Forage Value Index
Development of an economic ranking to evaluate perennial ryegrass cultivars and traits to assist farmers in selecting the most appropriate options for their dairy system.
Driver for the research
Perennial ryegrass is one of the most important grass species used for dairy production in the temperate regions of Australia. However, with over 60 perennial ryegrass cultivars on the Australian market, it can be difficult for farmers and their advisors to select the most suitable ones for their farming system.
The development of economic values for pasture traits of interest offers farmers a way to compare perennial ryegrass cultivars in a systematic way. It is envisaged that the economic values could be used to develop a 'forage value index' – a pasture equivalent for the Australian Profit Ranking (APR) used in dairy cattle. In the APR, each trait used has an associated economic value and the APR is a weighted ranking based on the collective outcome of these values.
New Zealand and Ireland have recently launched similar products for evaluation of their perennial ryegrass cultivars. However, there is a need to establish economic values unique to Australian conditions as, compared to these countries Australia has distinct differences in their dairy farm systems with regards to calving pattern and feeding systems that will impact on the economic values of cultivars.
The Forage Value Index project will initially focus on developing economic values for seasonal and annual pasture dry matter yield. Economic values for other traits (eg. Nutritive characteristics and persistence) will be developed as suitable data becomes available. The economic values will be incorporated into whole farm models to assess their impact at the farm level.
It is envisaged that by the end of the project a functioning forage value index will be available to help farmers and their advisors select the most suitable perennial ryegrass cultivars for their region and farming system and for industry to build on over time as more data becomes available.
- Determine the economic value of individual traits (total and seasonal dry matter yield) of perennial ryegrass cultivars and evaluate the potential to include nutritive characteristics and persistence traits.
- Develop a methodology to calculate the forage value index based on total and seasonal DM yields and evaluate the potential to include nutritive characteristics and persistence traits.
- Estimate the economic value of current cultivars in different environments.
- Disseminate information to the seed industry.
- Disseminate information to farmers and service providers.
The approach will be similar to that used in both Ireland and New Zealand.
Economic values for pasture traits (initially total and seasonal pasture DM yield) will be estimated by:
- Developing base farm scenarios across the dairying regions in Victoria that detail the biophysical and economic performance of the farm systems.
- Recalculating farm performance following a change in the seasonal pasture DM yield (or other pasture trait).
- Calculating the difference between the economic performance of the new system and the base farm system.
- Expressing this as a function of the change in the trait implemented in the new system: Economic Value = D operating profit / D trait of interest
Collaboration with commercial seed companies involved in inter- and intra-regional cultivar evaluation will provide the pasture dry matter yield data required to establish the initial forage index for perennial ryegrass cultivars currently used in Australia.
Development of a forage value index will enable cultivars to be ranked according to their suitability for a given region and/or dairy system.
There is the opportunity to develop the initial framework further by starting to account for the necessary system changes required to exploit the additional value of a given cultivar. System changes may vary according to region and type of system.
Tel: (03) 5561 9939
Commercial seed companies DairyNZ
Teagasc (Ireland) University of Melbourne
Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources
July 2014 – June 2017