THE DairyFeedbase Pasture Smarts project is creating a new management framework for measuring, allocating and utilising pasture.
The approach leads to more pasture grazed and conserved more effectively, with better risk management.
It also has a goal of simplifying day-to-day management and maximising use of the Australian dairy industry's competitive advantage of home-grown pasture to increase profitability.
This project is developing tools that allow the automated assessment of pasture dry matter yield and nutritive characteristics and is packaging these to enable real-time and forecast allocation of pasture to grazing dairy cattle.
These tools will build on the established principles of grazing management but allow these principles to be applied in a more resource-efficient manner on-farm.
In the past 18 months the project team, led by Agriculture Victoria senior research scientist Dr Liz Morse-McNabb, has been working with seven partner farms across Victoria and South Australia. The team has taken extensive (more than 3000) pasture cuts from these farms in that time, and has tested a range of tools and produced a prototype mobile application (app) and farm dashboard.
The Pasture Smarts project team is now looking for more Victorian dairy farmers to test its game-changing pasture-measurement technology and help further refine the pasture app to ensure it is applicable across a range of management systems.
In return, farmers will get their farm mapped and have access to a prototype mobile app and dashboard. The app and dashboard will show the farm's daily pasture dry matter yield data per paddock and will provide the farmer with the option to enter other pasture activity information that happens on the farm.
"We not only want to get your opinions on how the app works but we need to make sure all the background models that support the app are accurate for your farm and location," Dr Morse-McNabb said.
"This means that we will need to visit your farm at least once to collect pasture samples and use our sensors to measure key pasture parameters. If you have a good record of grazing for the last few months that will also help us check that our models work well and can pick up grazing events."
There are three phases to the partner farm trial:
Phase 1: The project team will set up the farm map, take some field measurements and then provide the farmer with a mobile app and dashboard customised for their farm. The farmer then will be provided with whole paddock estimates of pasture dry matter yield and a feed wedge to use in their day-to-day grazing management decision making. They can also use the app to enter their own information. This is not essential but useful to the researchers while they are developing the models for continued improvement of their accuracy. If the farmer makes a major change such as the forage mix in a paddock, they need to let the researchers know.
Phase 2: Paddock spatial variability will be provided directly to the farm's app and dashboard.
Phase 3: A forecast of pasture growth per paddock will be provided directly to the app and dashboard.
Dairy Australia's director of major innovation and co-director of DairyFeedbase Kevin Argyle said: "This is a fantastic opportunity to partner with a project that is delivering innovative solutions to pasture measurement and utilisation. This technology that Liz and her team have created is incredibly exciting."
DairyFeedbase is a joint venture of Dairy Australia, Agriculture Victoria and the Gardiner Foundation and aims to deliver an additional $100 million at the farmgate by 2030.
Want to read more stories like this?
Sign up below to receive our e-newsletter delivered fresh to your email in-box twice a week.