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Gatton Dairy

The University of Queensland Gatton Campus is located on the Warrego Highway an hour and half drive west of Brisbane, Queensland. Nestled in the heart of the Lockyer Valley the commercial dairy and research facility is within a 2 hours of 65% of Queensland dairy farms. A $7 million upgrade funded by the University of Queensland (UQ) and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) has recently been completed, with the facility now jointly managed by UQ and DAF.

Shade Shed Gatton


Farm facts

The campus has a total of 1250 ha with an effective dairy area of 250ha, of which 120 ha is irrigated. The dairy has approximately 90 ha of improved pasture, 120 ha cropping and 40 ha of dairy/ loafing area.

Dairy infrastructure
14-a-side double rapid exit herringbone and a calf rearing building to accommodate up to 85 calves.

Dairy processor
Norco cooperative

Dairy Herd
Approximately 257 Holstein-Friesian (70%), Brown Swiss (20%) and HF x BS (10%) milkers and dry cows and 125 heifers.

Calving pattern
Batch calving in spring (Aug – Oct) and autumn (Mar – May).

Animal and Production overview
Currently producing around 1.5 million litres per annum (7500 L/cow/yr) with an average fat and protein of 3.93 and 3.33% respectively.

5.2 FTE’s (FTE’s – 36 hour week).

Feeding system
The dairy uses a partial mixed ration (PMR) feeding system with the PMR fed out twice a day. Protein meals are forward purchased and grain is purchased from the University’s cropping unit and processed through a computerised disc mill. A mixer wagon is used to mix concentrates and silages to be fed on the feed pad. The 24ha of pasture is grazed by the milking herd once a day in summer and twice a day in winter and is less than 250 meters from the feed pads. Feeding infrastructure includes:

  • 5 concrete silage pits (700t as-fed of silage/pit).
  • 3 bay commodities shed with 27t capacity each bay
  • 2 feed pads with sufficient space for 340 cows.
  • 2 shade structures on each feedpad with the equivalent of 4 m2 per cow at full capacity

Forage production
Permanent pastures for grazing include prairie grass and kikuyu with annual ryegrass over sown into the kikuyu during the winter period. Other annual crops that are grown for grazing include; ryegrass/clover, forage oats, forage barley, lablab and forage sorghum. Lucerne is grown for hay and round bale silage and the main crops grown for silage in summer are; corn, soybeans and forage sorghum and barley in winter.

The University has approx 600ML of water storage which is predominantly captured by overland flow which includes access to 150ML of recycled water from Gatton township and numerous bores across the campus. The dairy facility’s irrigation infrastruce includes:

  • 12ha of solid set irrigation
  • Two lateral boom irrigators (12 and 35ha)
  • Two centre pivots (15 and 35ha)

Fertiliser management
The main fertiliser used on the dairy pastures is urea applied at rates of 60 kg/ha and 120 kg/ha in winter and summer respectively. Soil tests are carried out every two years with specific nutrient requirements added accordingly. Manure and compost are being used on cropping areas and will be trialled on pasture areas in the future.

Nutritional management
Currently the herd is managed as a single herd and fed a PMR twice a day which is reviewed bi monthly. The mixed ration includes a cereal based silage (corn or barley), soybean silage, grain, protein meals and lucerne hay. As previously mentioned, pastures are grazed once a day during summer and twice a day during winter. The diets are balanced for fibre, starch, sugars and crude protein according to target production targets. Target dry matter intake is 21kg DM/day, with approx 5-7kg kikuyu DM in summer and 10kg of ryegrass DM in winter.

Future Plans
The main aim for the herd is to reach production levels of 8,500 – 9,000l L/cow/lactation. Management plans on splitting the herd (2013) according to calving time and are looking to develop a dedicated calving area with a labour pen under cover. Further cow comfort issues will be addressed with the addition of fans under the feed pad and sprinklers under shade structures.