What’s happening on farm with Emma Liersch

Emma Liersch. 03 April 2024 10:23 PM

Many of the Fonterra Australia Suppliers’ Council (FASC) team were here a few weeks ago, and they saw Tasmania was very dry, with much of the state being declared in drought and desperate for the autumn break.

It was a relief to get some rain over Easter but a lot more would be very welcome. Before this, the northwest coast has been struggling through the heat and unseasonable strong, hot winds, compounding the dry conditions. The cows were starting to show the effects with most farmers reporting quickly dropping milk production. The poor-quality silage made last year is just not cutting it for many herds.


The Bass Highway to Circular Head is starting to look like a truck parking lot with the amounts of hay and silage coming into the area. The feed budgets are starting to blow out and there will be many farms feeling the pinch. Much of the talk at the pub is about alternate milking schedules, how to get culls into the abattoirs and early dry off dates. I would expect without a good, and early spring break, the milk production is going to drop more than expected.

Our farm is doing well, but it is tight. We recently increased our herd to 550 this year and have split our herd into two, with our first lactation heifers and thin cows in the second herd. It worked very well, and we were really impressed with how well they looked and maintained their BCS. This was rewarded with a 6% empty rate at the preg test and were positioned well for next year. Like most of the farmers in the area, our summer fodder crops have just finished. Faced with limited irrigated grass, and dry land doing absolutely nothing, we have swapped our second herd onto once a day, to save the feed we have, and hopefully keep the heifer’s condition.  

The big news at our place is that we have installed virtual fencing collars by Halter. These are collars that can help with virtual fencing, encouraging cattle to return themselves to the dairy or a new paddock, health data collection and identification. We have only had them for the past couple of weeks and are in the training stage. I am constantly surprised by how intelligent cows are, and when given a routine, how quickly they will learn something. The hardest part about training them so far, has been training the humans to leave the correct gates open. Apparently, it goes against every fiber of our “farmer brains” to leave the gates open.

It was wonderful to have the Fonterra Australia Suppliers’ Council (FASC) and Fonterra staff down in Devonport for the Autumn Conference. I hope they all enjoyed visiting our beautiful corner of the world.


For me, a highlight was the farm visits, particularly getting out onto Damien and Brooke Cocker's place and hearing more about their journey. It’s impressive seeing just how much they have achieved in such a short period of time. As a couple still working towards farm ownership, to hear and see a success story was fantastic.

The Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) offered another fascinating afternoon. Looking at the urea trials and the effect mixed pasture species can have on that was very interesting, although I’m not sure I’m ready to cut out the N just yet. Let’s see what happens when 80% of swath is not clover and see what happens then.

Also at the Conference, we worked through EverAg Insights’ report of the predicted outcomes from changing milk pools and the dairy industry as a whole in Australia. It was an enlightening, if a little overwhelming, exercise. It changed much of what I had inherently thought about the health and direction of dairy industry, but it has also lit a fire in my belly to help lift and shape this industry.



Emma Liersch is a Councillor on the Fonterra Australia Suppliers’ Council (FASC), representing suppliers in Tasmania. She’s based near Smithton in the far northwest of Tasmania. You can read more about Emma’s background and find her contact details by clicking here.