Ask Leigh “Skeeta” Verhey a question about the running of his dairy farm and he can rattle of any number of statistics from what the daily feed cost is per cow to the daily profit of his cows. In fact, he admits he loves as much data as he can get his hands on to ensure his dairy farm is operating as efficiently as it can.
That fixation is paying off for Leigh and his partner Angela Turner on their farm, Marleigh Park, in Koondrook in northern Victoria. In the past three years he has reduced his overall herd cost from $206 an animal to $162 (Northern Victoria average $173)
“Tracking our spend, our feed costs, the output of the cows – there is so much data available but I don’t think a lot use it whereas I can’t get enough,” Leigh admits.
Leigh was born in Launceston but moved with his family to a dairy farm near Gunbower in the early 80s when his father took on a share farm job.
He went to school in Cohuna where one of his school mates was Lachlan Fehring. Today Lachlan is his local vet. Lachlan is from the Border Veterinarian Clinic, part of Apiam Animal Health.
“A couple of years ago during one of our extended dry periods Lachy came to the farm with a USB stick and copied a lot of our data. He came back with some really great ideas about improving our herd health; looking at it much more from a preventative perspective than treatment which I initially thought a bit strange because the healthier the herd is, the less I needed Lachy.
“It is just that now we use Lachy a little differently as we are always trying to get better.”
Lachlan is a big believer in Apiam’s Prodairy program which looks at the overall health of a farmer’s herd. For Leigh it has seen him work with Lachlan in tailoring a Prodairy program specifically for Marleigh Park. “I love the on-farm biosecurity stuff and the training programs are great. I sent two of my staff to Cohuna last week to do a calf rearing workshop.”
Leigh admitted that Lachlan “is the backbone of many of the decisions we make on the farm regarding herd health & reproduction. It works well because Lachy drives it. He’s a great sounding board and as honest as they come. When he comes out to the farm we talk about what we are doing and what we should be doing better. I always have a long list of questions for him.
Leigh moved to Marleigh Park in 2005 and since then has increased the overall farm size with the purchase of neighbouring blocks. Because of the success of his current operation he is looking at increasing the size of his herd from its current 350.
We are all here for the same reason – to better our herd health and in turn make our farm more profitable.