Pasture-based dairy farming with limited and strategic use of concentrates, which typifies over 65% of Tasmanian dairy businesses and 30% of dairy businesses nationally, has the advantage of high utilisation rates of home-grown forage and consequently low and relatively stable feed costs. However, these farming systems generally have lower milk production per cow and a lower feed conversion efficiency in comparison to systems that have a greater reliance on supplementary feeding.
Whilst improvements in milk production per cow and an improved nutritional balance can be achieved through the incorporation of concentrate feeding, pasture based milk producers are often hesitant about moving towards a more intensive feeding system due to the volatility associated with grain and milk price, the increased complexity and nutritional knowledge required to effectively and profitability incorporate high levels of concentrate feeding and the often associated increased requirements for capital investment (e.g. feed pads and specialist machinery).
For producers that are and will continue to be heavily reliant on the production and consumption of home grown forage, it is paramount that approaches to improving forage intake and milk production per cow, without compromising forage consumption and milk production per hectare, are developed.
This project being delivered by the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture and funded by Dairy Australia Ltd. aims to address system limitations through the manipulation of the perennial forage supply. By developing approaches to manipulate forage supply and maintain a more consistent supply of highly digestible and low fibrous forage through the use of novel perennial forage species (i.e. perennial forbs and legumes) it should be possible to increase forage intake and milk production per cow from the home grown feedbase. This would result in improved margins per cow and increase profitability of the farm as well as lowering the farms environmental footprint without increasing the farms exposure to price volatility.