Subtropical Dairy Focus Farm 2017 - 2019

Real Farms, Real Conditions, Real Decisions

The Project

Focus farms provide the opportunity for farmers to learn through the “story” of the Focus Farm.

This is supported by:

  • Applying good business management principles to decision making
  • Allowing the opportunity for discussion and analysis of the risks
  • Drawing on the collective experience of the support group
  • Monitoring and evaluating the outcomes of the decisions that are made
  • Using the visibility of decisions made to support a wider audience of farmers

Dairy farmers making complex decisions is not new but what is adding to the complexity is the increasing level of volatility in the operating environment making the outcomes of decisions more uncertain. Whether that increased volatility is due to markets, costs or seasonal conditions, there is a real need for decision support that will allow farmers to be more confident about the decisions they need to make. Our focus is on improving farmer decision-making, management of risk and increasing farm profitability.

Focus farmers are selected through an application process and supported over the two years that they are in place as a Focus Farm by senior advisers and a support group made up of other farmers, service providers and people selected by the focus farmers. The support group meets throughout the year and typically two open days are held for other interested farmers to get a close look at the Focus Farm’s progress.

Paul and Jo Judge

Gowrie Junction,  Queensland

Paul has a long history in the industry, working his way up through a dairy apprenticeship to farm management positions. Jo and Paul started their business in July 2014.

They have recently resigned the lease for the property for a five-year term. The cross bred herd is currently made up of 160 adult animals, producing between 700 – 800,000 litres a year.

The 60 ha milking platform is supported by heifer and dry cow blocks at Crows Nest and neighbouring the farm.

Paul and Jo strive to have a highly profitable dairy business that they can be proud of, allowing them to both grow their wealth and have an enjoyable lifestyle.


Business Name: Judge Family Trust
Owners: Paul and Jo Judge
Address: Gowrie Junction, QLD
Leasing Arrangement: Initial lease was for three years (July 14- June 17)
Current in a five-year lease (July 17 – June 21)
 Farm Details:
  • Herd Size (dries + milkers) 160
  • Currently milking between 700000 to 800000 L/year (aiming for 1ML/year)
  • Herd’s average milk production per lactation is 4000 – 6000L
  • Cross bred herd
  • Currently calving all year round
  • Using AI and a Jersery bull
  • Breeding replacement heifers (not available for the herd until Dec 2017)
  • Have heifers and dry cows on agistment
    • 33ha at Crows Nest (can run up to 20 cows, 10 now)
    • Two 16ha neighbouring blocks
    • Pasture based system (inherited a PMR/TRM based system)
  • Pasture utilization currently estimated to be around 7tonns/ha
  • Total hectares farmed 90
  • Total irrigation hectares farmed 60
    • 20ha – double cropped for grain
    • 20ha – perennial pasture
    • 20ha – annuals
  • Owner/operator (Paul working 100+ hours/week)
  • Milking time takes on average 2 hours with one person
  • Casual calf rearer employed
  • Infrastructure
  • Irrigation – Side rollers, pivot and hand shift pipes
  • Watering takes 40 hrs using the pivot
  • Watering takes 1 week using the side rollers and pipes
  • No bore or on farm storage
  • 2 pumps
  • 350mg water licence (Gowrie Creek Scheme utilizing recycled water from Toowoomba)
  • Milking shed (10 aside)
  • Feed Pad

Business Overview – Current Business Vision and Goals


  • Be a highly profitable business that challenges and excites us
  • Establish a farm and herd that we can be proud of
Long Term Goals Wealth to either lease another farm or purchase land
Shorter Term Goals
  • Restore work/life balance – generate enough money to employee labour and have more time off farm.
  • Explore farm options for after the current lease expires, and start working towards this now.
  • Increase production to 5500 litres/cow from a 180-cow milking herd (1 million L) year-round with suitable replacements being grown out within the system.
  • Have at least 75% homegrown feed that costs less than 20c/litre with total costs of production to not exceed 35c/litre
Current Financial Position
  • To get the business started three and half years ago, Paul and Jo initially borrowed $200,000 from Jo’s parents and $150,000 from their personal savings.
  • They currently have 100% equity having paid off the initial $350,000 debt.
  • They have been singularly focused since they started the business on debt reduction. Now need to focus on wealth creation.


Key Focus AreaAIMIssueObjectivesKPI
FEEDBASEImprove kg DM/ha through perennial based pasturesIrrigation, Infrastructure Feed Production
• To improve irrigation efficiency and pasture production
• Reduce labour spent on operation of irrigation
• To improve quantity and quality of forage as per herd requirements
• Grow the type of crops that will optimize the feeding requirements of the herd
• Supplement with purchased products where required
• Produce 12ton DM/ha• Have at least 75% homegrown feed that costs less than 20c/litre with total costs of production to not exceed 35c/litre
• 365 days feed supply mapped for 180 cows/day
HERDTo have a more productive herdHerd Replacements
Heifer Management
• To have a more productive herd (L/cow)
• Identify and replace lower producing cows
• To get cows back into calf quicker
• To manage herd replacements
• Increase production to 5500 litres/cow from a 180-cow milking herd
• Average days in milk 170 days
• Year round calving with 10 – 15 calves/month
• Cull 10 cows/month
LABOUR MANAGEMENTEmployee technology or labour to assist with the more efficient running of the farmEmployment
• To employ labour units for the day to day running of the farm.
• Reduce Pauls work load to have some time off
• Enable Paul to spend more time on progressing the business
• To manage the business so that it can grow equity and have good work/life balance
• Skills Improvement
• Employ labour either on a casual basis or part time.
• Spend 4 hours/week on business management and planning
• Upskill on technology use
• Learn how to use EasyDairy
LIFESTYLETo manage the business so that there is good work/life balance for the familyPaul working long hours seven days a week• Paul have some time off
• To have more family time
• To train up some labour to run the farm when Paul not available
FINANCIALTo grow wealthBusiness Planning
Cash Flow
• To do some future planning for the business
• Work out investment strategy
• To run the business so that wealth can be created for future opportunities
• Have enough cash flow to service debt, pay bills and drive profit
• Develop a business plan
• Establish borrowing capacity
• Updating actuals in cash flow budget every month

Darling Downs Focus Farm – Northern Horizons May 2017

Business Pathway Focus for Subtropical Dairy Farm – Northern Horizons September 2017

Identifying the Major Opportunities – Northern Horizons December 2017

Irrigation Update – Northern Horizons February 2018