Northern Irrigation and Southern Riverina
"People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing that's why we recommend it daily." Zig Ziglar
The Dairy Bulletin is produced by DEPI Dairy Services Branch
Inside this issue:
- Managing new pastures this autumn
- Feeding Pastures For Profit 2013
- Guide your forage decisions this season
- Monthly reminders
- What's On
Feeding Through the Gap
Greg O'Brien, DEPI Ellinbank
Many dairy farmers are faced with the need to fill significant feed gaps at certain times in the season. The approach taken can have a big effect on milk production, cow condition and profit.
Where purchased feed is required, the general approach is to look for lowest cost feed in terms of cents per megajoule of energy or grams of protein. Sometimes, the lowest cost feed is also low in energy or protein. So diet quality is also important.
When the energy or protein concentration of the diet is down, so to is milk production. Also, the cow compensates by losing cow condition.
Typically, cereal grains are the lowest cost concentrate. Other forms of concentrate such as canola are added to increase the protein content to the level required. It is also important to address the quality of the forage component of the diet (i.e. pasture, silage, hay or crops).
It is not possible to give a recipe for the quality of fodder to buy, as it is possible to use a range of forage qualities if they are balanced in the diet by other high quality feeds. This said, some rules of thumb may be helpful. Look for feeds that are:
- at least 10 megajoules of metabolisable energy (ME) per kilogram dry matter (DM);
- as high as possible in protein (greater than 14 per cent would be good);
- and as low as possible in fibre (under 60 per cent neutral detergent fibre if you can).
This rules out silage and hays made from mature crops with lots of stem.
Hay crops cut at an early stage of maturity and those with lots of leaf compared to stem are best. Legumes tend to be of higher quality than other hays cut at a similar stage of maturity, but you can get good and bad quality in any silage or hay type. Rule out anything with spoilage.
It is common to fill feed gaps with concentrates first, then top up the diet with hay and silage. There is a limit to feeding concentrates. Recent research conducted at DEPI Ellinbank identified that dietary problems can arise when more than 7 kilograms per cow per day of cereal grain concentrates is fed in the bail. The cows were average sized Holstein Friesians, so the limit might be higher for larger cows and lower for smaller cows.
If you are approaching this level of concentrate feeding, be vigilant in looking for signs of diet imbalance. This includes monitoring the milk pickup slips for a significant drop in milk fat test and checking for loose manure (with lots of undigested fibre present and lighter brown in colour than occurs on lush pasture).
The impact of diet quality on milk production was highlighted by Project 3030 research (see table below). In 2005 - 06, low pasture production required feed to be purchased in the form of hay. Extra concentrates were fed to try and balance up the diet, but the hay that could be sourced at the time was not high quality. Milk production for the season was 520 kilograms milk solids per cow which was the lowest for the three years of the trial.
|Feed eaten (kg DM/cow)||2005 - 06||2006 - 07||2007 - 08|
|Milk Production (fat + protein kg/cow)||520||568||600|
In the 2006 - 07 season, despite a severe drought, milk production increased with less use of grain and improvements in forage quality. Also, cow live weight and body condition increased.
The 2007 - 08 year was good for pasture growth and home made silage was of excellent quality (~11ME). This allowed further improvements in milk production and also highlighted the value of starting the lactation with cows in good condition (~ body condition score 5), as the extra dry matter intake went into milk rather than being split between milk and condition.
Mining body condition may help with cash flow but will be at the expense of milk production in the next lactation or two (not to mention the impact on reproduction).
The bottom line:
- Quality of silage and hay will have a big impact on both milk production and cow condition. If purchasing in hay or silage, do your best to provide your herd with good quality feeds.
- Concentrates can improve diet quality but there is a limit to what can be fed.
- Feeding to maintain cow condition is preferable to mining condition (if cash flow allows).
- Consider selling cull cows early if it is not possible to feed the herd well enough.
The research quoted in this article was supported by Dairy Australia and the Department of Environment and Primary Industries, Victoria. For further information please contact Greg O'Brien, telephone (03) 5624 2288.
Managing New Pastures this Autumn
By the time you see this article, many of you will have already begun or currently be in the process of sowing new pastures. For these new pastures to perform to their full potential they will need to be managed well from postsowing to the early grazings.
The establishment phase through until after the first grazing is one of the most crucial times in good pasture management. The following information outlines some important points to think about as you get your pastures up and going and introduce them into the herd's diet.
Early Grazing Management
After a dry summer, the sight of paddocks with green feed in autumn can be hard to resist. There is always the temptation to reduce the amount of hay and silage supplements in the diet and get stuck into using the new, high quality feed that is in your paddock. However, for those new pastures to deliver benefits for the rest of the year, you must be patient and give them enough time to establish themselves before the first grazing.
Young ryegrass plants use much of their stored energy to produce new leaf growth. The plant relies on these new leaves to capture energy from sunlight and produce more leaves, support root development and replenish the plant's store of energy reserves. If pastures are grazed too early, too short, or too frequently when new growth is just beginning, then you will reduce the plant's ability to capture sunlight and henceforth be left with a ryegrass plant with diminished energy reserves.
Grazing too early or too frequently will result in a pasture that is slow to regrow, with increasingly smaller leaves and weaker tillers. The pasture will then require a longer time interval between grazings, and you will be left with less feed in the paddock each time. Pastures will not thicken up and weed species will have a greater chance to infiltrate the paddock. The result will be a weaker, weedier pasture with a reduction in the overall dry matter production over the year.
When should I graze?
Research trials have demonstrated that a newly sown ryegrass pasture can sustain more than three actively growing leaves before the first grazing, but can not in subsequent grazings. The new seedling will also tiller very well without needing to be grazed to stimulate tillering.
Until the plant reaches the 'canopy closure' stage, it will continue to accumulate more high quality feed at an exponential rate. 'Canopy closure' refers to when the pasture has grown to the stage that the ground can no longer be seen from above without first having to part the pasture. Once canopy closure has been reached the bottom leaves will start to decay, new tillering will be reduced, quality will begin to decline, and net growth rates will begin to decline. This means that in theory it is better to leave the new plants to grow out close to the point of canopy closure before they are grazed.
While ideally it is best to graze new ryegrass pastures just before the canopy closure stage, practicality will overrule the theory in most cases. Why is this so? On most farms there will be a substantial area of new pasture that has been sown at the same time (more than one paddock). If you wait until the first new paddock is close to 'canopy closure' before you graze it, then the last new paddock will be well past canopy closure before the cows get to it.
How can I manage the first grazing?
In the event of having a block of new pastures that are ready to be grazed all at once, only some of the paddocks will be grazed at the perfect time. This will result in the rest being grazed a bit late to very late and the risk of canopy closure unless pastures are sparse.
There are some factors that you need to consider when it comes to grazing new pastures for the first time.
Before doing any grazing, do the 'pluck test' to check that the new pasture is ready for grazing. To do this, make sure that the new ryegrass plant will not pull out of the ground when pulled up by hand, i.e. the leaves tear off rather than the roots coming out of the ground.
It is necessary to also consider what is best for the cows at the time of the first grazing. Ideally cows should be kept on a consistent diet without large day to day fluctuations. This means that it is important to allocate a consistent mass of grass per day.
A hectare of new pasture that is grazed well before canopy closure will have less pasture mass available compared to a hectare of new pasture that is close to canopy closure. So if you are allocating the same size area of land to the cows each day, then the cows will end up having a greater amount of pasture offered to them by the end of grazing of the new block.
To help allocate the herd a consistent amount of pasture each day, grazing will need to start earlier than ideal, about when the oldest tillers are reaching the twoleaf stage.
It may be necessary to allocate the herd a larger area of land at the beginning of grazing the block of new pasture, and then gradually reduce the area being offered to the herd as you work your way through the block because the pastures will be growing the third leaf, or 'zoom' stage and providing more available feed mass.
If moisture and warmth speed up or slow down pasture growth, then speed up or slow down the rotation accordingly. If the block is small and can be grazed within a few days, graze when near the three leaf stage. Use the above strategy for areas which will require some weeks to cover them.
For your new pastures to grow to their potential, often not achieved on many farms, these new pastures must not be overgrazed! Pastures need to have a residual of about 4-6 cm between the clumps postgrazing. If given free rein, cows will nip the luscious palatable plants down to ground level.
Why is 4-6 cm the ideal residual to leave?
The energy reserves that are used to produce new leaf growth in ryegrass plants after grazing are located in the bottom 4-6 centimetres of the plant above the ground (the roots do not hold much energy reserve for regrowth). It is essential not to overgraze the new plants because those energy reserves will therefore be depleted. This will result in new leaves being much smaller in size, although the leaf appearance rate will be the same as their correctly grazed mates.
How do I achieve the ideal residual?
Cows will find it easy to graze the new pasture hard. In many cases the best and/or only option to ensure that you protect the residual is to use the onoff grazing technique. The onoff grazing technique is where the cows are put onto the grazing area for a short period of time and are then removed from the paddock as soon as they have grazed down to the desired residual height of 4-6 centimetres.
Farmers may use a sacrifice system where cows are offered pasture either through the day or night, and are then fed supplementary feed in a sacrifice paddock or on a feed pad. To avoid overgrazing many farmers may strip graze with two temporary fences to avoid back grazing, however the cows will still need access to the water trough.
Achieving the right residual and allocating supplements profitably will be complicated until you become more experienced as the cows will be getting a different amount of pasture each day.
How do I manage weed and insect pests?
It is essential that in the weeks after sowing you observe your paddocks regularly and respond quickly to any problems with weeds or insects.
Weeds that emerge after sowing are best controlled when they are young (3-6 weeks after they have germinated). Attacking them at this stage uses less chemicals, which is good for the hip pocket, the pasture and the environment. Even better, a dense, healthy pasture will generally outcompete a low weed burden without the use of herbicides. Check for lucerne flea and redlegged earth mites at least once a week. Both pests can be easily controlled with registered chemicals.
Pulling it all together
There are a number of tools available to help you manage a smooth transition onto new pastures. One of these is the Rotation Right Tool which is explained and developed for participants in the Feeding Pastures For Profit program, the next round of which DEPI will begin delivering in our region this autumn.
By managing the first grazing well, you will have offered a consistent amount of pasture to your herd, optimised your pasture harvest, and left an ideal residual of pasture to ensure regrowth will occur as quickly as possible. You will also have built a pasture wedge that will enable consistent pasture intakes into the next rotation.
Once you have finished the first grazing you will have a rotation established. Keep in mind that you may however need to adjust your rotation length to ensure that you are grazing the ryegrass at its ideal stage of 2.5-3 leaves (through autumn and winter) and leaving a 4-6 cm residual.
As young plants contain a larger proportion of water and less dry matter, it is important that you continue supplementary feeding of fodder, such as hay or silage and grain, to ensure the cows are getting their daily energy and protein requirements. Otherwise you will end up mining body condition and this will have detrimental impacts later on in the lactation.
The Feeding Pastures For Profit program has many practical tools and tips for grazing new pastures. To participate in a program this year or find out more information, please contact Leah de Vries, telephone (03) 5624 2206.
Feeding Pasture for Profit 2013
Rising input costs, milk price and seasonal conditions have created a challenging set of circumstances for us to operate in. In spite of this, industry data demonstrates that there are farms that perform well under a range of operating conditions and can achieve a respectable return on investment. Most farm managers want to know how these businesses achieve this performance. To improve your own farm business performance you need to understand the principles and concept of profitable decision making rather than attempting to 'copy' a farm that has performed well.
Despite the fluctuations in milk price and feed costs, there are aspects of your farm business that you can directly influence and the skills and principles that can help you do this to the best of your ability are found in the Feeding Pastures For Profit (FPFP) program.
Results from previous courses demonstrate that participating in a FPFP program has enabled people to better understand what influences profit and risk on farm and those dairy businesses have been able to significantly improve their profit. As an added bonus, the skills and tools learned have helped participants save time on the farm and ensure decision making is considerably easier.
In the tough operating environment, to make a profit you need to be at the top of your game. The FPFP program can teach you the skills to be able to do the best job you can in the seasonal conditions faced each year. Assessing the reality of your business performance and taking the necessary steps to make improvements can be confronting, but how much longer can you afford to not make significant progress in your farm business?
It can seem safer to remain within our com-fort zone and not take on the issue(s) that are holding us back from taking that next step in increasing our performance. It is easier to put our heads down and just keep working away at what we are familiar with. However, the rewards of taking on the challenge are there to be realised.
FPFP has a proven track record. It was developed with farmers for farmers. You can trust the program to help you move your business forward.
Three FPFP programs will be run in our region this year by DEPI, in conjunction with consultants Phil Shannon, Shannon Farm Consulting, and Tom Farran, Farmanco.
For more information, or to register your interest please contact Leah de Vries, telephone (03)5624 2206 or email email@example.com.
Guide your Forage Decisions this Season
In 2012, the DEPI Dairy Services Branch published two important publications for dairy farmers regarding forage selection and management.
ALTERNATIVE WINTER FORAGES FOR A VARIABLE CLIMATE – A selection guide for Victorian dairy farmers
This guide was developed due to the changing nature of Victorian dairy farms and because forages are now thought about differently. Forages (pastures and crops) can play a key role in helping to manage seasonal variability and fill gaps in the feed budget.
The Victorian dairy industry has always needed to deal with seasonal variability, but due to increased intensity of farming - together with volatility in milk price and input costs - there is an increasing emphasis on the need for adaptive strategies. The last decade of extreme weather in many areas of Victoria has highlighted just how variable the seasons can be. Feed is the largest cost on dairy farms and growing conditions are a major variable. These factors make selecting the most appropriate mix of forages and adaptive feeding strategies very important for dairy farmers.
The aim of this guide is to detail the role forages can play on dairy farms to help with the management of climate variability and risk, as well as help producers to select the right forages for their unique situation.
The role forages can play on a dairy farm
Forages are grown on a dairy farm to provide a feed source for the cows. This may be from direct grazing by the cows or to conserve the fodder and feed it back to the cows at a later date. The guide shows different forages often change the:
- quality of feed provided to the cows;
- quantity of feed provided to the cows from the same area;
- timing of when feed is provided to the cows;
- expense of feed provided to the cows;
- risk of achieving desired yields and quality, and health risks to cows; and
- ease of management (to grow, manage and feed to cows).
The majority of farms are, for good reasons, going to continue to use pasture for the main grazing option for their herd. This pasture will normally be ryegrass based but other species can be grown depending on an individual farmer's preference or where the farm is geographically located. This still normally allows a percentage of the farm to be sown down to alternative forage options. This area can be managed strategically to help cope with seasonal variability.
What are the options for sowing in autumn?
There are a number of different species that could be selected to be sown in autumn or winter. The guide will help to narrow which options have the most potential for any given farm paddock.
There are many options available to consider when sowing in autumn. There is however no new, magic 'silver bullet' out there, just steady improvements. Each region will vary in climatic conditions and soil type, so care must be taken in choosing the correct species and cultivar for the specific locality.
The more common options sown by farmers and the options included in this guide are:
- Annual ryegrass
- Italian ryegrass
- Perennial ryegrass
- Hybrid ryegrass
- White and sub clover
- Forage cereals – wheat, barley, triticale, oats and rye corn
- Other clovers e.g. Persian (shaftal), balansa, berseem, strawberry
- Herbs – chicory and plantain
- Fescue – winter and summer active
FORAGE CEREALS – A management guide for dairy farmers
Cereals in this guide refer to wheat, barley, triticale, oats and to a lesser extent rye corn. Traditionally cereals have been grown to produce grain, with oats sometimes being grown for hay.
Cereals are commonly grown for forage purposes (e.g. grazing, silage and hay), with some varieties being bred especially for this purpose. Any variety of cereal can be sown for grazing and fodder production, but some varieties have characteristics that allow them to achieve better yields, quality and regrowth after grazing.
The guide is especially designed for those farmers, service providers, contractors and others involved in cereal cropping but who may not necessarily be heavily engaged in a cropping enterprise. This guide will be a useful resource for those who wish to graze their cereals in the early stages of growth and also for those wishing to harvest their crops as silage or hay. All stages of growth are covered so it will be of use to all cereal growers and those new to growing forage cereals.
The guide is formatted into two sections. The first section provides a pictorial guide accompanied by descriptions of the growth stages of cereals to assist both dairy and other farmers in their management of forage cereals at critical decision making times. These include decisions such as when to start and when to stop grazing, when to harvest for silage, hay and alkalage. The second section is a basic management guide for growing and managing forage cereals on Victorian dairy farms.
To receive a free copy of these guides in either electronic format or in a hard copy, please contact Leah de Vries DEPI Ellinbank, email, firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone (03) 5624 2206.
- 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.
Cups On / Cups Off
Lockington-Monday 22 April 9:30am - 2:30pm, and Tuesday 23 April 9:30am - 12:30pm.
Farm Chemical Users Course
Cobram-Thursday 18 and Friday 19 April 9am - 4pm.
Farm Chemical Update
Cobram-Friday 19 April 9am - 4pm.
Quad Bike Operations
Katunga-Monday 15 April 9am - 4pm.
Calf Rearing Workshop
Kerang-Thursday 14 March and Thursday 21 March 10am - 3pm.
To enrol or find out more information please contact the NCDEA Customer Service Team, telephone 1300 062 332 or 0447 379 565.
The Water Puzzle - Putting the Pieces Together
Information sessions will be conducted across the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District in the last two weeks of March, 2013.
Discussion will focus on:
- Recent changes to carryover rules.
- Implications for managing your allocations and carryover water.
- Optimising your water product mix.
- Water trade.
For more information refer to the Waterpool Co-op web site, or telephone Rob O'Connor, DEPI Echuca, (03) 5482 0417. www.waterpoolcoop.com.au