Dairy Grains Mentoring Project

An opportunity to improve skills and knowledge through the development of professional business relationships across the dairy and grain industries


This project is supported by Subtropical Dairy through funding from the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund

Subtropical Dairy

Subtropical Dairy was successful in securing funding through the Future Drought Fund for a project focused on improving business resilience through increased knowledge of soil fertility and health on northern Australian dairy farms.

The combined impacts of climate change, drought and margin erosion have led to a steady change in farming systems in the northern dairy industry with an increase in propagation of annual grain and fodder crops. This change in system has been driven primarily by lower irrigation water availability, an increase in frequency of drought, competition for feed grains and a greater need to manage cow comfort.

What the Project is about:

The objective of the Dairy Grains Mentoring project has been to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence of northern Australian dairy farmers to refine and adopt contemporary agronomic and soil management best practice for grain-based and forage silage crops from the region’s grain industry.

The Project aimed to do this by reducing dairy business risk and exposure to drought and soil degradation through adapting key agronomic and soil conservation strategies learnt from our regional grain farmers.

Since October 2021, Subtropical Dairy has been facilitating the development of business relationships between dairy producers in Queensland and northern New South Wales and private agronomists as part of the Dairy Grains Mentoring project.

A number of resources that have been developed over the course of the project are now available.


Project Resources

Dalby Farm Tour Videos  (click the headings to view the Videos)

1. Tour Introduction

Belinda Haddow (1.51 mins)

2. “Clearview” Scott Ruhle; Agruhle Pty Ltd.

(72 mins)

Heavy box country with light ridges throughout. Sorghum, wheat, barley, chickpeas and mungbeans.

Topics of Interest:

  • RBE spot sprayer – this machine is equipped with weedit Quadro cameras and was purchased to combat difficult weeds that are becoming impossible to kill at commercial rates. This machine enables us to continue with zero tilling and reduces our herbicide usage.
  • RBE vacuum planter – this planter is used for all our row crop planting – particularly the sorghum. The machine is 11m wide on 3m centres with a left assist type toolbar. It is equipped with full precision planting gear so it has delta force v drives, wave vision sensors and clean sweep – all computer controlled from the cab.

3. Glenn & Carol Milne;  Gencar Consulting Pty Ltd

(13 mins)

Waco, black cracking clay. 620 ha. 280-320mgl of water storage when full of moisture. Sorghum, chickpeas, mung beans, barley, irrigated cotton, corn and wheat.

Topics of Interest:

  • Originally all irrigation was via flood which is mainly used for cotton. In 2018 a lateral move was purchased and this has allowed a larger area of irrigation with better yields and improved irrigation efficiencies. Irrigated paddocks have moisture probes monitoring the use of water and helps predict when an irrigation is required.

4. Daniel Skerman; Skerman Farming

(53 mins)

Grey Vertosol. 1700 ha. 100 ha irrigation. Cotton, sorghum, mung beans, wheat, barley and chickpeas.

Topics of Interest:

  • Irrigation management & use of liquid fertilisers. Easy N is run with flood irrigation to limit waterlogging. Have also streamed easy N on prior to rain or cultivation. Liquid phosphorous and zinc used as pop up with seed at planting. Water inject inoculants with legumes at planting.

5. Justin Commens; Agricom Pty Ltd

(58 mins)

Heavy black soil with light sandy ridges. 960 ha. Wheat, chickpeas, cotton, sorghum, mung beans.

Topic of Interest:

  • Fertiliser application & soil fertility. Soil test results are still showing deficiencies in phosphorous and potassium so we are currently trying different methods of applying blends at a depth of 100-200mm. Manure and nitrogen application ongoing.

6. “Obergurgl” and “Coolawin” Roland Schmelzer; Schmelzer Farms

(54 mins)

“Obergurgl” – Alluvial black self-mulching clay. 1732 ha. Sorghum, Mung beans, Cotton, Wheat, Barley, Chickpeas.

“Coolawin” – Alluvial: Brigalow, Belah, Box, some red influence. 1215 ha. 3100 MgL – two dams. Irrigated cotton, irrigated mung beans, dryland mung beans,  millet, wheat, chickpeas.

Topic of Interest:

  • Extensive use of robotic autonomous weed sprayer which enables us to reduce herbicide use to 5% of the recommended rate. In many situations, this also helps to delay the development of resistance in weeds in the fallow situation. The robot is light weight and therefore minimises compaction and fuel usage, and allows economic usage of expensive chemicals. Continually fine-tuning water usage and storage methods to maximise water use efficiency of all crops.

Download the complete tour booklet

The aim of the Dairy Grains network is to increase capability regarding crop productivity and soil health on dairy farms and enhance knowledge and expertise sharing between the dairy and grains industries. With industry support, participating dairy farmers will establish and measure a number of key benchmarks across summer and winter crops.


Wednesday, 6th April 2022.

Facilitated by Ross Warren (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, QLD) and Ross Newman (Private Consultant). 

DAFFQ Senior Dairy Extension Officer Ross Warren has been heavily involved in addressing agronomic issues post flood with dairy farmers in south east Queensland in recent weeks. He can provide excellent suggestions on what can be done in these challenging conditions.

Ross Newman is a private consultant who focuses on assisting producers overcome crop and pasture problems throughout Qld.  Ross can aid in providing clarity in the decision making process to avoid additional economic losses post flood and help producers to identify issues that they may not have considered.

Some topics discussed during the webinar include, but are not limited to:

  • loss of top soil
  • silt and sand deposits
  • rotting debris
  • leached nutrients
  • delayed planting
  • waterlogged soils and impact on soil structure
  • feeding the herd if wet weather continues

Watch the Agronomy after the Flood Webinar

Tuesday, 31st of May 2022.

Dalby-based grain farmers discuss a number of topics in this Q&A session.  The grain farmers participating in this webinar hosted dairy farmers on their properties during the Dairy Grains Tour which was held in mid-February 2022.

Topics covered:

  • Paddock preparation including cropping history, pre-plant pesticide, and fertiliser applications
  • Seeding rates under dryland and irrigated systems
  • Technoloies used in soil moisture monitoring
  • In-crop fertiliser and pesticide programs
  • Seasonal challenges for the 2022 year – managing high fertiliser prices and prolonged wet conditions

Watch the Winter Cropping Webinar

Thursday, 27th January 2022. 

David Hall, a highly regarded, local agronomist working across the grains and dairy industries discusses composting on dairy farms and has an open conversion about it’s benefits and practicalities.

Topics covered:

  • Why use composts on our soils?
  • Understanding the decomposition process and the advantages of compost.
  • Understanding the importance of the various raw materials that go into the mix: carbon:nitrogen and other ratios.
  • Utilising compost in a practical way – how much to apply, soil tests, crop/pasture demands?.
  • What happens when the compost is applied to the soil? How do nutrients become  available to the plant?
  • Possible contaminants.

Watch the Composting Webinar

For more information, please call The Dairy Grains Mentoring Project Leader:

Belinda Haddow

Lead Regional Extension Officer

Subtropical Dairy

M | 0423 003 638

Belinda Haddow

This project is supported by Subtropical Dairy and Dairy Australia, through funding from the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund