McCrae family- Barrington Dairy NSW Region

“Raelands”, Barrington, Dairy NSW region

Chris McRae, James McRae and Lauren McRae

‘Raelands’ has been a family farm since the 1860’s. Chris McRae started dairying there in 1981. Chris’s son James (5th generation) and wife Lauren returned to the farm in May 2013, transitioning the business to a two family operation. James studied Agricultural Business at Charles Sturt University. He and Lauren saw opportunities and an appealing lifestyle in returning to the family farm.

James is currently employed on wages. Chris is hoping to transition the trading structure to a partnership in next 12 months and to develop a succession plan, eventually transferring ownership. Chris, James and Lauren wish to grow their business sustainably and profitability. They realise that they need to increase production and are focused on the triple bottom line of social (people), economic and environmental outcomes.

The Focus Farm program is timely with the proposed changes in management/ownership of the farm between generations. The McRae’s see the need and opportunity to grow and improve their business in order to support two families. They are looking for support and information to assist with this and are confident that joining the program. Becoming a focus farm will benefit their farm as they work towards their goals and also help other farms and farmers learn from their experiences.

Facilitator, Caroline Hayes, has worked for 20 years with rural families and communities as a Rural Financial Counsellor, private consultant and Rural Support Worker. She has extensive knowledge and experience in farm business and financial management, facilitation and communication.

  • Farm Details

    Farm details


    • The farm is currently supporting two families. A house was purchased off farm for father, Chris McRae, allowing James and Lauren to move onto the farm.

    • Chris and James work each weekday on the farm (Chris milks PM and James AM and PM) and they alternate their weekends to have every second weekend off. Both work on day-to-day jobs on the farm.

    • Lauren works 4 days per week in real estate in Gloucester and works on the property every second weekend with James.

    • Social media (Facebook “Raelands Farm”) is also used to engage the wider public and provide education about dairy farming.


    • Looking to increase production and components.

    • Family drawings are low so there is a need to improve family income.

    • The dairy is a herringbone 45 degree 8 a side swing-over. Milking takes 45mins, with total time of 1.5 hr including wash down. Two vats, 1500 Lt each. Solar hot water. High-pressure hose wash for yards. The cow’s milk out well and the family are happy with the current milking operation. Trees in the yard help assist with cooling cows.

    • Fertility: Reasonably high days in milk (DIM).

    • Pasture management has been a focus and the McRae family have adopted the principles of the Feeding Pasture for Profit program (FPFP) which is realising significant benefits. They have been able to conserve more home grown feed than in the past and are able to utilise more home grown feed.

    • The farm currently supports replacement heifers and dry cows on the milking area (40Ha), and if they are to grow the business they need to find land to support these cows. Currently they AI heifers and use a beef bull for clean up.

    • Irrigation 38Ha: Bike shift sprinklers, two electric river pumps, run all at once 150 sprinklers, 2 hr to move sprinklers. Has worked reasonably well to get through the dry times but can be physically strenuous.

    • Management/communication – Jobs are prioritised on a whiteboard. James and Chris undertake a farm drive making a list of jobs to be completed.

    Farm statistics

    • Size: 144ha

    • Sowing area 40ha

    • Milking Cows: average 70 - 75

    • Dry Cows: 20

    • Heifers: 37

    • Herd recording once a month

    • A balanced ration is developed with a nutritionist. Ration mixed on farm.

    • Fertiliser: Effort is expended to deliver the right rate at the right time and right place with the right product.

    • Soil testing is undertaken and nutrient budgeting is used as a management tool.

    • 2013-2014 hay, electricity and grain prices increased, as did quantities purchased, due to it being a dry year.


    • Effluent is currently pumped onto a 5 ha paddock. They are looking at opportunities to improve distribution including grants/funding etc.

    • There is a diversity of root zones and pasture species to help utilise moisture throughout the year. There has been some re-vegetation of gullies and the family would like to continue this environmental work.

    • Shade trees are used to increase on farm biodiversity and to reduce livestock heat stress.

    • Currently recycling silage wrap.

    • Mulching has been reduced; it is used as a management tool and replaces organic matter to the soil.

  • Farm Performance

    Farm Performance

    Goal 1 – Increase production

    - Average Days in Milk (Fertility) Current 270 - Goal is 180 days in 12 months

    - Components, Total solids current 580 and goal is 600

    - Increase cow numbers to maximum carrying capacity of farm in 24 months

    - AI all Heifers (Consider sexed semen) at the correct target weight (Month X 20 + 40kg). Working on this with nutritionist Bruce Hamilton

    - Bring more production area in from undeveloped areas using electric fencing and better effluent distribution 12-24 months

    - Continue soil and pasture improvement (goal to soil test farm every 5 years)

    - Bobby calf Ethical system of management (Sex Semen)

    Goal 2 – Social/people

    - Make sure holidays are available, taken 4 weeks/year

    - Maintain a healthy work life balance all the time

    - Succession planning - have a plan developed within 12 months and implemented within 24 months

    Goal 3 – Environment and drought resilience

    - Looking for opportunities to improve effluent distribution (currently pumped onto a 5ha paddock) through Grants/Funding in the first 12 months

    - Re-vegetate 2 eroded gullies in 24 months

    - Plant more shade trees in the first 12 months

    - Plan and consider a drought reserve strategy during the first 12 months

    Goal 4 – Infrastructure

    - Consider options for machinery-shed replacement within 24 months

  • Current Report Highlights

    Current report highlights currently not available.

  • Detailed Reports

    March 2016

    August 2015 Media Release