Future farming: research puts grass out to pasture

Todays post comes via Kiama Independent story on our field day we are hosting in partnership with Southern rivers cma

DANIELLE CETINSKI

22 Feb, 2012 01:00 AM

A RESEARCHER could have the answer to the future of dairy farming and the solution was born in Kiama.

Research company SBScibus director Neil Moss, who lives in Kiama, has spent the past eight years developing a new kind of pasture using no grass at all.

“We wanted another way of doing things to fill gaps in the feed base,” he said.

Dairy

Dr Moss’ “salad bowl of ingredients” includes lucerne, chicory and plantain, which are all deep-rooted legumes and herbs – red clover is part of the mix because it grows quickly while the lucerne establishes itself, and the white clover fills in gaps in the pasture if other plants die out.

The trial pasture at Clover Hill Dairies’ research farm Lemon Grove at Jamberoo has already yielded some surprising results.

“We’ve found it generates 10 to 15 per cent more energy and the milk is 15 to 20 per cent higher in protein,” he said.

“We’re also getting between one-and-a-half and two litres more milk per cow per day spent on the pasture, which is a rise of five to 10 per cent.”

Dr Moss selected them from years of observations and fieldwork because they grow year-round, unlike the ryegrass and kikuyu commonly used on coastal dairy farms, which only grow in winter and spring and summer and autumn respectively.

They have deeper root systems than grass, meaning the pasture would be more resilient in times of drought.

They also rely less on nitrogen-based fertilisers, which are increasing in price, and respond to recycled effluent from the dairy.

Clover Hill Dairies owner Lynne Strong said she was excited about the research.

“It is widely recognised nine out of 10 farmers learn from other farmers and they want to see the research working in their own backyard,” she said.

The Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority will run a field day at Clover Hill Dairies on March 26-27, allowing farmers to see the pasture firsthand.

“This field day will let regional farmers to see the results we are getting on our farm and allow them to determine if they think it will fit into their farming system,” Mrs Strong said.

It will include presentations on sustainable farming, soil health and the Australian Government’s Carbon Farming Initiative, including how to generate carbon credits.

Mrs Strong said the presenters were experts in their fields, including Dr Moss, Richard Eckard from the University of Melbourne, Mick Keogh from the Australian Farming Institute and Louisa Kiely from Carbon Farmers Australia.

Also speaking is Steve Wiedemann

Presentation topic:  Carbon and Nutrient Efficiency; Opportunities for dairyfarmers

Profitability and sustainability are front and centre issues for dairyfarmers.  One unlikely area where there may be opportunities to win on both fronts is from the manure pile.  Steve Wiedemann will speak about the carbon and nutrient opportunities that exist for dairyfarmers through improving effluent and manure management.  This will be a practical look at how to best utilise the resources that remain in waste streams at the dairy and in the paddock, and how to set a path to reducing some costly fertiliser inputs. Beyond the farm gate, we’ll also look at how dairy farmers might be able to participate in the carbon farming initiate by getting paid to reduce their emissions.

Technical summary:

  • Nutrient and carbon flows around the dairy farm – what they are and what they tell us
  • ‘Waste energy’ – how to capture this (Anaerobic digestion at the farm scale)
  • ‘Waste nutrients’ – where do under-utilised nutrients end up on a dairy farm and what can be done about it?
  • How increasing productivity can lower your carbon footprint
  • How emissions capture may lead to carbon credits

Bio:

Steve Wiedemann is a carbon and nutrient management specialist with FSA Consulting, based in Toowoomba Queensland.  Steve is currently running a number of national R&D projects looking at the carbon footprint of livestock enterprises, is a member of the livestock technical committee for developing Carbon Farming Initiative methodologies, and works regularly with a wide range of famers in the area of nutrient management.

If you would like to attend the field day, email peter.pigott@cma.nsw.gov.au or phone on 4429 4449.

One thought on “Future farming: research puts grass out to pasture

  1. Sounds really interesting.
    Ive just enrolled in a Bachelor of Agriculture (DE) and this sounds like a very informative day.

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