is extremely quiet and one of those cows that is just a dream to milk," Glenn said.
"I'm looking forward to her getting a little more body depth through this and into her next lactation."
Donante 3935 produced 752kg of milk solids in her second lactation across 305 days.
In the 154 days of her current lactation, she has produced 447kg, or 6928 litres.
With her "wonderful feet and legs and awesome udder", she is on track to be the type of cow the Daltons want - one that lasts.
"There's no point using really high-milking bulls with a high-milking cow and she breaks down," Glenn said.
"We try to keep cows until they are 10-12 years old."
"She only pays for herself after two lactations," Mandy added. "If you keep her for only three, she only pays for one."
It has been eight years since the couple returned to Glenn's parents Bruce and Merle's farm.
"We only planned to come back for 12 months to help them out, (but) after 12 months we started buying the herd," Mandy said.
With children Hayley, Georgia and Toby, Glenn and Mandy now own the herd under their own Glenanda registration and lease the farm.
Focusing on breeding has enabled Glenn to shape the herd as he wants it, and indulge his passion for trying to breed "the perfect cow".
"I love both sides (of farming) but, just getting up and milking cows, I would be really bored and uninterested," he said.
"This Donante one, for example, she had a Windbrook calf her first calving and it's looking really nice as a calf, not that you can tell (properly) until she's got an udder, but she looks really nice.
"Looking at the dam, while you are milking them you know who they are in calf to or who they have calved to and you can really picture what they might be like.
"I look at the cow and think 'that bull will fix that but maybe be weak in that'. It's not an exact science - something can go wrong and something can go really, really wrong."
"But sometimes you get it right," Mandy said.
Glenn has moved away from Avonlea bulls his parents would use and Glenn uses a variety of sires from many resellers, with a focus on balance.
"We had to concentrate on their rumps. A lot of them had high pins, as well as (poor) feet and legs and rear udders," Glenn said.
"A lot of the cows weren't very wide. They would be pear-shaped in the udder with not great rear udder height.
"The cows had great capacity and good front-end and we made sure we kept that."
Last year the herd was joined to sires such as Reginald, Bolton and some genomic bulls, Meteor, Calibre and Exactor.
The Daltons have a dozen Donantes in their herd.
"They are good natured animals, quiet to milk and very quick to milk," Glenn said.
"The biggest milker at the last herd test - she is a third-calver now - you'd think she had done 30-35 litres but you look at her herd test and it will be in the 50s (litres), she milks so quickly," he said.
This year he is looking forward to seeing his Windbrook progeny - "a lot of them are in my really good cows".
Glenn and Mandy milk and run all the young stock across 125ha, including 21ha of irrigation. They like to make sure the herd is well fed.
Milkers receive 6kg/day of Ridley premium pellets through the dairy, as well as silage and summer crops such as rape and turnips in the warmer months.
The summer feed breakdown includes about 10kg/of silage/cow/day and 10kg/of irrigated grass/cow/day.
Business expansion is limited because of the size of the farm and the couple do most of the work themselves.
While they have concerns about the future of small dairy farmers, as well as prices - "to make a good fist of it in this business you need 40-42 cents a litre" - going big won't be an option.
"If it is not profitable with a 160-cow herd, we would just sell," Glenn said.
"Our cows are between 9000-10,000 litres. If that stays profitable (we will stay).
"We've got some 12,00014,000-litre cows - you have got two cows in one and you only have to feed them as much as one cow.
"That's where genetics and breeding comes into it.
"Obviously, they eat more than a small crossbred, (but) ... a well-bred cow fed well produces more."