Family farm hosts day of innovation in milk

Headshot of Bob Garnant
Bob GarnantThe West Australian
Michael and Sophia Giumelli and their children Penelope, Juliet, Declan and Jackson, hosted the Dairy Innovation Day at their Benger farm.
Camera IconMichael and Sophia Giumelli and their children Penelope, Juliet, Declan and Jackson, hosted the Dairy Innovation Day at their Benger farm. Credit: Bob Garnant

The humble drop of milk was celebrated at the Giumelli family’s dairy farm when the 19th annual Dairy Innovation Day got under way last week at Benger.

It was November 2006 when young couple Michael Giumelli and Sophia Golding started to carve out their own dairy footprint at their new acquisition, Benger Heights.

The 220ha existing milk-producing property was previously owned by the Fry family.

After taking on the management of his parents’ Ferguson Valley dairy, Mr Giumelli set out to make Benger a profitable milk performer under a more user-friendly system.

The couple’s marriage in 2010 brought even further assurance of a commitment to drive down the cost of production through the best or worst times.

“Sophia and I both grew up on farms and we were prepared for the hard times of varying milk prices,” Mr Giumelli said.

“My upbringing at my parents; dairy had much different chall-enges involving hilly terrain, lack of water, and massive hay input costs. Cows had to be crossed over the road daily.”

The Giumelli's milk 370 mostly Holstein cows.
Camera IconThe Giumelli's milk 370 mostly Holstein cows. Credit: Bob Garnant

At Benger, where fodder is a critical value-adding feed source, the Giumellis run 2.4 milking cows per grazed hectare, and feed-out three tonnes of grain per cow each year. This produces about 7700 litres of milk per cow each year.

The milking shed itself has been designed as a a 20-a-side rapid-exit system.

“I’ve become a good grass grower,” Mr Giumelli said.

“We have 73ha of centre pivot irrigation on a 449 megalitres licence from the Wellington Dam.”

Benger Heights’ split calving program means 85 per cent are dropped in spring and 15 per cent in autumn. The majority of its milk is produced during the summer, which is driven by the farm’s soil type and its milk payment structure. Western Dairy’s Jessica Andomy, who spoke on the reproductive performance of the Benger Heights herd, said its conception rate was at the industry’s top target.

Mr Guimelli said he contributed his family’s dairy improvements by taking advantage of Western Dairy’s education opportunities in management efficiencies and science applications.

“The past 12 years have been a huge learning curve in farming and family,” he said.

“We continue to get things right, both on and off farm, as we grow our asset base and invest in a balanced lifestyle.”

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