NZ uni to look at new farm systems

Lincoln University dairy farm launches three new farm systems at demonstration farm

Feed Management
SUSTAINABILITY FOCUS: The 186-hectare Lincoln University demonstration dairy farm aims to maximise sustainable, profitable farming.

SUSTAINABILITY FOCUS: The 186-hectare Lincoln University demonstration dairy farm aims to maximise sustainable, profitable farming.

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A leading New Zealand University demonstration farm has launched three new farm systems to look at sustainable dairy farming practices.

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A leading New Zealand University demonstration farm has launched three new farm systems to look at sustainable dairy farming practices.

Lincoln University Dairy Farm is launching the three new farm systems initiatives at its demonstration farm.

The 186-hectare demonstration dairy farm aims to maximise sustainable, profitable farming by optimising productivity, environmental footprint and animal welfare targets.

The farm is operated by South Island Dairying Demonstration Centre (SIDCC), an industry-funded partnership between Lincoln University, DairyNZ, Ravensdown, SIDE, LIC and AgResearch.

The new farming systems are now being implemented to expand LUDF's focus and extend its outlook through to 2030.

The research will look at

  • variable milking frequency;
  • moving the forage base to include plantain; and
  • replacement rate reduction.

Speaking on behalf of the partnership, Lincoln University deputy vice-chancellor Professor Grant Edwards said the centre was committed to taking a leadership role in dairy farming in Aotearoa through the university demonstration farm.

"It's important that the partnership regularly reassesses and revisits the farm's systems to consolidate its position at the vanguard of current and future scenarios," he said.

DairyNZ general manager for new systems and competitiveness Dr David McCall said New Zealand's dairy sector was committed to remaining the most sustainable milk producers.

"As a SIDDC partner, we support LUDF implementing new farm systems," he said.

"It is also exciting to see the adoption of variable milking frequencies, following DairyNZ's three-year flexible milking project, which highlighted the opportunities this system presents farmers."

The variable milking program to be implemented from the 2021/22 season involves moving from the traditional twice-a-day milking to a more flexible milking regime with 10 milkings over seven days.

AgResearch sustainable production lead Dr Robyn Dynes said the system suited both cows and farm staff.

RELATED READING: New research into extended milking intervals could free up time for dairy farmers

SIDDC demonstration manager Jeremy Savage explained variable milking benefits.

"A variable milking program will not only improve cow welfare through less lameness, better overall health condition and enhanced vigour, but will also lift the safety and wellbeing of staff, with kinder rosters, fewer early starts and more condensed workloads allowing for better work/life balance," he said.

LIC Genetics business and strategy manager Greg Hamill: "LUDF expects to achieve these improved outcomes without impacting profitability."

Plantain assessment

Mr Savage said starting in October 2021, LUDF would plant at least 10 per cent of the farm per year into plantain.

"This is a forage that may significantly reduce nitrogen leaching," he said.

"With cow intakes of 30pc plantain or higher, we anticipate LUDF will achieve further improvements to its nitrogen leaching results.

"The potential benefits of reducing on-farm nitrogen leaching by up to 20pc by managing the cows' diets, and without reducing overall herd numbers, are obvious and compelling."

RELATED READING: Plantain potential to reduce emissions

In introducing plantain, LUDF is applying research from the Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching project.

The project was a six-year cross-sector program that looked at ways forages can reduce nitrate leaching.

Nearby Lincoln University Research Dairy Farm is also part of the Plantain Potency and Practice program - a $22 million research initiative into plantain on dairy farms.

Heifer replacement rate

REPLACEMENT GAIN: Greenhouse gas emissions modelling shows significant gains can be made by dropping the current 28pc replacement rate to a target of 15-18pc.

REPLACEMENT GAIN: Greenhouse gas emissions modelling shows significant gains can be made by dropping the current 28pc replacement rate to a target of 15-18pc.

The demonstration farm's third research initiative will be a greater focus on lowering the replacement rate of heifers for the herd.

Greenhouse gas emissions modelling shows significant gains can be made by dropping the current 28pc replacement rate to a target of 15-18pc.

Ravensdown's general manager of innovation and strategy Mike Manning said the SIDDC partnership had been shaping LUDF for the past 20 years.

"These new systems are the next phase in the journey," he said.

The six SIDDC partners are excited by the changes underway and look forward to sharing the results with the wider dairy community.

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