clover hill
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Clover Hill Dairies is an award-winning dairy farm business milking 500 cows three times daily on two farms at Jamberoo on the NSW South Coast to supply over 50,000 Australians with three serves of dairy every day.
The home farm Clover Hill is set in steep rainforest country on the north-east face of Saddleback Mountain.

Our second lease farm Lemon Grove is located on an alluvial flood plain adjacent to the Jamberoo township


“Balancing productivity and treading lightly at the interface of a rainforest and a rural residential development”.

Clover Hill Dairies is a dairy centric rural residential subdivision. Clover Hill Dairies community area covers diverse and important environmental zones. It includes the headwaters of Fountaindale Creek which flows directly into the Minnamurra River and wetlands area via the historic Fountaindale Dam. This dam is located within the community area and flowing into it is a series of small pristine mountain streams. These streams bisect significant areas of remnant rainforest, much of which is unspoilt, zoned High Conservation and supports a wide and thriving variety of native birds, animals and reptiles.


It also includes a rural residential area which has been sensitively handled to provide separation and privacy, with minimal impacts on both the natural environment and dairying farmland for which the Kiama region is renowned. The topography is generally steep and is in a high rainfall area. The residents of the rural subdivision and the dairy farm have formed an incorporated body with the primary objective for the dairy farm to be a long term thriving commercial enterprise, maintaining the present standards of pasture care and maintenance and visual pleasure. To make this possible the subdivision’s 12 rural residential landholders work actively in partnership with the dairy farm to manage, protect and enhance our unique community environment, rainforest and waterways.


All Australians know community well-being and our environment matter but often have difficulty according them equal status with economic growth. The problem, of course, is that what we might call a sustainability approach that integrates economic, social and environmental factors is complex and challenging.
At Clover Hill Dairies we believe the way forward is to simplify the challenge and focus on sustainable thinking
Far too much energy has been wasted debating climate change – is it or isn’t happening.
What we do know is less than 7% of Australia’s land is suitable for food production and farmers producing this food are finding the resources to do so will only get scarcer and more expensive.
On our farm we aim to be as efficient as we can with the way we use our resources and there are considerable benefits from doing this
Our climate change strategy is to
• have an efficient system so we can adapt and minimise our footprint
• use less resources and use them smarter so we can minimise the impact on our business of Climate Change legislation and any costs associated with that legislation

The size of our farm has essentially capped the number of cows we can milk but this has not stopped us increasing milk production.
In 2005 we moved to milking 3 x daily and this increased milk production by 25%
We found milking Holstein cattle is the best option under this scenario. They have the capacity to give the highest milk volumes and highest yields of milk solids and the broadest genetic diversity.
The dairy industry has been through tough times and we are not yet where we want to be. What we have done is focus on improving profitability and environmental assets with the quickest turnaround time and best return on investment and this has been helped significantly by Federal and State Government environmental stewardship funding.
As we go forward we can start to look at other options that have longer term benefits.

Our business focus is a mutually beneficial partnership with the living landscape (our cows, our farm team and the land we farm on)
• Trees – We have undertaken extensive tree plantings and established shelterbelts to provide both protection and shade for the cows and the indigenous animals

• Troughs – We have installed off stream gravity fed water troughs in all paddocks when means we can fence of our waterways. This has resulted in improved water quality for our cows and the wider catchment and less riparian erosion – and of course gravity fed water means we can significantly reduce our stationery energy use

• Laneways – We have invested in well built laneways to provide for cow comfort. This has the added benefit of improving downstream and on farm water quality as faster cow flow means more nutrients stay on the paddocks and less is deposited in the laneways

• Pasture – Optimising pasture cover is good for the cows and milk production and its good for water quality as good pasture cover means less nutrient runoff in high rainfall events

• Soil Health and Fertiliser Use - We measure what goes in and what goes out, map our nutrient levels and create nutrient budgets. This means we can reduce unnecessary fertiliser use and reduce green house gas emissions and costs

We farm in that small pocket of Australia where traditional climate variability is much greater than that predicted by climate change modelling.
So for us climate change will certainly have positives. It is predicted that there will be a slight increase in temperature with little impact on average rainfall which means we can grow more pasture with less feed gaps.
• Our key management strategy is to grow as much pasture as we can and this allows us to have a high stocking rate. We currently run 5 to 6 cows/ hectare. One of the greatest on farm challenges is the inefficiencies from wasting grass and by having a high stocking rate we can utilises the grass when it is available

• We are trialling water and nutrient efficient grasses. Pastures that use less fertiliser and grow better on the moisture shoulders mean we can reduce costs and emissions
• We grow drought tolerant pasture species with potential for rapid recovery after drought
• We are also putting in place alternative feeding infrastructure to maintain the herd when the rainfall is scarce

Traditional coastal dairy pastures are heavily based on grasses such as annual ryegrass in winter and spring and kikuyu or paspalum in summer and autumn. These species are both well adapted to the local environment and climate and capable of responding quickly to rain when it falls. However, these species do have limitations. Growth of annual ryegrasses is limited to between the months of late April and early December in most years, while the summer grasses go dormant in the cooler months.
This has made a year-round perennial grass species very challenging to find and grow in our region for 3 reasons. Firstly early attempts with perennial rye species met with poor results due to attacks by pasture pests, hot dry summers, poor grazing management and summer grass weed invasion. Some of the fescues looked promising but their slow establishment and inability to compete with summer grass weeds basically made them impractical in coastal environments. The second limitation of grass based pastures is the shallow root systems they have, meaning that if rainfall is not regular, growth can be severely limited as they are unable to access the deeper moisture that may accumulate in many of the low land soils following the heavier rainfall events we get in the Illawarra.

The third major drawback of grass dominant pastures is heavy reliance on nitrogen based fertilisers. Grasses such as kikuyu and ryegrass are certainly very efficient at converting these fertilisers into pasture and milk, however, the recent price spike in nitrogen fertilisers and some of the green house gas implications of their use encouraged us to look at pasture mixes that are less reliant on nitrogen based fertilisers to drive their productivity.
In conjunction with our farm consultancy SBScibus we have been looking at new pasture mixes based on perennial legumes and herbs rather than grasses to help counter these issues. These pastures utilise mixes of lucerne, red and white clover (the legumes) and chicory and plantain (herbs). These species and cultivars within have been selected for very strategic purposes. The lucerne is a tap rooted perennial legume that if managed correctly can persist for many years. Once established, it is able to access moisture from well below a metre depth and subsequently is able to utilise moisture and nutrients that may have been lost below the reach of common grass species.
Added benefits include mitigation of nutrients reaching the water table and extending the growing season into drier periods when compared to the grasses. The red clover is also capable of extracting nutrients from over 50 cm deep and grows rapidly in the first year while the Lucerne establishes itself. While not as deep rooted, the white clovers we selected are spreading cultivars that move across the soil surface filling spaces left by other plants that die out.
The herbs are also very deep rooted and can access moisture and nutrients from up to a metre deep. Again, this extends the growing season and allows for better nutrient and moisture extraction from deeper in the soil profile keeping ground water safe and further extending the growing season into drier times. The herbs do respond to nitrogen and will be able to utilise the nitrogen fixed by the legumes in these pasture mixes.
These pastures also respond well to nutrient supplied by dairy effluent and are very useful for recycling this valuable pool of nutrients. In well drained soils that are prone to heavy rainfall events, they may offer coastal farmers some very exciting options as part of a "pastures portfolio" that allows us to manage climate variability and will hopefully allow us to reduce inputs as well. We will see how they perform in year 2 but to date, things look very promising!

We select cows for feed conversion efficiency. We must have cows that can turn feed into milk as efficiently as possible.
We feed them well from the day they are born and this allows them to enter the milking herd as 2 yr olds.
Not only does this make logical business sense it reduces their time as a non productive green house gas emitter.
Our system is pasture based and we feed energy rich grains and by-products in the dairy combining these with additives such as rumen modifiers we can balance the diet, increase milk production and reduce greenhouse gas emissions per unit of production.
The dairy industry only uses grains and by products not fit for human consumption – and yes the grain truck may travel 300km but we are actually minimising green house gas emissions as we are producing milk close to where it is consumed.
After all the milk truck leaves the farm everyday but the grain truck only comes every 6-8 weeks.

Consumers today want food that is produced in a manner that is consistent with their personal values. We believe farmers who can meet or exceed those expectations will be the successful primary producers of the future.
Sustainable farming for us means
• we must produce our milk in an ethical way – animal wellbeing is very important to us
• our farming practices must have minimal impact on our landscape and the wider catchment and improve these when we can And of course our business has to be profitable to do this
Our business must be resilient and adaptable to farming challenges like
1. Short and long term climate variability
2. Increasingly volatile markets for milk products
3. And for us we must be able to maintain our farming practices in our new urban environment

Its important to have carbon neutral as a goal – the science is still out on whether cows are part of the problem or the solution.
What our cows are doing is what every one on the planet should be doing – being as efficient as they possibly can with the resources they use.
By farming efficiently and intensively as we know the less land you use for milk production the more land you can plant trees on and every-one knows how important that is.

Winning this award has been the highlight of our farming journey and we are using it as a platform to share our passion.
It doesn’t mean we are perfect farmers- far from it – what it means is we are adaptive and resilient.
We are committed to producing more milk profitably and ethically using scarcer and more expensive recourses smarter.

Today more and more farming practices are moving much faster than educational resources development.
Clover Hill Dairies agriculture education and awareness programs build partnerships with teachers, students and the community and show them the science and technology, animal welfare and environmental stewardship commitment of farmers in 2010 and beyond.
Our programs are fun, they are genuine and they are full of hope for a sustainable future.


Clover Hill Dairies talks to Chris Clark from Landline ABC about their strategies for dairying in a changing climate.


The Environment is What we Eat by Grace Mahon.

Grace is a Year 5 Student at Jamberoo Public School. This captivating presentation progressed her into the finals of the 2012 LandlearnNSW Speech Spectacular



Lynne Strong talks to Sarina Locke ABC Canberra

Jamberoo dairy - providing clean milk and water