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Posted on May 06, 2024

SA family launches into its future with high-tech dairy setup

After 40 years, a South Australian-owned dairy has reached its ultimate goal of investing into an advanced new rotary system with a capacity to pump through 1500 cows a day.

Amdena Farms at Mount Compass, SA, has set it sights on milking 700 Jersey cows through the system, twice a day.

Dairy owner Rob Brokenshire, along with his wife Mandy and farm manager son, Nick, made the decision to invest in their business to concrete a long-term future for the family.

About 40 years ago, Rob Brokenshire began building the dairy from the ground up.

"We have spent decades building up the land holding to eventually increase cow numbers and production, to build a new dairy," he said.

"After all this time, it has finally come to fruition."

Aside from last-minute curveballs of rising interest rates and inflation during the critical planning stages, Mr Brokenshire said the process of reaching a decision to build the new dairy was challenging but rewarding.

"Building up cow numbers in the old dairy meant we were working over capacity and this was a challenge for the milking team," he said.

But, with a plan to have consistent cow numbers in the new dairy by next year, the team had to push through to keep striving for the goal of 700 head.

The Brokenshire's have switched from a herringbone system to the new 70-bay DeLaval rotary, which can lower labour requirements and water consumption, along with faster cow exiting, and milking up to 15 litres a minute.

The rotary is designed for speed and productivity, and has a 1.5 cow wide entry for faster loading, and Mr Brokenshire hoped to milk a minimum of 350 cows an hour.

The Swedish design helps to promote a calm milking herd for optimal production and with Mr Brokenshire delivering about 6000 to 7000 litres of milk a year per cow, this was another attractive outcome of the new system.

The Brokenshires are one of nine dairies supplying Fleurieu Milk Company and with SA's goal to produce an additional 200 million litres of milk, this was another reason for building the high-tech system.

"We reached the decision on the new dairy after asking ourselves where did we see the dairy industry in the mid to long-term future. After a lot of research we saw a strong future and the answer was yes, let's make this investment," Mr Brokenshire said.

"This does not mean there won't be good and bad years, that is farming, but we decided had to grow and not remain in the same place."

After choosing a path of growth, the family completed an analysis on robot technology versus a high-tech rotary.

And, for the Brokenshire's, a rotary suited their farm setup.

"We undertook a feasibility study before seeking planning approvals. It was paramount to the ultimate decision of going ahead with it," Mr Brokenshire said.

"Had the study not stacked up, we would not have gone ahead with it."

After two revisions of the study, the decision was made and the rotary model was chosen because its tech and back up from the company was "first class".

"It is a really important part to consider in an investment such as this," Mr Brokenshire said.

"We needed the best technology available for this dairy and we believe we have found it."

The family has set firm goals off the back of the big investment - increase profitability, production and work/life balance, and help provide a solid financial living for its milking team.

"We want to contribute to the industry to ensure it is sustainable. We are also trying to meet the calls for more milk supply by investing in this new system," Mr Brokenshire said.

"It is one of our main goals to be part of a growing dairy industry."

To other dairy producers contemplating a large-scale investment such as a new dairy, Mr Brokenshire urged producers to look at the rewards down the track.

"Of course there will be challenges and it is hard work but there are big reward. Despite the dairy sector being a hardworking intense industry, working with cows and producing food for SA and export is an ultimate reward," he said.

"It is about encouraging particularly younger people to look at the dairy industry as a long-term opportunity."