It has been well established in Tasmania that by optimising pasture performance, dairy farmers are more likely to maximise farm profitability. However, farmers face a number of external challenges that affect the cost and/or productivity of pasture based dairy systems.
These issues were addressed through the Beyond 2012 project; a Tasmanian based initiative managed by the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) Dairy Centre and funded by Dairy Australia Ltd.
This project built on recently completed 2012 projects where annual pasture consumption targets of 20 tonne under irrigated and 12 tonne under rain-fed conditions were explored at a paddock, farm-let and farm system level.
The cool temperate dairy regions of Tasmania are widely recognised as an ideal climate to reach these targets, and biophysical modelling has shown that under irrigated conditions pasture production between 23 and 25t DM/ha/year and 10 and 16t DM/ha/year under rain-fed conditions are achievable.
An analysis of pasture consumption being achieved on farm has shown that the average annual on pasture consumption is approximately only 50% of the potential, with some farms achieving less 40% and others up to 80%. Research activities were focused on providing a greater understanding of feedbase principles while aiming to improve the efficiency of inputs within the system.
The TIA Dairy Centre worked in collaboration with a small group of farmers that were achieving a high level of pasture consumption on farm to explore approaches to further improve farm profitability. This included an examination of the use of high sugar grasses, approaches to improve nitrogen and water efficiency and the exploration of winter and summer forage options.Both participatory research and whole farm system modelling activities were used to explore the adaption of new techniques within these farms. A series of technological tools and manuals to assist in daily on-farm decisions are being developed which will be made available online.
For more information regarding this project contact Dr Richard Rawnsley.