The Dairy Bulletin - January 2013
Northern Irrigation and Southern Riverina
"Do what we can, summer will have its flies." Ralph Waldo Emerson
Inside this issue:
- Case Study: Higher Flow Rate Irrigation – Light Soil
- NCDEA courses 2013
- Recent changes to carryover rules
- Monthly reminders
- What's On
Forage Planning makes cents
Frank Mickan, DEPI Ellinbank
A fellow extension officer visited a farmer to help him with some grazing advice. When he arrived the farmer excitedly showed his farm map and told him about all the different crop and pastures he was trialling, based on advice from a local seed supplier.
This farmer had been convinced to sow eight different types of crops such as lucerne, perennial ryegrass, chicory and cereals. The farmer was very excited about the prospect of having lots of winter feed, high quality summer feed and many other agronomic advantages for his farming system.
However, reality soon kicked in when they were trying to develop a plan on how to graze them all and try to get the crops to grow anywhere near their potential while still being of high quality for the stock. They worked out if he used at least four different rotation lengths it would still compromise some of the crops. It became apparent that this would be nearly impossible to manage.
The problem worsened when the discussion turned to managing the herd's diet around these different crops. Often when changing from grazing one type of crop to another the microorganisms in the cow's rumen require a number of days to adjust to changes in the diet to get the most nutritionally from the new crop they are now grazing.
This is illustrated by a New Zealand study where cows that were grazing as much perennial ryegrass as they could eat were then sent to graze as much lucerne as they could eat. Their milk production dropped by 24 per cent for the first three days on the lucerne diet before recovering rapidly to be higher than when they were grazing the perennial ryegrass. This was due to the micro organisms in the rumen needing to adjust to the new diet.
Similar observations have been made when changing from ryegrass to tall fescue pastures. However, in this case, the milk depression is likely to be due to the cow's preference for grazing ryegrass and needing a while to start properly grazing the fescue, resulting in less being eaten initially until the cows became accustomed to grazing the fescue.
On this particular farm it was clear that the cows would often be under-performing due to rapid changes in the type of feed the cows were eating and the cows needing time to adjust at each change. As soon as the cows would begin to adjust they would then be put onto a different type of feed requiring another adjustment period, resulting in reduced milk production again. If supplements were to be fed at the same time, as they often are, the type of supplement might need to be changed with each different crop type – another change in diet!
What I am trying to say in a round about way is, perhaps some farmers need to have a forage plan that takes into account the whole farm system. Look at when your herd is calving. When do your animals (milkers, dry and young stock) need the extra feed? Do you need high or medium quality feed for which group? You can buy poor quality feed any time, usually, just ensure you pay low prices for it. Let's not go into buying on a cents per kilogram dry matter, or heaven forbid, cents per unit of energy (ME) or dollars per kilogram of protein.
A good forage plan needs to be flexible enough to help you negotiate the seasonal roller coaster that is dairy farming. We all know there are a range of crop types and cultivars within each of these that cover a wide range of sowing and maturity dates and there are specific crops suitable for specific conditions (soil temperatures, soil types, rain fall, etc.).
Crops are often given an average nutritive (book) value but all species have a wide range of nutritive values depending mainly on their maturity, but also influenced by soil fertility, moisture conditions, etc. Now, throw in the seasonal variation we have experienced over the last 10 – 15 years. A risk management approach to forage planning is needed to help deal with the variation.
To help farmers to make better feed supply decisions in this world of uncertainty and with so many factors which should be taken into account when determining when, why and what species/cultivars to sow, DEPI, with support from Dairy Australia, is developing a Forage Planning process which we hope will help farmers to think about/assess their annual feed base requirements using a better planned, more informed method. This process will also look further into the future rather than just the next season.
This Forage Planning process will take into account your farming system, your animals' needs (when, how much and what quality), what crops/pastures best suit your farming situation, etc.
While we don't have control over the seasonal variation, weather conditions, cash flow, milk prices and the impact and volatility of overseas milk product prices and world grain prices (due to droughts, poor seasons, etc.), this list of uncertainties have their own influence on farmers' decisions because of the degree of risk they may/may not present.
There are no recipes or right answers for every farmer. Each farmer will have their own attitudes to these risks but they must be in front of mind when farmers formulate robust forage plans to minimise the risk of these uncertainties on their livelihoods.
DEPI Dairy Services Branch staff will be running pilot Forage Planning groups in 2013-2014 in Victoria's dairying regions. The groups will meet several times to develop a Forage Plan and discuss what to sow and why. They will then meet again to discuss management at various stages during the growth of the pastures and/or crops at sowing, germination, grazing and conservation.
We welcome any dairy farmers interested in being involved to contact Frank Mickan, DEPI Ellinbank, telephone (03) 5624 2259 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Higher flow rate irrigation - light soil
Case study: Mark and Monique Bryant, Kaarimba dairy farmers.
What: Larger flow rate bay outlets
On the farm
Mark and Monique are currently milking 240 cows on their 130 hectare farm, north of Kaarimba, south-east of Nathalia. They purchased the farm three years ago from Mark's father who had been farming the property since 1982. Mark had worked on the property for eleven years prior to purchasing the farm. The property has historically been a dairy enterprise.
The property is predominately sown to annual pasture varieties, with some cereal crops grown as well. Last season, the Bryants planted maize for the first time to utilise available water. The property is 90 per cent East Shepparton fine sandy loam. Irrigation supply is pumped (electric) from the
Broken Creek. Low allocations in recent times and the irrigation infrastructure has historically limited the amount of water used on the property. The Bryants would ideally aim to use one megalitre/year of irrigation water, per cow.
Low water allocations have driven them to consider ways to reduce their water use whilst maintaining or improving production. Larger irrigation flow rates have recently been promoted as an option for reducing water use, and they have installed larger outlets as a result.
Depending on the water level in the creek, the Bryants are able to deliver 12 to 15 megalitres/day onto their checkbank irrigation bays. Their bays have variable slopes of between 1:800 and 1:1,000, are 50 to 60 metres wide, and 1.6 to 1.8 hectares in area.
What was done?
A total of 18 six foot Padman stops have been installed to service 24 hectares, 13 of these were installed into existing farm channels, while the remaining five were installed as part of a land-forming and channel remodelling project, a component of their Whole Farm Plan.
The benefits according to the Bryants
The main benefit was seen with the first watering after the outlets were installed. "We halved our water use with no noticeable production loss," Mark said.
Production is approximately 16 tonnes/ hectare using 4 megalitres/hectare of water on a shaftal clover/ryegrass pasture.
The Bryants grew 12 tonnes/hectare of wheat during the 2011 season using 2 megalitres/hectare of irrigation, with rainfall well utilised.
Summer 2012 was the first year maize was grown and the wet conditions experienced meant no irrigation water was been applied. Mark's aim was to grow twenty tonnes/hectare.
Mark finds ease of management to be a significant benefit when compared to the lower flows historically applied. Irrigating is quicker because it is more intense, but doesn't take as long, freeing up time for other activities. Mark's general rule of thumb is that it takes about one to one and a half hours per hectare to irrigate, depending on the fall on the bay, the percentage of crop cover and the temperature.
The design of the gates also allows anyone to open and close them with ease, so the work is not as physically challenging.
It's possible to irrigate more than one bay at a time, which can sometimes be advantageous but obviously reduces the flow rate onto each bay and therefore reduces some of the benefits derived from irrigating faster.
Mark and Monique normally sow their annual pasture early, in March, which can be a risk if the weather then becomes hot. They have noticed even if they do experience hot days, they get less scalding of the pasture because there's not as much ponded water on the bay for as long. They also notice fewer water weeds in the pasture because the water gets on and off quickly. As their water supply is pumped, another benefit of shorter irrigation times is reduced pump running time, which reduces their power costs.
How much did it cost?
For the Bryants, installing larger irrigation outlets has cost $550 per outlet ($450 for each outlet and $100 per outlet to install). If other works such as land-forming and channel re-modelling were performed, the outlets would not represent a large percentage of the total cost.
Did the benefits outweigh the cost?
The Bryants believe they recovered some of their costs in the first watering. Temporary water was expensive at the time and they halved their water use, saving approximately six megalitres which could be used elsewhere on the farm, or traded.
Is there anything to look out for?
"With faster flow rates, if you get the irrigation shut off time wrong it can be a big mistake and results in a bit of a mess. If you were 30 minutes late using 6 megalitres/day it's not a big issue, but being 30 minutes late using 15 megalitres/day is a big mistake."
"It's more intense while you're irrigating so you're busier chasing water but the flip side of this is you spend less time irrigating."
Getting enough water out of your irrigation supply system could be a problem. The Bryants have a pumped supply with an adequate flow rate, but others should make sure their meter, supply channel and on-farm channels can deliver the required flow rate.
Make sure checkbanks are adequate. With a heavy crop such as ryegrass in full production the amount of water it holds up is significant and this can result in water spilling onto adjacent bays. Shut off time should be adhered to in this situation because the water is there, it just takes a bit longer to get through the crop. Mark shut off late once because the water hadn't gone as far down the bay as expected, but this just resulted in lots of water going off the end of the bay. It is important to have good drainage to get the water off and away from the bay, and to have an effective re-use system with sufficient capacity for those potentially larger drainage flows.
How surface irrigations behave is strongly influenced by the rate water infiltrates into the soil. Infiltration is in turn influenced by the soil type and the dryness of the soil. Figure 2 (Bethune, 2004) shows cumulative infiltration curves for a typical light levee soil, such as the East Shepparton fine sandy loam on the Bryant's farm, and a typical heavy floodplain soil from the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District. Both soil types have a high initial rate of infiltration that reduces over time to a constant rate, termed the final infiltration rate.
In the case of the heavy floodplain soil of Figure 2, the initial infiltration rate is very high because these soils crack on drying. Initial infiltration is dominated by crack filling, which is almost instantaneous. Once cracks have filled however, infiltration slows dramatically. On these soils expect water savings to be limited, due to faster surface irrigation and reduced deep drainage.
It's a different story on lighter soils such as East Shepparton fine sandy loam. Here, cracks usually play a lesser role, so the initial infiltration rate can be less than floodplain soils, but the lighter texture of these soils leads to much higher final infiltration rates. On these soils a reduction in 'opportunity time' – the time that water is ponded on the surface of the irrigation bay – can make a big difference to the amount of water that infiltrates below the crop rootzone.
Mehta and Wang (2005) reported final infiltration rates for Lemnos loam, a medium textured floodplain soil common in the Shepparton Irrigation Region, of between 0.2 and 4.9 millimetres/hour, averaging 1.4 millimetres/ hour. In contrast, final infiltration rates for East Shepparton fine sandy loam soil profiles were up to 33.8 millimetres/hour, with an average of 10.3 millimetres/hour.
Contact a DEPI Irrigation Modernisation Officer: Echuca telephone (03) 5482 1922, Tatura (03) 5833 5700, Kerang (03) 5452 1266.
Talk to bay outlet manufacturers and an irrigation surveyor or designer. It is also a good idea to talk to other farmers who have implemented this change in your local area.
Murray Dairy initiated high flow trials in the 2010-2011 irrigation season to test higher flow rates on various crops and soil types. When available, the findings from these trials
NCDEA courses for 2013
The National Centre for Dairy Education Australia (NCDEA) 2013 Course Guide is now available.
The guide outlines course information for the certificate, diploma and advanced diploma courses, as well as important information on understanding qualifications and dairy farming careers.
You can access an electronic copy online from the website, or request a hard copy from the NCDEA office.
Please visit www.ncdea.edu.au for more information. To request a hard copy email email@example.com with your name and postal address.
Training Programs in our region
Upcoming short courses include:
- Cups On/Cups Off - Monday 4 and Tuesday 5 February, Tatura;
- Farm Chemical Update - Friday 1 February, Lockington;
- Farm Chemical Users Course - Thursday 31 January and Friday 1 February, Lockington;
- Apply First Aid - Thursday 7 and Friday 8 February, Katunga.
Courses on demand
The following courses will be run on demand:
- Pro Hand
- Feeding Pastures for Profit
- Dairy Cow Nutrition
- Farm Welding
- Artificial Insemination
To enrol or find out more information please contact NCDEA, telephone 1300 062 332 or 0447 379 565.
Recent changes to carryover rules
Rob O'Connor, DEPI Echuca
New carryover rules were announced in November 2012 for the Victorian Murray, Goulburn and Campaspe irrigation systems as part of the 2012 Carryover Review. Changes relate more specifically to carryover volumes, reserve policy, spillable water and water allocation trading. The changes are summarised below.
Limiting carryover to your water share volume
A limit has been introduced on carryover volumes. Entitlement holders cannot carry over more than their full water share volume at the end of the season. This limit will apply to any water carried over at the end of the current irrigation season 2012-2013. It means that on 30 June each year you will still be able to carry over unused allocation up to 100 per cent of your water share volume. It is simply a limit on how much you can carry over and will not affect the amount of water you can hold during a season. This change was implemented to reinforce the value and importance of holding Victorian entitlements.
The change means if you have more unused water in your allocation account than the total volume of water shares (high-reliability plus low-reliability) linked to it, you will not be able to carry over the extra water. Any unused allocation over 100 per cent of your linked water share volume will be automatically re-allocated on 30 June. You will need to check your allocation account towards the end of the season to see how much allocation you have remaining, relative to your entitlement volume.
New spill rule on the Murray
The spill rule for Murray storages will now be based on Hume Dam from July 2013. Currently (2012-2013), the spill rule is based on spills from Lake Dartmouth. The use of Dartmouth as the spill indicator has not worked well in recent seasons because there have been spills from Hume Dam which were not deducted from spillable water accounts and this impacted on seasonal allocations. Modelling done by the Department of Environment and Primary Industries showed if the new Hume-based spill rule had been in place last season, low-reliability allocations would have been possible.
This change means if you are on the Murray system and you carry over water, any water recorded in your spillable account will be more likely to spill, except in years of low dam levels. Murray irrigators making decisions about carrying over water will need to watch the spill indicators for Hume Dam when judging the risks of a spill.
An early reserve for the Murray system
New arrangements for the Murray reserve policy, similar to those for the Goulburn system, are being brought in. Starting from 1 July 2013, reserves for the following season will be set aside earlier, before high-reliability seasonal determinations reach 100 per cent. These reserves are for the operation of storages, rivers and the irrigation supply system needed to deliver water from storages to farms. The change will be implemented to reduce the risk of not being able to deliver water to irrigators at the start of the irrigation season, such as occurred in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010.
Under the new rules, as allocations rise from 30 per cent, half of the inflows will be reserved for the next season. For every two megalitres of inflow, one will be used to allocate and deliver water in the current season and the other megalitre will be reserved for next season. Water will stop being reserved once a maximum of 218 gigalitres has been set aside, which will be before allocations reach 50 per cent. Thanks to delivery efficiencies gained as irrigation modernisation is completed, volumes required for the reserve have been significantly reduced on the Murray and Goulburn irrigation systems.
Other changes introduced as part of the Carryover Review 2012 include:
- New controls on water allocation trading in to Murray storages to avoid negative impacts on Victorian Murray water entitlement holders and sudden suspensions of trade that have occurred in recent years. These limits are being brought in during this current 2012-2013 season.
- Tariffs will change so that water users are always charged when they carry over and store more water than their entitlement volume in the dams. Under the old tariff arrangement, people were not always charged for all of the water they stored above their entitlement volume. The new tariff structure is designed to more fairly reflect how people use space in the dams. The change will help reduce fixed entitlement storage fees and will apply from 1 July 2013 for charges in 2013-2014.
- Water entitlement holders will be able to opt out of carrying water over and return unused allocation to the pool for future allocations at no cost.
- For more information on these changes to the carryover rules please refer to the fact sheets available on the Victorian Water Register web site www.waterregister.vic.gov.au/Public/Carryoverreview, or contact your trusted farm advisor or broker.
Q. What is black and white and red all over?
A. A zebra with sunburn
Q. How do teddy bears keep their den cool
A. They use bear conditioning
Q. What do frogs like to drink on a hot
Q. What does the sun drink out of?
International Dairy Week 2013
The largest annual dairy expo event in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere. International Dairy Week (IDW) 2013 will run from Sunday 20 to Thursday 24 January at Tatura.
Special features include:
- ABS Australia/Ridley Dairy Feeds National All Breeds Youth Show – Monday 21;
- IDW Jersey Showcase Sale – Tuesday 22;
- Dairy and Machinery Expo – Wednesday 23 and Thursday 24;
- IDW Semex Holstein Spectacular Sale – Wednesday 23;
- Genetics Australia Australian Elite Genetic Merit Sale – Thursday 24 January.
This is the second year that IDW will feature a Dairy and Machinery Field Day in its program as the largest dairy show in Australia.
Free seminars will be given by industry experts on a wide range of subjects from industry outlook to genomics and other technical topics. Please check the program for details.
For more information please visit the IDW website www.internationaldairyweek.com.au.
- Use strategies to keep the cows cool over summer to prevent a drop in both milk production and reproductive performance.
- Ensure cows have access to plenty of clean, fresh drinking water
- Check the young stock to make sure that they have enough water and feed so that they continue to grow at a rate that enables them to reach target weights.
- Drench stock that are due for treatment.
- Keep an eye out for pink eye.
- Check the cows' diet to make sure that their requirements are being met and the diet is balanced. If you're not sure, get someone out to help.
- Keep a close eye on haystacks, check them regularly for signs of heating and make sure you have insured them.
- How much of the feed you are feeding out is being wasted? How much is this wastage costing you? Have a think about ways you may be able to reduce this, even simple things such as feeding along fence lines or avoiding feeding out when the cows are in the paddock (i.e. chasing the tractor and trampling the feed) may make a difference.
- We've passed the half way mark for the financial year. Make sure you keep reviewing the budget and talking with you financial lenders and advisors.
- Don't forget the all-important issue of farm safety during the school holidays.
- Children under the age of 16 should not be riding four-wheeled motorbikes.
Planning your farm business future
The NCDEA short course Manage estate planning will run over five consecutive Tuesdays, beginning the 22 January and continuing on 29 January, 5,12 and 19 February
For more information please contact the NCDEA, telephone 1300 0 NCDEA (1300 0 62332).
Getting the most out of your soils and plants
The NCDEA short course Manage integrated crop and pasture production will run over four consecutive Wednesdays, beginning 20 February and continuing 27 February, 6 and 13 March.
To enrol or find out more information please contact NCDEA, telephone 1300 062 332 or 0447 379 565.
2013 Dairy innovators' forum
The Australian Dairy Conference (ADC) will host the Dairy Innovators' Forum in February 2013 in Queensland at the Twin Waters Resort on the Sunshine Coast.
Commencing on Monday 24 February, the program will feature tours and a two-day forum.
For more information please visit the Dairy Innovators' Forum website, www.australiandairyconference.com.au or contact conference organiser Esther Price, telephone 1800 177 636.
The ADC and Dairy Australia are offering scholarships for young dairy farmers to attend the forum. For more information please contact Murray Dairy, telephone 5833 5312, or talk directly to the conference organisers.