For those of you interested in the lasted R&D&E happenings on NSW dairy farms I am highly confident you will enjoy this article
This video shares Dr Neil Moss’ full presentation on our pasture trials at the recent Sydney University Dairy Research Symposium. See full report (pages 21 to 39) here
Why we did the research at Lemon Grove
Surveys tell us 9 out of 10 farmers learn from other farmers and they want to see research that is relevant to them and their business i.e. they want to see the research working in their own backyard. They want to see research that we deliver a good return on investment in the shortest turnaround time
Lemon Grove Research Farm
To explore pastures that could potentially reduce Carbon footprint whilst improving productivity, profitability, and management (resilience)
To grow productive (quantity) and nutritious (quality) pasture that will be
- Resilient through extremes of climate (floods and droughts)
- Water and fertiliser efficient
- Able to fill the feed gaps
- Tolerant to captured dairy effluent irrigation
What we did
The trial was conducted at Lemon Grove Research Farm, located on the Minnamurra River floodplain just to the east of Jamberoo, NSW. Control and treatment paddocks were identified in December 2010 and soil tests were taken. One paddock was to be identified as the “trial/treatment” paddock and was to be prepared for the new pasture; the other “control” paddock was to be farmed as per the rest of the property, retaining its kikuyu base and being sown down to oats and Italian ryegrass in early autumn.
The trial paddock was sprayed with 6L/ha of Roundup Powermax (540 g/L glyphosate (present as the potassium salt)) on 17.2.2011. Pasture trash was mown and removed and the trial paddock sown down to 110kg/ha of Cooba oats on the 19.2.2011. A small area was topped up in early April following flooding in March. Grazing of the oats commenced shortly after and continued until the 5th of August when the paddock was sprayed again with 6L/ha of Roundup Powermax on 5.8.2011. The paddock was then direct drilled with a disc seed with the trial seed mix of:
- 8.5kg/ha Stamina GT6 Lucerne
- 4kg/ha Bulldog red clover
- 1.5kg/ha Kopu II white clover
- 1.5kg/ha Will ladino white clover
- 2kg/ha Tonic Plantain
- 2.5kg/ha Puna Chicory
The trial paddock was treated with 150ml/ha of Verdict (520g/L haloxyfop present as the haloxyfop-r-methyl ester) selective grass herbicide on the 20.2.2012 to control grass weeds. It was not over sown in the autumn of 2012.
Cows grazing the treatment paddock
The “control” paddock was sprayed with 200mls/ha of Roundup Power Max on the 1/3/2011 to suppress kikuyu growth and facilitate early planting of a mix of 35kg/ha of Feast II ryegrass and 60kg/ha of Cooba Oats. Grazing commenced 16th April 2011. It was resprayed with 225mls/ha of Roundup Powermax on the 16/42012 to suppress kikuyu prior to autumn planting with a similar mix
Researcher Dr Neil Moss SBScibus in the control paddock of Ryegrass and Oats
Fertiliser was applied to both control and trial paddocks as deemed necessary by the farmer. This include urea, some mixed blended fertilisers and an application of liquid dairy effluent. Pastures were grazed only by the dairy herd and no fodder was conserved during the trial on the two plots. Pasture dry matter was estimated pre and post grazing using a C-Dax towable pasture metre and pasture yields determined. Yield data was validated using pasture cuts and estimation of dry matter during the trial. The nutritive value of the trial and control pastures were tested by NIR at Westons Laboratories, NSW.
Where we did it
Total yield for the first 12 months of trial, including oats, and control pasture was 16413 and 15310 kgs of DM/ha respectively. Total yields in the six months following removal of the oats were 8134 and 6407 kgs DM/ha respectively. Total 2 year yields from trial and control paddocks was 35365 and 25989 kgs of DM/ha respectively. Cumulative yield data is presented in Graph 1.
Graph 1: Two year cumulative yield data: herbs and legumes (Treatment) v’s kikuyu and ryegrass (control)
The results blew us away
Two-year nitrogen application rates were 289kgs of N for the trial paddock in total and 85kgs of N after the oats and 726kg of N in total and 476kg of N per hectare after the oats in the trail paddock were removed. In the second year of the study, only 30kg per hectare of N was applied to the herb and legume paddock compared to 188kg of N per hectare in the control.
Feed quality data from two samplings in November and February are presented in Table 1
Table 1 Comparative feed quality of herb and legume pasture (treatment) vs. spring ryegrass (control test 1) and kikuyu (control test 2)
|Components:||Treatment Test 1:||Control Test 1:||Treatment Test 2:||Control Test 2:|
|% Crude Protein||32||24.1||33.1||27.5|
|Lignin % NDF||12.4||3.9||16.8||5.6|
|Relative Feed Value||214||138||217||123|
|ME CPM (MJ/kg DM)||10.16||8.58|
Fertiliser Efficiency Outcomes where excellent
Pasture trial proves to be good news for people,cows and the planet
- Adverse climatic conditions with four major flood events and one very pronounced dry period during the trial certainly made for an interesting times and showed the trial pasture mix’s resilience to vagaries of the Australian climate
Flood water pooled at the top end of the trial paddock however where the water was able to get away fairly quickly the pasture was very resilient to these extreme weather events
- Accessing personnel in the region to do soil testing proved very difficult and we have been unable to have the final soil test undertaken at this point in time
This farm based trial has provided useful evidence of the potential for alternative pasture systems based on legumes and herbs on coastal dairies in NSW. The trial pastures have provided at least as much dry matter in the first year as the conventional system with the yield data in year 2 being substantially higher in the trial paddock. The trial pasture appears to have performed very well in the autumn of its 2nd year and did not suffer a planting lag as per the conventional system. It also appeared to continue growing very well off a one off significant rain event in October 2012 during what was a very dry spring and summer in the region.
Nitrogen inputs were significantly reduced in the trial compared to the conventional plots with potential here to reduce fertiliser costs as well as nitrous oxide emissions and exposure to volatile nitrogen pricing. Full soil test data is not available at the time of writing.
Feed quality at all times on the trial was excellent with the farmers reporting anecdotal improvements in milk production when grazing trial pastures, particularly between November and March.
Weeds have been troublesome including both broadleaf and summer grass weed invasion in summer of 2012-2013.
These pastures have significant potential for NSW grazing based dairy systems. There has been considerable success with similar systems on the mid north coast and inland areas, however, problems with both stem root nematode and water-logging have been encountered on some properties. Soil characteristics, particularly, potential for poor drainage, underlying weed burdens and regional pasture pathogens need to carefully considered, when selecting alternative pasture systems as part of a pasture “portfolio”. However, there is considerable flexibility within both pasture species and cultivars in the group of pasture species under investigation to further explore these systems on a region by region basis. Farmers and scientific organisations can successfully partner to produce useful field based research.
What we learnt
- The power of the two way conversations – farmers and natural resource management personnel working side by side to understand each other’s challenges and constraints
- The value of cross community partnerships to improve NRM and sustainable farming outcomes and improve skills, knowledge, attitudes, and innovations,
- That investment in people and on the ground activities that bring them together is critical for long term sustainability, fostering continuous improvement and creating opportunities to learn and grow together.
- That communication is more than just sending information. It is a two-way process which creates demand for information delivery, is responsive to audience needs, and provides content in a way which is timely, relevant and understandable to target audiences.
Where to from here
Adoption of research, innovation and practices are critical to attaining long term goals
- 9 out of 10 farmers learn directly from other farmers or through appropriate delivery of extension based on in field experience of other farmers in familiar and recognisable farming situations.
- Farmers want to be able to ask questions in an non threating environment but need highly skilled facilitators who understand both the technical aspects of what they are presenting as well as the people they are working with
- This project has produced extremely valuable and measurable results that have important and deliverable environmental and economic benefits for farmers. There is a need funding for extension projects that capture this research and other alternate forage system research. This could be delivered through regional farm discussion groups looking at .
i) Triple/ double forages which increase yield per ha. See work on farms in the Hunter Valley here by Sydney University Future Dairy project
ii) Alternate strategies to annual and perennial pastures – showcasing the work at Lemon Grove Research Farm and farms in other regions doing similar trials.
iii) Developing fodder production portfolios to manage risk and season
This video is a 4 minute summary of the project
The project was supported by funding from the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country Initiative