NSW DPI Dairy Newsletter 

Issue 19

Independent, reliable, accurate and up-to-date information on all topics dairy-related, with a strong focus on farm business management and precision farming technology for the Australian dairy industry.

In this issue: 

From the Editor

Nicolas Lyons
Dr Nicolas Lyons is the Leader Dairy within the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

Contact Nicolas Lyons

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Purpose of this newsletter

This newsletter is a regular communication to provide the Australian dairy industry with a reference source for independent, reliable, accurate and up-to-date information on all topics dairy-related, with a strong focus on farm business management, precision farming technology and robotic milking. 

To access previous editions refer to the Dairy section of the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

Contact us if you have any particular topics or information you would like included in future issues of this newsletter.

NSW DPI Dairy unit update

2019-20 NSW Dairy Farm Monitor Project (by Sheena Carter)

Dairy farm monitor project reportThirty-five farms (including nine new farms) participated in the 2019-20 NSW Dairy Farm Monitor Project, a joint initiative between Dairy Australia and NSW DPI that provides a comprehensive physical and financial analysis of dairy farm businesses.

Last year was the third year of drought for many that saw:

  - exceptionally high purchased feed prices with concentrates at $555/t DM and hay $407/t DM on average,
  - the most amount of purchased feed fed to herds in the NSW DFMP since it started in NSW nine years ago, the North farms averaged 45% imported feed in the diet and the South farms saw an average of 53%,
  - 3 % decrease in State milk production to 1.04 billion litres,
  - reduced herd numbers,
  - drastic water shortages (not just for irrigation but for stock),
  - devastating bushfires and then,
  - Covid-19

Figure showing farm profitability figures
Despite these enormous challenges the 35 farms in the NSW DFMP project saw an average operating profit (or EBIT, Earnings Before Interest and Tax) of $1.05/kg MS, up from $0.38/kg MS in the 2018-19 financial year.

This translates to a Return on Total Assets managed (or ROTA) of 2.7% (compared to 0.7% in 2018-19). The graph below shows the performance for milk income and return on total assets for the North and South farms over the last 9 years. 

Figure showing milk price and return on total assets

These results were primarily driven by an increase in average milk price for the year across the monitored farms to $8.88/kg MS (up 14.7% on the previous financial year). This increase was mainly due to the combined effects of prolonged drought and therefore strong competition for milk supply amongst processors. Government support in the form of transport subsidies for fodder also provided some assistance in helping to reduce the cost of purchased feed and for several participants affected by bushfires, the bushfire recovery grants were also very welcome.  

Cost of production (COP, which includes cash, non-cash and inventory change values) was the highest in the 9 years of DFMP in NSW, averaging $8.91/kg MS. There are notable differences in COP between the North and South farms in the project, being $9.82/kg MS (71.3 c/l) and $7.95/kgMS (59.6 c/l) respectively. Obviously feed costs played a large part in this with the continued high prices and large quantities of purchased feed being fed resulting in total feed costs in the North averaging $4.91/kg MS (35.6 c/l) and in the South $4.67/kg MS (35.1 c/l). 

Thankfully, autumn and early winter saw the return of fantastic rain in most areas of the State which was timely for pasture renovation as well as hay and silage making, more so in the North than in the South. This also meant more homegrown feed in the diet and the softening of prices for purchased concentrate and fodder. 

While many businesses will still require time to rebuild, having experienced severe cash flow challenges and a reduction in equity over the last few years, farmer sentiment was certainly positive at the time of data collection with 97% expecting their profits to improve or remain stable, so we look forward to seeing what the 2010-21 results will bring!  

For a full copy of the latest NSW DFMP Annual report or to access previous reports, please visit Dairy Australia’s website

A series of workshops were held across the State back in December 2020 together with DairyNSW and Subtropical Dairy to share the key findings of the project. Later that month there was also a webinar for those that couldn’t make it to one of those face to face events. The recordings of ‘NSW DFMP results presentation (Sheena Carter from NSW DPI Dairy)’ and ‘Case study on performance of different farm systems in NSW (Jake Musson from Dairy Australia)’ are now available! 

              Sheena Carter's Presentation       Jake Musson's Presentation

For more information about the NSW Dairy Farm Monitor Project, please contact Sheena Carter.

New NSW DPI Dairy team members! 

The dairy team are excited to introduce the two new Development Officers appointed to assist the existing team deliver current and future projects that will continue to support a profitable, resilient and sustainable NSW dairy industry. 

 Zita Ritchie - Development Officer Dairy based in Wollongbar, NSW 

Zita RitchieZita brings with her a wealth of knowledge, passion and experience having worked throughout the dairy industry in both Australia and overseas.

Her areas of expertise include farm business management, group facilitation and training, and climate risk management in the dairy sector. She holds a Bachelor of Animal Science from the University of Sydney and a Masters of International and Community Development from Deakin University. Her previous roles include five years with Agriculture Victoria as a dairy extension officer and five years working internationally in dairy development in Indonesia, Pakistan and the Philippines including work with the United Nations in Ethiopia in Food Security. Welcome Zita to the NSW DPI Dairy team!

Contact Zita Ritchie.


Juan Gargiulo - Development Officer Dairy based in Camden, NSW    Juan Gargiulo

Juan needs little introduction, as he has been a member of the Milking Edge team for several years now! 

Juan holds a Bachelor of Agricultural Science and a postgraduate degree in Dairy Science from Universities in Argentina. He is also currently completing his PhD at The University of Sydney looking at investigations into the applications and impacts of automation in pasture-based dairy systems.

Juan is passionate about the dairy industry, and holds a strong understanding of dairy systems, milk quality and farm performance. It is great to have Juan formally join the NSW DPI Dairy team!  

Contact Juan Gargiulo

Tori Alexander – Project Officer Dairy Robotic Milking based in Camden, NSW 

Tori Alexander

Tori joins the Milking Edge project team as a Project Officer Dairy Robotic Milking in a part-time role (2 days per week) in a job-shared agreement with Jess Bell.

Tori holds a Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Bioscience and a PhD in Veterinary Science at Sydney University where she focused on feed-based management strategies and cow behaviour within pasture-based robotic milking systems.  Tori previously worked for Dairy NSW, and since graduating from her studies has been working at EMAI within the Animal Biosecurity division. Welcome Tori! 

Contact Tori Alexander.

Contact us for anything related to dairy in NSW!

Milking Edge project update

AMSmoko (AMS + Smoko!)

AMSmoko flyer

These are virtual catchups between a Milking Edge team member and either an AMS farmer, or a knowledgeable industry stakeholder such as a service provider or researcher.

They are held live on our NSW DPI Dairy Facebook Page and remain available for viewing at any time! Find our past AMSmoko's here.

Reach out! Who would you like to hear from in our upcoming AMSmoko editions?  VOTE NOW (select one of the options below!):

   - Australian AMS Farmers
   - International AMS Farmers
   - Service providers working with AMS farmers
   - Researcher focusing on AMS


Online AMS information modules

As part of Milking Edge we are producing a series of online AMS information modules that cover different farm management areas. These are a great resource for farmers considering investing in AMS, those looking at working on AMS farms or those that have decided to adopt AMS! The modules are all free and online, with over 130 people enrolling so far! Explore them now!

Milking Edge modules
Six modules are currently available and include: 

  • AMS Generalities that includes history, progression and adoption of the technology, the key concepts and major differences with conventional milking systems. 
  • Reproductive performance in AMS, that covers the main management practices for reproduction in an AMS farm including heat detection, mating and breeding.
  • Incentive management in AMS, provides an insight into all the factors that you can manage on-farm to encourage voluntary cow traffic in AMS (pasture-based or indoors!). 
  • Milk quality and animal health in AMS covers the factors that impact milk quality and herd health including cleaning of the dairy and equipment, cooling, monitoring through the use of sensors, and some key examples of what farmers are achieving in this space. 
  • AMS labour and farm routines module covers the principles behind labour and farm routines, including those tasks that don’t change much, those that change how you do them, those you will not have to do anymore, and the new and different tasks. It describes what a day might look like and some AMS farm case studies.
  • AMS infrastructure and layout describes the processes and options involved in setting up an AMS farm whether this is from a greenfield site or a retrofit of an existing dairy, both pasture-based and indoors. It includes things such as farm layout, laneways, gates, robot area and treatment facilities.  

The last two modules (Assessing system performance and Economics) are soon to be released! 

Explore the Online AMS Information modules


First ever AMS training course! 

AMS training flyer

In line with the online modules, Milking Edge is now seeking expressions of interest (EOI) for Australia’s first ever AMS training course! The course is a combination of theory and practical learning and will be delivered through both face to face and online platforms wherever possible. It will be based on the online modules, but coupled with practical learnings from AMS farmers and industry experts. 

Submit your EOI today or contact Jess Bell for more information.  


University lectures and projects available!

Get in touch if you are a University or student interested in AMS
If you are a Australian university lecturer or student interested in automatic milking, we are keen to share our knowledge with you and help shape projects in this exciting area of dairy farming.

We can visit you or you can spend some time with us!

Please get in touch to discuss about this!

Know anyone interested in robotic milking? Please refer them to us!

For more information about Milking Edge or AMS, please contact Dr Nicolas Lyons.
Contact us if you have a question about robotic milking!

AMS: Ask the expert

The Online AMS Community is where you can find peer-reviewed articles on history and type of robots, labour and lifestyle, managing heat stress, unsuccessful milking and decision trees for mastitis. We are also working on articles on international update on AMS, commissioning and training animals, cow welfare and KPI data. 

Please continue to help us build this knowledge base, so don’t hesitate to ‘Ask the Experts’.

Explore more topics on the Online AMS Community

Industry news

Understanding Australian dairy farm investments


Dairy shedAccording to a survey conducted in 2015, 74% of dairy milking sheds were commissioned 10+ years ago (51% commissioned 15+ years ago) and 60% of dairies had not had a significant upgrade within the past 5 years.  

The same might be true for other investment areas such as land, farm, plant, animals, or buildings. 

We want to understand where dairy farmers are investing their capital on farm, and gain insights into areas of priority investment within the dairy business. 

The survey is targeted at Australian farm owners or managers (decision makers) and should take you less than 5 minutes to answer. 

Access the survey here 👉 

For more information, please feel free to contact Dr Nicolas Lyons.  

Tocal Dairy Business Report

Our Dairy Business Advisory Unit has been working closely with the dairy team at Tocal Agricultural College to produce a monthly report that provides some of the key metrics in farm business management that can be used when planning and reviewing the impact of marginal and tactical decisions on farm. 

There are two broad components to the report: 

  • A daily Margin Over Supplementary Feed (MOSFC) cost per cow – this figure is driven by many factors in the business including milk price, supplementary feed price, amount of supplement fed and responses to this supplement, grazed pasture quality, ‘freshness’ of the herd and the list goes on! 

  • A monthly snapshot of performance in terms of milk production, average bulk milk somatic cell count, dietary composition, fertiliser use and cost, rainfall and irrigation and monitoring of herd days in milk. 

The report is produced at the end of each month and released in the first couple of weeks of the following month. To access the latest reports as well as previous ones, please visit the Tocal Agriculture College website.  

 Tocal dairy business report sample

For more information on the Tocal Dairy Business Report please contact Sheena Carter

Essential support for dairy farmers

Dairy NSW is offering access to essential dairy support for your business! You can access a trained consultant to assist you to implement the standard chart of accounts for dairy businesses, get your financial data into Dairy Base for analysis or support you in creating business plans, budgets and more. This program is funded by the NSW DPI Dairy Business Advisory Unit as a way of providing support for dairy farmers to improve their business management.

To find out more about how to access this support contact:

Carly Potts          (Dairy NSW Program Manager)                M: 0455 227 707
Sheena Carter    (NSW DPI Development Officer)                M: 0488 277 133


Robotic rotary parlours gain momentum in the U.S (by GEA Australia)

GEA Dairy Pro QGEA’s DairyProQ milking parlour is capable of milking up to 400 cows per hour with one operator.

The automated milking trend continues to tick upwards in the U.S. since GEA introduced the first fully automated robotic rotary parlour, DairyProQ, in 2015 since then installations have quickly gained momentum. More than 12,000 cows are milking in the U.S. using DairyProQ robotic rotary parlours.
Each milking stall is equipped with a robotic module that attaches the teat cups and then cleans, stimulates, fore-strips, milks, and post-dips each quarter, individually, for maximum efficiency.
“Robotic rotary parlours give dairy farmers the efficiency of rotary parlours with the consistency of robotic milking,” says Matt Daley, Senior Vice President of Sales, Milking and Dairy Farming for GEA North America.

“The ability to essentially lock in labour costs for the future is driving these early adopters to choose the DairyProQ.” 

GEA’s DairyProQ is available in configurations from 28-80 robotic stalls and can milk up to 400 cows per hour with just one operator.

Get a tour of GEAs most recent USA DairyProQ installation here.

For more information please contact Brian Monteith (Product Manager AMS Australia at GEA) or visit GEA’s website

Calendar and upcoming events

2021 DairySA Central Conference

DairySA together with the Central Conference Reference Committee are thrilled to be presenting the 2021 DairySA Central Conference in March, to be held at McCracken Country Club Victor Harbor. 

The program will be bracketed into consecutive sessions addressing a range of themes - from delving into the ‘inside story’ of milk processors, their plans for the future and how they will sustain supplier confidence, ‘Investing in the Farm’ – understanding alternative funding options and what we can learn from corporatisation, through to Regenerative ag and its role in dairy, and emerging technologies- what do they look like at the farm gate? Don't miss this opportunity to network with dairyfarmers, colleagues, service providers, milk processors and other key industry members at one of the most highly anticipated dairy events of the year. 

Dr Nicolas Lyons, Leader Dairy with NSW DPI and Project Leader for Milking Edge will be talking about ‘Robotic milking: expectations vs reality’ and ‘Big Tech: what’s next for dairy?’. 

To purchase tickets please visit DairySA website or for more information please contact Beck Burgess on 0438 262 966.  

2021 Precision Dairy Farming Conderence U.S (June 22-23rd 2021)

This year, the Precision Dairy Conference will be held virtually for those unable to travel to Minnesota USA. The focus for the conference is on milking and feeding automation, precision cow and herd management, data integration, future of dairy technology, and a research update. 
More details can be found at 

Online AMS farmer showcase!

In a similar format to the R&D showcase last year, we will be hosting a more farmer specific showcase this year. Highlighting the diversity and the unique management and systems utilising AMS. The idea is to showcase different farmers, that operate different farm systems and what they are achieving.

We are looking forward to demonstrating each farmer's own way...

My way graphic

Call to action

Register your interest in the AMS Training Course!

Enrol in and complete available Milking Edge modules

Like the NSW DPI Dairy Facebook Page

Explore the online AMS community

Further resources 

For more information on anything related to dairy in NSW or for specific information on precision farming and robotic milking systems, please contact Nicolas Lyons, Leader Dairy with NSW DPI (0401 650 073;

NSW DPI Dairy's website:

Milking Edge Project:

Milking Edge Online AMS Information Modules:

Online AMS Community:

FutureDairy Project:

Commercial companies offering AMS in Australia:

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