Couple aim for milking empire

Rebecca TurnerCountryman

Having “no lazy assets” and pushing production to maximise income is the thinking behind the success of young Victorian dairy farming couple Claudio and Bronwyn Segafredo.

The Segafredos run a combination of three properties covering 298 hectares in East Gippsland — 170ha of irrigated milking land on the home property in Nambrok and two turnout blocks in Winnindoo and Kilmany.

Mr Segafredo has always had a head for business, working on the family farm from a young age and starting his own hay and silage harvesting contracting operation at the tender age of 14.

“My parents always told me that cents buy a farm not dollars, ” he said.

“They often spoke about their days eating the local wildlife in order to free up enough money for the farm.”

The Segafredos’ willingness to use debt to finance their farm development and their ability to push their system hard has seen the business grow rapidly in the past decade, despite the industry’s ups and downs.

“Debt has always driven me to work harder, ” Mr Segafredo said.

He said that while he was young and focused, he had the energy to build an empire milking 10,000 cows.

“Now we are more focused on enjoying ourselves, ” Mr Segafredo said.

While the Segafredos are not milking 10,000 cows, they still run a substantial 630-head Friesian cow herd with production per cow at 540kg of milk solids (MS) per cow.

This has pushed production to 2020kg of MS per cow per hectare with their current milk price at $5.80/kg of MS and production cost of $4.21/kg of MS.

The Segafredos’ return on their total assets is at 10.3 per cent, while their equity has a return of 10.4 per cent.

Water management has a huge impact on the Segafredos’ profitability.

On their home property, 640 megalitres is pumped from the home wheel irrigation (channel water allocation), with their home bore pumping an additional 240 megalitres.

The turnout block at Winnindoo pumps 140 megalitres, while their block at Kilmany pumps 96 megalitres from the river.

With pasture making up 60–65 per cent of the total feed consumed by the couple’s dairy cows, it is easy to see why irrigation management is such a high priority on the farm.

Cows are also supplemented with wheat, canola meal, lupins and corn in addition to feeding lucerne hay and vetch.

Claudio and Bronwyn are not alone in running their dairy. A total of 4.7 full time equivalent staff also pitch in to keep cows milked on the 50-stand rotary and other aspects of the farm’s operation.

Mr Segafredo said he had found getting the right combination of employees was paramount to his business success.

“I have come to understand an employee is not a clone of yourself, and employing more people to do less is often the better option, ” he said.

He said managers needed to realise that employees had a life outside of the business.

Mr Segafredo said his best advice to fellow dairy farmers was to never underestimate a gut feeling about what was right for the business.

“Believe in yourself. A little arrogance will go a long way, ” he said.

Mr Segafredo said having a positive relationship with your bank manager and thinking outside the square were also important.

He said it was important for farmers to recognise they did not have to farm the same as their neighbours but should dare to be different.

Last, he said there was no shame in not knowing everything.

“Get advice; the return on good advice should be 10 times what you invest, ” he said.

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