Northern Irrigation and Southern Riverina
"A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds." Francis Bacon
Inside this issue:
- Flexible forages for variable water supplies
- Managing pastures & cows over the hot summer
- Smarter energy use on dairy farms
- Online tool for dealing with sick cows
- Monthly reminders
- What's On
Feeding supplement when pasture is limited - Interim findings from the flexible feeding systems research project
Greg O'Brien and Martin Auldist, DPI Ellinbank
Profitable feeding decisions rely on an understanding of the milk response you are likely to achieve from an increase in the amount of supplement offered. You will not always get the same amount of extra milk produced from an increase in feed intake. In fact, sometimes more supplements can result in less milk production.
Research by Dr Bill Wales and Dr Martin Auldist at DPI Ellinbank (supported by Dairy Australia) is providing the dairy industry with valuable information about the response to feeding extra supplements when pasture is limiting. The latest research with grazing cows compares feeding supplements in the form of mixed rations (where concentrates and forage supplements are mixed in a wagon then fed) against traditional supplement feeding strategies (bail feeding of concentrates and paddock feeding of forage).
The focus has been on milk responses where pasture intake was limited to about 8 kilograms dry matter (DM) per cow per day and supplements were fed as 75 per cent concentrate and 25 per cent forage (silage or hay). For many dairy farms, summer and autumn diets typically contain limited amounts of pasture and may contain high amounts of grain, so the research is particularly valuable for the months ahead.
Until the cereal concentrate level exceeded 7-8 kilograms DM of grain per cow per day (10 kilograms DM total supplement), changes to the way supplements were fed did not result in any extra milk solids production compared to feeding in the traditional manner. However, when feeding above this level, milk response could be increased by changing the form of the concentrate in the supplement and/or changing the way the supplement is fed.
At supplement intakes of 10 kilograms DM or more, higher milk responses can be produced from the same amount of supplementary energy when some of the cereal grain in the 'traditional' diet was replaced by maize grain, and the supplements were offered as a partial mixed ration (PMR) on a feedpad. Higher milk production was achieved in experiments when around one third of the barley grain was replaced with maize grain. In addition, it was possible to feed higher amounts of concentrates before milk production declined due to over-feeding of concentrates.
The main difference in milk production was that with the traditional diet, milk fat concentration declined in response to feeding increasing amounts of concentrate (protein test was not affected), but when the PMR was fed milk fat concentration remained constant. Feeding a modified concentrate mix as a PMR improves the rumen pH compared to feeding cereal concentrates in the bail and fodder in the paddock. This is believed to be part of the reason for more milk production on PMR diets, containing a mix of cereal and maize grain.
The research has also shown that cows offered PMR are also inclined to consume more pasture compared to cows on the traditional diet. The mechanism behind this is uncertain, but it is possibly related to improved fibre digestion.
For those not wishing to go down the partial mixed ration path, it is good to know that additional milk can also be produced by feeding a formulated grain mix (maize, wheat and canola) in the bail. The bail feeding milk response was about half that measured when feeding the PMR, with the higher responses occurring when the mix replaces cereal grain fed at the highest rates.
On farm it is difficult to determine the upper limit of supplement feeding. However, it is clear that a significant crash in milk fat test is a sure sign that concentrate feeding is too high. Monitor daily fat test on your milk pickup slips to determine if you have gone too far.
Replacing about 25 per cent of the diet with cold pressed canola is another consideration at higher concentrate feeding levels (above about 7 kilograms per cow per day). Canola is likely to be more expensive than cereal grain but could provide an additional milk response above the maize/cereal PMR ration.
It is important to emphasise that this is based on a small number of experiments, and that milk response varied between experiments, stage of lactation, etc. The exact formula for achieving similar milk responses in a range of commercial situations is still being investigated. Look out for further updates as the research continues.
For more information please contact Martin Auldist or Greg O'Brien at DPI Ellinbank, telephone (03) 5624 2222.
Flexible forage systems for variable water supplies
Dairy operations in northern Victoria and southern New South Wales have traditionally been reliant on inexpensive, irrigated pastures to keep the cost of production low.
The research focus of the Flexible Forage Systems project is to determine the production, water use and management requirements of a range of forage systems that offer potential under variable water supplies.
Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Scientist Alister Lawson said the work would assist dairy farmers make better and more informed decisions about their selection of forages.
"The declining availability of irrigation water in recent years has become a limiting factor for producers, so they are rethinking their mix of irrigated forages and considering dryland forages in order to optimise their use of irrigation water and rainfall," Dr Lawson said.
The project is now entering the second stage with two established field trials. One trial is assessing the impact of variable water supply to lucerne on its water use, production and persistence over a five year period.
The experimental treatments range from fully irrigated for each of the five years to a treatment in which the lucerne is only irrigated for the first and last year, with the three intermediate years having no irrigation water applied.
"We are in the process of determining the impact of a range of options that farmers might implement if they don't have enough water to fully irrigate their lucerne for every year."
"Despite a wet summer, early indications are that there seems to be no negative impact upon the performance of irrigated lucerne as a result of earlier periods when it has not been irrigated."
A second trial is looking at the grazing management of tall fescue on dairy farms.
Dr Lawson said earlier work suggested that tall fescue was a very promising species in terms of its production and feed quality. However, many dairy farmers have been reluctant to use it on their farms.
"One reason for this is dairy farmers have often struggled with its grazing management requirements," he said.
"This trial with tall fescue is seeking to provide a robust set of grazing management guidelines which will allow dairy farmers to confidently incorporate tall fescue into the feedbase on their farms."
"One aspect of this work is to carry out a survey of current and past users of tall fescue. This survey aims to determine what the role tall fescue currently has on dairy farms and to define the characteristics of dairy farms on which tall fescue has been successful."
The research team is eager to speak to dairy farmers and hear about their experiences with tall fescue. If you are interested in participating please don't hesitate to contact Alister Lawson at DPI Tatura.
This project is supported by the Department of Primary Industries, Dairy Australia and Murray Dairy.
For further information please contact Alister Lawson, telephone (03) 5833 5222.
Managing pasture and cow performance over the hot summer period
Phil Shannon, DPI Cobram
This article is based on information from the 'Feeding Pastures For Profit' program.
The focus of this article is practical pasture-based feeding of milking cows over summer. There are two key management issues over the summer months – growing and offering cows quality pasture and getting cows to eat feed when the weather gets hot. Profitable feeding is about achieving the balance between 'hectare efficiency' (pasture consumption) and 'cow efficiency' (milk solids production). Profitable and efficient feeding is the result of understanding and controlling this balance.
Let's deal with pasture first. Even with our best management efforts average pasture quality declines over the summer compared to autumn and winter. Ryegrass/clover dominant pastures still produce high quality feed but quantity becomes an issue as growth rates slow down in the hotter conditions. Paspalum/clover dominant pastures can produce a lot of quantity – but the quality can drop quickly if it is allowed to get out of control and become rank. To get the most from the pasture base you need to be able to control rotation length and the amount offered to the herd each grazing.
Rotation length is the practical way that we control quality. We can't change the species in a paddock without some major works like re-sowing, so we need to have the skill to manage the dominant species. The summer challenge is that most farms will have a combination of ryegrass/clover dominant paddocks and paspalum/clover dominant paddocks – and both need different grazing management.
With ryegrass dominant paddocks we should still use the leaf principle over the summer. Generally ryegrass plants achieve the best balance between quality and quantity if we let the plants grow out to the 2 to 3-leaf stage (approximately 30 days over summer). The only time we would break from this is if rust is starting to affect the paddock. If rust is building up then you are better off to eat the pasture than to let the plants get to the right leaf stage (graze it before the rust has too much impact on quality and therefore intake).
Paspalum dominant paddocks need to be offered to the herd when they are leafy. The basic grazing principles still apply. If you graze too early you may have higher quality but will miss out on a lot of quantity. If you graze it too late quality may drop too far and the cows may refuse to eat it. If you operate at either end of the scale you will reduce your profit.
The key message with pasture is that you need a system that allows you to be able to allocate the herd pasture that is at the right stage for grazing. The Feeding Pastures For Profit program provides farmers with the 'Rotation Right' tool and the underpinning knowledge that puts you in control of when and where the cows will graze. You can easily and practically manage both paspalum paddocks on a shorter grazing interval, while managing ryegrass dominant paddocks on a longer rotation.
Feeding the herd is all about getting the right balance between pasture consumed and supplement use. If we are in control of pasture quality and pasture allocation then the job is a lot easier. If we have a method of minimising the variation in pasture quality and quantity from 'feed to feed', then we can be more consistent and confident with our supplement use. However, if the cows are going from feast to famine as they rotate around the farm and are being offered 'out of control passy' at one grazing and then short ryegrass pastures at the next then your supplement use is only guesswork.
The Rotation Right tool helps minimise the variation, and puts you in control of feeding. The tool is provided to all farmers who participate in a Feeding Pastures For Profit program. When using the tool you can more confidently predict the marginal response to the last unit of supplement – and this skill is critical to achieving profitable feeding.
If we have pasture management under control the next biggest feeding challenge over the hot summer months is managing the periods of extreme heat.
Cows are like us – they don't feel like eating when it is hot and they need more energy to help them cool themselves. The key is to remember that 'intake drives production'. If the heat causes cows to stop eating you must take some action. Our job is to do everything that we can to make them want to eat. Most of this focus is around keeping the cow cool.
Pasture quality is critical during those extremely hot periods. As long as you are controlling the rotation you will control quality. If we do have some ryegrass dominant pasture then it may be best to offer this to the herd during periods of extreme heat.
Don't expect miracles on those really hot days. During these periods paspalum may be growing at it's fastest and yet the cows won't want to eat as much of it. In order to control waste you may need to offer them a smaller area of paspalum during the hot periods, but you will then need to offer them a bigger area after the heat in order to get the rotation back on track. Alternatively you could offer them a bit more pasture in the days leading up to the extreme heat period. The Rotation Right tool can help you confidently manage this.
Other pasture tips include offering the cows a larger part of their daily allocation at night as they are more likely to graze harder at night when it is cooler.
Cows can be kept cool by using shade and/or sprinklers. The best cooling is provided by sprinklers and shade from a corrugated iron roof, but any level of cooling will make a difference.
Milking times can be altered if this allows you to cool cows more effectively at the shed, or to give cows access to the pasture at the cooler times of the day when they are more likely to choose to eat it. The choice of milking time should be made in conjunction with the other feeding and cooling strategies that are being used.
It is critical that cows always have access to plenty of quality drinking water. How do you feel on a hot day when you haven't drunk enough water?
Supplement use also plays a very important role. If it is too hot for the cows to graze the open pasture then it may be far more profitable to feed them supplement in a shady area during the heat of the day. Their daily pasture allocation can then be offered to the herd at night when they are more likely to eat it. Remember that cows can only produce milk if they are fed.
Feeding a higher portion of concentrate and a lower proportion of roughage is said to help reduce heat loading on the cow. However this only works if the cow can dissipate her heat load. For high production cows, if cooling is not provided and the temperature is above 26°C, then extra concentrate may not help to maintain production.
For more information and tips on reducing and managing heat stress in dairy cows, visit the cool cows website, www.coolcows.com.au.
In summary, maintain pasture quality by controlling rotation length, do your best to keep cows cool, monitor milk production as a simple indicator of how the cows are feeling, and take the appropriate action to get cows back on track after those periods of extreme heat.
For more information on the Feeding Pastures For Profit program please contact Tom Farran DPI Tatura, telephone (03) 5833 5297.
Smarter energy use on australian dairy farms can save you dollars
Dairy industry research shows the average dairy farmer spends approximately $13,000 per year on electricity costs. It also shows that there are opportunities for energy (and therefore cost) savings on most dairy farms.
The continuing increases in the price of electricity means you should consider an energy assessment to identify potential savings on your farm.
How do you do that when you already don't have enough time and the task of assessing your energy efficiency is a complex one?
Dairy Australia and the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency have launched a joint venture to provide an energy assessment for 900 farms across the country. 195 of those will be conducted in the Murray Dairy Region. Recognising that it is difficult to identify and unlock efficiency gains without input from experienced service providers, the 'Smarter energy use on Australian dairy farms' project will help fund competent assessors to prepare an energy efficiency plan for your farm.
The plan will assist you to improve the performance of existing plant, as well as prioritise any future spending on equipment upgrades.
The objectives of the project are to:
- Develop the information and tools that are needed to underpin individual farm energy efficiency assessments;
- Select and, where necessary, train trusted industry service providers to undertake the farm energy efficiency assessments;
- Develop the energy efficiency plans for 900 dairy farms – plans that connect individual dairy farmers with the options and strategies that are applicable to their specific situation; and to
- Share lessons from individual farms across the dairy industry.
The project began in August and is still open to expressions of interest from farmers who would like to take advantage of the opportunity that the 'Smarter energy use on Australian dairy farms' project offers.
Anyone interested in having an assessment done should register their interest by contacting Murray Dairy, telephone (03) 5833 5312 or email email@example.com.
This Activity received funding from the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency as part of the Energy Efficiency Information Grants Program. The views expressed herein are not necessarily the views of the Commonwealth of Australia, and the Commonwealth does not accept responsibility for any information or advice contained herein.
Q. What did the alien say to the book?
A. Take me to your reader.
Q. Which triangles are the coldest?
A. ICE-soceles triangles.
Q. Why did the boy bring a ladder to school?
A. He wanted to go to high school.
Q. What do elves learn in school?
A. The elf-abet.
Q. How long does it take for a gymnast to get to class?
A. A split second.
Free online tool for dealing with sick cows
Dairy farmers can now use a new, free online resource to help them manage sick animals. Dairy Australia's animal health 'Fast Facts' will help farm staff decide if an animal needs help from a vet.
The new dairy resource is the first in Australia. It has been developed over 12 months by a team of farmers, veterinary and animal health consultants.
"Fast Facts is an online, one-stop shop for information on more than 45 animal health issues. It is designed to help farmers recognise when an animal needs quick vet intervention," said Kathryn Davis, Dairy Australia's manager animal health.
"Unlike technical text books it's written in everyday language in a very easy-to-read format.
"There's nothing to beat a farmer's powers of observation when it comes to the health of the herd. They see something wrong with an animal and think 'that doesn't look right'. Now they can go online for free help in finding a list of possible causes," she said.
"Fast Facts doesn't replace the work of the local vet or government animal health services. In fact, it helps the farmer focus on the symptoms and know when to seek help or report a serious problem. The process could see animals treated sooner and possibly mean better survival rates."
Conditions range from feed-based ailments to contagious diseases, abortion and fertility problems to simply knowing when to look for abscesses or foreign bodies.
"It presents the information from a farmer's perspective; how you'd see it out in the paddock," Dr Davis said. "Fast Facts provides simple information about the more important diseases and gives basic advice on how to prevent or manage the less-serious conditions."
While there were some smaller, state-based information sites, she said the new Dairy Australia site was the first offering a tool that all Australian dairy farmers can use "because dairy cattle diseases don't recognise state boundaries".
Dr Kathryn Davis: "There's nothing to beat a farmer's powers of observation."
Fast Facts Case Study 1:
A yearling has a red, runny nose and cloudy eyes. She's been grazing a paddock alongside a neighbour's first-cross ewes. You use Fast Facts to find out more about the likely causes and realise that the symptoms point to a possible case of Malignant Catarrhal Fever. This alerts you to have the animal checked to rule out the possibility of Foot and Mouth Disease or other serious exotic diseases, so you isolate the animal and call your vet without delay.
Case Study 2:
A calf has red urine and a poor appetite. A quick check of Fast Facts points to possible causes as poisoning by kale or rape, ticks (in northern areas), phosphorus deficiency or leptospirosis. You phone the vet and – as an added precaution – check that all farm staff are up-to-date with their lepto shots.
Case Study 3:
It's early lactation and you're seeing several animals that are off their feed and producing bad-smelling diarrhoea. You read up on Fast Facts about the symptoms of acidosis and confirm the diagnosis by tapping their left flanks to hear the tell-tale splashing sound. The symptoms are mild and are not getting any worse, so you stomach-tube some magnesium into the affected animals, feed them good-quality hay and keep them off water until tomorrow.
For more information or to get a copy of the tool, visit Dairy Australia's website www.dairyaustralia.com.au/fastfacts.
- Monitor your cows and what is happening in the vat to determine if they are getting a balanced and adequate diet. If you are unsure, get someone to help you.
- Introduce new feeds gradually; give the bugs in the rumen time to adjust to dietary changes. Depending on feed type, it can take from days to a couple of weeks to adjust.
- Identify ways that you can minimise wastage as it can be very costly. Concrete troughs, hay rings, rubber matting, running hot wires over the top of feed or simply feeding out along a fence line can all help reduce wastage.
- Some of us are in the thick of joining, some of us are about to start. Make an effort to keep up the enthusiasm in the second round of joining – keep looking for cows on heat. Remember heat detection is improved by observing the milking herd grazing in the paddock mid morning and again in the late evening.
- Tail painting with a different colour after each three week cycle will make heat detection easier
- Start thinking about hot days and how we can manage heat stress in the herd when the temperatures are high.
- Keep an eye on the young stock. Don't wean them and then forget about them. Vaccinate and drench the young stock as required and feed them well so that they keep growing.
- It is important to keep revising budgets as the season progresses. Look at the feed budgets as well as the cash budget.
- Keep talking to friends and family about decisions and feelings. Remember the importance of getting some time away from the farm.
Calling the next round of dairy leaders
Aspiring dairy leaders are urged to apply for the 2013 Developing Dairy Leaders Program (DDLP) with applications closing Friday, November 30.
The program, developed by Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) and Dairy Australia, is delivered by the National Centre for Dairy Education Australia (NCDEA).
Participants in the DDLP learn how to articulate, present and debate ideas, develop policy, provide advocacy and representation, participate as a member of a board, participate in a media interview or presentation, lead and manage community or industry organisations and manage personal work priorities and professional development.
For more information please visit www.dairyaustralia.com.au/leadership.
Murray Dairy Business Forum and NCDEA Graduation
Please mark Wednesday 5 December in your calendar for the Murray Dairy Business Forum and NCDEA Graduation which will be held at the Moama Bowls Club.
For more information please contact Shirley Hurley NCDEA, telephone 0447 379 565, or Murray Dairy, telephone (03) 5833 5312.
Dairy Australia Grain and Hay Report
This report is commissioned by Dairy Australia to provide an independent and timely assessment of grain and hay markets in each dairying region. Information for our region is given in the Gouburn/Murray Valley report, a summary of which is printed in the Country News. You can access the full report at www.dairyaustralia.com.au.
Any feedback or comments are welcomed by the editor Leah de Vries (03) 5833 5223.
For previous issues of the Dairy Bulletin please go to our website www.depi.vic.gov.au/agriculture-and-food/dairy.