Gippsland dairy farmers are sharing their plans to cope with a feed gap, ahead of what is forecast to be a hot and dry summer.

Many areas of west and south Gippsland missed out on significant spring rain, with some farmers already feeding cows silage, weeks ahead of schedule.

At Rob and Jenny Marshall’s Lardner dairy farm, near Warragul in eastern Victoria, the rolling hills stretching out to the Strzelecki Ranges are starting to dry out.

Mr Marshall said the landscape had dried out more quickly than usual, and the drying paddocks at the end of November, usually looked like this at the end of December.

He said his milkers were starting to lose condition, but he had a plan to make it through summer that included reducing his stocking rate.

“We have sown some summer crops, but unfortunately with the lack of rain they’ve been struggling,” he said.

“We’ve locked into a grain contract and we’ve enquired about buying hay externally, which we generally don’t do, but this year we are forced to.

“I think we’ll have to do some sums because we will cull a lot of cows that won’t be here next season early, just to ease the feed requirements.”

Yannathan dairy farmer Dean Turner is a share farmer. He said his most important asset was milk, and he needed to ensure production remained up.

The business milks 470 cows through two dairies, for part of the year.

“We are quite unique in that we can separate our cows off and our higher producing cows can be fed better quality feeds and our lower producing cows fed to production as well,” he said.

“The cows that are getting the higher energy feeds are putting it into milk. If we can get more milk out of our better producing cows, we’ll do that.”

Dairy consultant Matt Harms has been speaking at Tactics for Dry Times workshops, being held across Gippsland. More than 100 farmers have attended the workshops to hear strategies about coping with a dry season.

Mr Harms said the dry season had “snuck up quickly and people haven’t had a lot of time to dwell on it”.

“There’s been a really good collective knowledge built up over the last 10 to 15 years when we’ve had some pretty dry seasons,” he said.

“People have put that learning into place pretty quickly, and that’s fantastic to see.”

Dairy Australia and GippsDairy have organised the Tactics for Dry Times workshops across Gippsland.

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