Dairy farming means family and smart business for Grant and Jane Sherborne. After the two eldest Sherborne children left school and joined the business, Grant focussed on diversifying the strategies used on their farm at Burrawang, NSW to leverage the diverse skills that his family brings to the table.
Grant’s wife Jane has served on the Dairy NSW Board of Directors for the past four years and Chairman for the past two years. Jane manages the farm records and accounts, but her passion lies in rearing top-quality calves; both male and female. Their daughter Georgia has a full-time position operating and overseeing the milking procedure, as well as the running of the dairy computer system, including recording all herd events. William, the older of their two sons, specialises in pasture management, irrigation and stock feed requirements. Samuel, who has just finished school, helps out wherever he can, lending his great eye for detail and natural aptitude for farming to the team.
“It’s an advantage to us, having the kids come into the business with a fresh perspective and new ideas,” Grant said.
“It’s important for farmers to always be willing to diversify and forever be willing to change to improve practices. Having the kids take on more on-farm responsibility has also freed me up to do a little more off-farm to support the industry.”
Two years ago, Grant updated their 20-a-side swing-over dairy to include Automatic Disinfectant Flushing (ADF) cups, DeLaval milk meters, a computer system with DeLaval scanners that read the NLIS tags, individual milk meters, individual cow recording, and conductivity meters for detecting mastitis before it develops.
The dairy currently milks 300 cows, with plans to calve 340-345 this coming year. The Sherbornes’ short-term aim is to produce a bit over 2.5 million litres and eventually build up to 3 million. Rather than selling bobby calves at low value, the Sherbornes raise all bull calves into steers, running them on their semi-feedlot 4km down the road, until they reach production targets to meet market requirements, with some going into premium MSA grade beef.
The Sherborne family have also been working with Neil Moss from the Scibus program (through DFMC) to boost herd and farm production, through improved pasture and reproductive management. A nutrient mapping program enables them to reuse all the effluent from the dairy, feed pad and calf shed in the right places.
“We go for a drive with Neil to look at things on the farm and he doesn’t ask too much of me, but he really challenges the kids on what they’re doing,” Grant said.
The Sherborne farm featured in Dairy NSW and Dairy Australia’s Project 20:20 Pathways to Change. Grant and Jane are also heavily involved in Dairy Australia’s Cows Create Careers, taking calves into high schools to demonstrate how well they are looked after and educating students on what is involved in milk production, as well as taking on work placement students throughout the year, and welcoming school excursions on-farm to see how the cows are milked, fed and handled.
“The way our cows are treated can be different from what they’ve read or been told. Hopefully we’ll see a correlation between this education and graduates deciding to investigate a career in dairy – or at least have a deeper understanding of what we do.”
Grant is a long-serving member of DFMC, beginning with the original Dairy Farmers Co-Op. In 2002 he became a Ward Representative, in 2010 a Central and Southern NSW District Chair, and in 2013 a Board Director. Grant says his role as a director is to be a voice for farmers, so they can focus on their job.
“I’ve always thought the reason DFMC exists is to do all of the negotiating and the policy making that is beyond the farm gate, because if individual farmers have to run around negotiating a price or getting the best deal, they’re losing effectiveness on-farm,” Grant said.
“Today’s farmers have to specialise in what they’re doing, and that’s producing great milk.”
As far as the challenges currently facing industry, Grant says “Sometimes challenges are exactly that: they are challenges. They make you re-evaluate the situation and make necessary changes; often bringing out the best in you and your business.”
“We’ve been encouraged to make a few improvements and become more focused and efficient. I can give examples of our better nutrient applications and better pasture growth, and how the development of our dairy steers has become integral to our business – these are changes that we made because of the challenges we faced.”