Track 1-12: Managing Seasonality in Grassland Quality and Quantity

Description

Inter-annual variation in pasture herbage accumulation rate (HAR) is common in temperate dairy regions, posing challenges for farmers in the management of dairy cow feeding and of pasture state. This paper reviews the biophysical factors that cause inter-annual variation, considers some of its consequences for the efficient harvest of pasture, and discusses the basis for decision rules and support tools that are available to assist New Zealand and Australian farmers to help manage the consequences of an imbalance between feed supply and demand. These tools are well-grounded in scientific research and farmer experience, but are not widely used in the Australasian dairy industries. Some of the reasons for this are discussed. Inter-annual variability in HAR cannot be removed, even with inputs such as irrigation, but reliable forecasts of pasture HAR for a month or more could greatly improve the effectiveness of operational and tactical decision-making. Various approaches to pasture forecasting, based on pasture growth simulation models, are presented and discussed. Some of these appear to have reasonable predictive ability. However, considerably more development work is needed to: (1) prove their effectiveness; and (2) build the systems required to capture real-time, on farm data for critical systems variables such as pasture herbage mass and soil water content to combine with daily weather data. This technology presents an opportunity for farmers to gain greater control over variability in pasture-based dairy systems and improve the efficiency of resource use for profit and environmental outcomes.

COinS
 

Inter-Annual Variability in Pasture Herbage Accumulation in Temperate Dairy Regions: Causes, Consequences, and Management Tools

Inter-annual variation in pasture herbage accumulation rate (HAR) is common in temperate dairy regions, posing challenges for farmers in the management of dairy cow feeding and of pasture state. This paper reviews the biophysical factors that cause inter-annual variation, considers some of its consequences for the efficient harvest of pasture, and discusses the basis for decision rules and support tools that are available to assist New Zealand and Australian farmers to help manage the consequences of an imbalance between feed supply and demand. These tools are well-grounded in scientific research and farmer experience, but are not widely used in the Australasian dairy industries. Some of the reasons for this are discussed. Inter-annual variability in HAR cannot be removed, even with inputs such as irrigation, but reliable forecasts of pasture HAR for a month or more could greatly improve the effectiveness of operational and tactical decision-making. Various approaches to pasture forecasting, based on pasture growth simulation models, are presented and discussed. Some of these appear to have reasonable predictive ability. However, considerably more development work is needed to: (1) prove their effectiveness; and (2) build the systems required to capture real-time, on farm data for critical systems variables such as pasture herbage mass and soil water content to combine with daily weather data. This technology presents an opportunity for farmers to gain greater control over variability in pasture-based dairy systems and improve the efficiency of resource use for profit and environmental outcomes.