Inside this issue:
- Clearing the carbon confusion
- Do you need to check your irrigation Annual Use Limit?
- Better genes, more milk
- Centre pivot and lateral move irrigation course
- Managers who are accountable and responsible decision makers
- Preventing milk fever
- Monthly reminders
- What's On
Autumn - Time to empty effluent ponds
Leah de Vries, DEPI Tatura
While you're busy going about sowing and irrigating your autumn pastures don't forget to consider how you can reuse the nutrients contained in your effluent ponds.
Now is the time of year to empty your effluent ponds to ensure you have plenty of storage capacity in your system to contain the effluent generated over the winter months.
You can incorporate solid effluent into any paddock renovations, which will help to boost organic matter levels.
Liquid effluent will not only top up your irrigation, it will also provide a good source of nutrients.
The nutrients contained in effluent ponds are a valuable resource and should, where possible, be used to replace the nutrients that are removed when pastures and crops are consumed or harvested.
Rather than simply apply the effluent where it is most convenient (i.e. paddocks adjacent to the ponds) try to consider those paddocks that could do with an application. Dairy effluent contains significant amounts of nutrients and it is more beneficial and more environmentally sustainable to spread those over areas that require a boost of nutrients (based on soil analysis).
As dairy effluent is shandied with other water sources (such as irrigation or bore water), the quality of the water source, especially the salts and sodium content, needs to be considered along with the amount of nutrients contained in the effluent.
Emptying your effluent pond is an important measure to take to ensure your effluent management system continues to function properly. A failed effluent pond is a problem that can easily be avoided given proper management.
If you are having any management issues with your effluent system contact Leah de Vries, DEPI Tatura, telephone (03) 5833 5222 or Scott McDonald, Echuca, telephone (03) 5482 1922.
Clearing the carbon confusion
Over the last few months there has been some hype in the media regarding the introduction of the Clean Energy Futures legislation (Carbon tax) and the Carbon Farming Initiative. This can be a difficult space to keep on top of given its nature as a high profile political football. Here are some key points that will help you get a better handle on the policy implications, including the increasing costs for your dairy farm business.
Why should dairy farmers be expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
Firstly, some perspective on emissions from agriculture, why should agriculture be encouraged to contribute to a target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for Australia?
- Agriculture emitted around 15 per cent of total Australian emissions in 2009, making it the second biggest emitter behind the electricity industry.
- Agriculture is the dominant source of Australia's total methane (57 per cent) and nitrous oxide (73 per cent) emissions.
- The Victorian dairy industry contributes over one third of all methane and nitrous oxide emissions from Victorian agriculture.
These methane and nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture are bigger ticket items than our actual carbon emissions. Why is this so? Methane and nitrous oxide cause greater warming in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Comparing a GHG to carbon dioxide (CO2) gives us a 'global warming potential' of each gas. This is measured in CO2 equivalents (CO2e) so we can compare apples with apples (or gases with gases in this case). The outcome being:
- Methane (CH4) is 25 times more effective at warming the atmosphere than CO2.
- Nitrous oxide (N20) is 298 times more so!
Now, when you consider the GHG emissions from dairy farms such as the example below, you can see by far the greatest emissions come from enteric methane, (methane produced from ruminant digestion). This equates to a significant loss of energy from your farm system:
- 8-10 per cent of gross energy eaten by your stock is lost as methane.
- 91-146 kilogram/head/year of CH4 is lost from a lactating dairy cow. This is enough to drive a car from Melbourne to Sydney.
Some of this lost methane can be redirected back into production and this is where the current methane research is focusing.
2010-11 sources of emissions
Figure 1: 2010-11 sources of emissions on dairy farms
Although the N2O emissions make up a much smaller proportion of overall emissions on farm, due to its much greater warming potential than the other GHG it is very much in the mind of consumers and policy makers. While agriculture has been excluded directly from the obligations of the carbon tax, it is still expected to contribute to an overall reduction in GHG emissions for Australia.
What is the carbon tax?
By 2020 the national target for reducing emissions is a five per cent reduction based on the year 2000 GHG emissions. To stimulate innovation and practice change to achieve this target, the Clean Energy Futures legislation is set to take effect from 1 July, 2012 and will mean there will be a carbon tax imposed on the 500 largest GHG emitters in Australia. This will be underpinned by a carbon trading market for businesses to buy carbon credits from others to offset their own emissions. This means if someone reduces their emissions through changing practices or new technology, they can then sell this credit for their 'clean air' to another entity to reduce their liability for the carbon tax. The Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) is a mechanism for farmers to get involved in trading their carbon credits to others and this will be explored in next month's edition.
There will be a fixed carbon price of $23/ tonne CO2e set for the first three years of trading. This will transition to a floating price from 2015 but with price boundaries for the following three years to provide some form of market stability. This means there will be certainty around the price of carbon for at least three years to give businesses confidence to introduce new technologies and change their practices to lower emissions.
There will be significant assistance for the emissions intensive industries (industries where a significant amount of GHG emissions are process related and difficult to mitigate), such as the energy sector, but also including large fertiliser producers and pulp/ paper products. Dairy processors don't qualify for this assistance and it is expected that they will pass through some of their increased costs.
How will the Carbon Tax impact dairy farmers?
Although direct farm emissions, such as methane from stock, will be excluded from the carbon tax, farmers will have to pay increased prices for key inputs like electricity and energy intensive inputs such as fertiliser.
Dairy Australia has estimated electricity price rises on farm to be in the vicinity of $4,000, with the Australian Farm Institute suggesting up to $6,000 annually, but this will vary by scale of enterprise. However, these figures rely on farmers doing nothing to reduce their emissions and therefore reduce the impact of the carbon tax on their business.
Dairy manufacturers will be subject to the new tax and while not all of them will have to buy permits for their emissions directly, they will be impacted by higher costs for energy inputs and packaging. It is unlikely dairy companies will be able to recover any of these higher costs from the market place and it will therefore translate into lower farm gate prices for milk. The Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) has estimated a reduction to dairy farmers' income by up to 1.2 per cent due to this cost-price pass-through but will depend on the farm location and processor situation.
The ADIC has concluded that even with Government concessions, the initial combined impact of the carbon tax on the dairy industry could result in an increase in average farm costs of between $5,000 and $7,000 per annum. From July 2014, when fuel used by long distance road transport will be liable under the carbon price, there will be added cost pressure on the dairy industry.
If the thought of these cost increases makes you feel helpless there are actions you can take on farm to minimise these increases whilst potentially also selling carbon credits for extra income. In next month's edition of The Dairy Bulletin, we will move onto the practical actions you can take on farm to reduce the impact of the carbon tax and reduce emissions while improving efficiency. This will include exploring opportunities for dairy farmers in the CFI. Stay tuned for the next instalment. For more information go to www.climatechange.gov.au
Check the 'What's On' section on page 8 for details about three upcoming field days exploring the topic of energy use in the dairy shed and ways to create energy savings.
Do you need to check your irrigation annual use limit?
Rob O'Connor, DEPI Echuca
Some irrigators in the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District have reached or are approaching their irrigation Annual Use Limit (AUL) for this season. Increased water use due to high volumes of carryover water and high water allocations are part of the reason for this.
In previous media releases Goulburn-Murray Water has indicated no immediate action is required by irrigators to continue irrigating this season if they are in this situation. "GMW recognised farming practices have changed significantly as a result of the drought and new technology. This season, if you exceed your annual use limit, G-MW will make contact and work with you to understand why and what options are available to you."
What is an AUL?
As part of the unbundling process during the 2006/07 season, Water-Use Licences were introduced which include limits on the amount of water that can be applied to land. The AUL is the maximum annual volume of water that can be used on a property. The volume of the AUL is influenced by the drainage arrangements on the property. In basic terms, if the property is serviced by a reuse system and has a connection to a recognised drainage system, or is irrigated by a pressurised system, the AUL may be up to 10 ML/ha. If the property has either a reuse system or is connected to a recognised drainage system, the limit can be up to 7.2 ML/ha. If the property has neither re-use nor drainage, 5 ML/ha will generally be the maximum.
AUL's enable irrigators to continue responsible water use and give confidence to irrigators and the wider community that waterlogging, salinity, infiltration of groundwater, disposal of drainage water and other environmental impacts are properly managed. AUL's also help to ensure the irrigation industry maintains a positive image.
If you believe your annual water usage will exceed your AUL in this or future seasons, you can apply to have your AUL increased. The process involves an application to vary your Water-Use Licence and a site visit by GMW. Irrigators are encouraged to contact GMWs Land Transactions Team on (03) 5826 3242 if they would like to discuss or clarify their AUL. Keep an eye out for further information released by G-MW on AULs and actions that may need to be taken to ensure appropriate arrangements are in place for future seasons.
What are some of the implications of the Annual Use Limit for the farm business?
AUL's need to be considered in developing water budgets, farm forage mixes and feed plans for dairy farms. More immediately, this limit needs to be taken into account in decision making about what pastures and crops will be sown on the farm over the next few months. If you plan to increase the total irrigated area or areas of perennial species, will next season's total farm water requirements exceed your AUL? If so, do you need to apply to vary your Water-Use Licence and change your AUL, or do you need to change your planned farm forage mix?
The AUL needs to be considered when purchasing a property, particularly if you plan to use the land largely for perennial species. In situations where a property is subdivided, the AUL will change depending on the drainage arrangements on each parcel of land.
If you would like more information on farm water budgeting, forage selection or a feed plan contact Rob O'Connor, DEPI Echuca, telephone (03) 5482 1922; Tom Farran, DEPI Tatura, telephone (03) 5833 5297; or Phil Shannon, DEPI Cobram, telephone (03) 5871 0613.
Better genes, more milk
Genetic improvement has contributed to more than 32 per cent of productivity gains in Australian dairy herds over the past decade. This is just one of the many insights available in the latest edition of the Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Report released recently by the Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme (ADHIS) and the National Herd Improvement Association of Australia (NHIA).
Adrian Drury, ADHIS Chairman, said almost 30 years of investment in independent genetic evaluation by the Australian dairy industry has resulted in steady improvements in the genetic potential of our cows, and in dairy herd productivity.
"It's a fabulous achievement and every dairy farmer in Australia benefits from it when they use artificial insemination and Australian Breeding Values," Mr Drury said.
Most of the insights in the report are drawn from data which is collected through herd recording. Some highlights from the latest report based on 2010/11 data include:
- Milk production by Australian cows is 55 per cent higher now than it was in 1990.
- Most dairy cows are bred via artificial insemination (69 per cent of herd recorded Holsteins, 67 per cent of herd-recorded Jerseys and 91 per cent of herd recorded Australian Red Breeds).
- Herd recording is performed on about half (49 per cent) of Australia's dairy farms.
- On average, herd recorded cows produced 32 per cent more milk than nonherd recorded cows (Dairy Australia in Focus 2011 and ADHIS 11).
- Each year, the improvement in genetic merit of Holstein cows is worth an extra 9.15 profit per cow per year ($11.32 for Jersey and $7.92 for Red Breeds).
A dairy farmer himself, Mr Drury said the management tools arising from the industry's investment in dairy genetics were used in his business on a daily basis.
"Like most Australian dairy farmers we use artificial insemination, progeny test sires, proven sires and herd recording results. These tools have been integral to our management for many years and their improvements over the years have had a direct impact on our profitability," he said. "The Herd Improvement Report gives us an annual insight into dairy genetics and enables us to track these benefits over time," Mr Drury said.
ADHIS is an initiative of Australian Dairy Farmers', that receives the majority of its funding from Dairy Australia through the Dairy Service Levy.
The report can be downloaded from www.adhis.com.au or contact ADHIS to request a print copy, telephone (03) 8621 4240 or email email@example.com
Q. What is small, round and giggles a lot?
A. A tickled onion
Q. What is square and green?
A. A lemon in disguise
Q. What's the strongest vegetable?
A. A muscle sprout
Q. How do you make an artichoke?
A. Strangle it
Q. Why did the banana go to the doctor?
A. Because it wasn't peeling well
Q. What's the fastest vegetable?
A. A runner bean
Centre pivot and lateral move irrigation course
A two day national training course on centre pivot and lateral move irrigation systems will be held in Numurkah on March 28 and 29, 2012. The course is for farmers who might own or are considering the purchase of a centre pivot or a lateral move system. It is also suitable for service providers who want to improve their knowledge in this area.
This national course covers the financial considerations of centre pivot and lateral move systems including capital and operating costs and a comparison with other irrigation systems. Planning, design and system performance issues are also covered including location, selection, pipe size and pressure requirements, operational and maintenance issues, sprinkler packages, irrigation scheduling and irrigation efficiency. An inspection of a local centre pivot or a lateral move system on farm is a feature of the course. The course applies to all crop types and a technical manual is supplied to participants.
The Centre Pivot and Lateral Move Course was developed by the Cooperative Research Centre for Irrigation Futures (CRCIF) and is being delivered through the Departments of Environment and Primary Industries, Victoria and NSW. It is delivered by experienced irrigation advisors and will run from 10am to 3pm.
The course cost is $620, of which 65 per cent can be claimed through the Farm Ready Reimbursement Grant by eligible primary producers, immediate family members of primary producers and management team members of a primary production enterprises. Grant applications need to have been received at least five (preferably ten) working days before the course commences for processing.
If you are interested in attending the course, please contact Rob O'Connor at DEPI Echuca as soon as possible, telephone (03) 5482 1922 or 0408 515 652, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Managers who are accountable and responsible decision makers
In the current dairying environment, successful business management increasingly relies on our ability to make good decisions and manage risk in a timely manner. Businesses require management which is capable of complex decision making and high level business and people management.
The NCDEA, with support from Dairy Australia, has developed a series of short courses to develop the skills and knowledge of dairy farm production and business managers.
Topics offered at Diploma Level in 2012 are:
- Develop a whole farm plan
- Manage staff - The People in Dairy GPS
- Tour in May: Manage livestock production
- Develop and review a business plan
- Develop and implement a breeding strategy - Genetics Learning Package and In Calf
- Plan and manage infrastructure requirements
- Develop livestock health and welfare strategies
- Manage integrated crop and pasture production
- Plan production for the whole farm/land based business
The themes of sustainability, systems thinking, management cycle and risk management are fundamental parts of the course. These themes help develop decision-makers who are accountable and responsible in their managerial roles.
Topics offered at Advanced Diploma Level in 2012 are:
- Analysing the performance of your business
- Making complex decisions related to the production system
- Planning and managing your workforce requirements
- Determining appropriate business structures and planning for the future of the business
- Developing your communication and leadership skills to enable you to better represent your farm, industry and community
You can participate in these programs topic by topic, whilst working full-time. Successful completion of all of the short courses will gain you a qualification and help you manage your business risk.
For further information visit www.ncdea.edu.au or call 1300 0 NCDEA (1300 062 332).
Preventing milk fever
Now is the time to prevent milk fever in cows due to calve in the coming months.
Dr Barry Zimmermann who manages Dairy Australia's InCalf program said every dairy farmer's dream is to eliminate milk fever from the herd.
"Milk fever is a nutritional disease so it can be prevented, but the trick is in the timing. It's too late once the cows have calved. The key to preventing milk fever is suitable nutrition in the three weeks leading up to calving," Dr Zimmermann said.
During this time cows need to receive a diet with the right amount of energy, protein, fibre, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and trace elements; and the correct DCAD* level.
"It's quite a fine balance. To achieve the correct balance you need to have all components of the pre-calving diet tested for calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and DCAD levels. Even if you use a commercially prepared transition ration, you'll need to consider the impact of other components of the springer diet such as pasture and hay," he said.
Feeds which carry a high risk for milk fever include pasture treated with effluent, high potassium molasses, legume pastures and concentrates or grain with added sodium bicarbonate.
"The benefits of preventing milk fever are far reaching so it may be worth working with a nutritionist to achieve the correct balance in the springer diet."
The most obvious benefit is not having the stress and cost of dealing with downer cows. But the less visible benefits affect the bottom line and animal welfare.
"For every clinical case of milk fever you see, up to eight other cows may be affected in some way. Preventing milk fever also improves milk production, herd fertility, herd health and animal welfare," Dr Zimmermann said.
To find out more about transition feeding, visit www.dairyaustralia.com.au/incalf or attend an InCalf transition feeding workshop, coming to your area soon. For workshop details email: email@example.com or telephone (03) 9620 7283.
* DCAD refers to the Difference between Cations (sodium and potassium) and Anions (chloride and sulphur) in the Diet. In the industry it is always referred to as DCAD.
- Most pastures will need some type of renovation. Have you decided what needs to be oversown and what should be resown? Contact your local Dairy Extension Officer if you need help with this decision.
- Remember to leave enough time for the pasture to establish itself, rather than grazing it as soon as there is some greenness and then suffering through the winter due to the pasture not being able to perform well.
- Make sure any fertiliser you want to spread this autumn has been ordered. It's also a good idea to be ready to go when it arrives, so make sure your equipment is serviced.
- Check the ration of all classes of stock on the farm. Are their requirements being met? Pay particular attention to the feed requirements of your autumn calving cows. They need more feed and higher quality feed in comparison to the spring calving cows in the herd.
- Carefully monitor freshly calved autumn cows for mastitis.
- Check for any pink eye, particularly amongst the young stock.
- Check if the liners need to be replaced – Countdown Down Under recommends they should be replaced after 2,500 cow milkings.
- Make sure the plate cooler is working properly and you are using the coldest source of water possible. Check the condense fins are clean and not blocked with debris.
Rearing Healthy Calves Workshops
Murray Dairy is conducting a number of workshops for dairy farmers and service providers on rearing healthy calves.
Waaia Hotel Tuesday, March 20
Tatura DEPI Wednesday, March 21
Cohuna Bowls Club Thursday, March 22
10am to 2.30pm - lunch provided
For further information or to RSVP please contact Murray Dairy, telephone (03) 5833 5312 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Centre Pivot and Lateral Move Irrigation
National Training Course.
March 28 and 29, 2012 - Numurkah.
See the article in this edition for more details.
Watts in the Dairy Shed Field Days
Tuesday, April 3 - Greg Perry - 127 Tatura- Undera Rd Tatura
Wednesday, April 4 - Brendan Martin - 1574 Restdown Rd, Bamawm
Thursday, April 5 - Tim Leahy - 963 Winter Rd Girgarre
Concerned about electricity price rises? Then come along and learn about energy use in the dairy shed, pick up some tips on how to reduce energy use and learn about the cost benefits of energy saving technology.
For more information or to RSVP please contact Murray Dairy, telephone (03) 5833 5312 or email email@example.com
Introduction to Dairy Cow Nutrition - a course for service providers
April 17, 18, May 15 and 16 2012, DEPI Tatura For more information please contact Ash Michael, DEPI Leongatha, telephone (03) 5662 9901.
The editor would like to note a correction to last month's article on lucerne which should have stated the return to "100 per cent HRWS", rather than "full water allocation".