2020/2021 Seasonal Strategy

The Dairy Now farm aims to reflect the best practice of current conventional farming, operating at a system 2-3 level with around 20% of animal intake being met by supplementation. The farm will apply up to the N cap of 190 kg N per hectare.

Like most farms in Canterbury, cows will be wintered off farm on either kale or fodder beet. See the summary table for an overview of the two farms

Previously the DF farm has enjoyed a lower stocking rate (2.9 cows/ha) and wintered cows at home. The lower stocking system, in the absence of any premiums for improved product quality, or environmental benefits was less profitable compared with the traditional system. By contrast, though the higher stocked DN farm (4.0 cows/ha) was more profitable the intensity of the system did not reflect the current best practices to reduce environmental impacts.

During the 2020-21 season the stocking rates will be similar on both farms at around 3.3 cows per hectare. On the Dairy Future farm we will continue to explore the effects of alternative pasture mixtures (diverse pastures), which make up 64% of the farm area, on performance and profit. Emerging science has shown plantain and Italian ryegrass to be effective in reducing nitrate leaching risk so mixtures with these species have been included. Also Christopher’s PhD research identified chicory as an effective forage for improving the concentration of healthy milk fats so last season we added 1.5 ha of a chicory mix.

From an animal perspective we will explore options to further enrich cow wellbeing with the goal to improve health and production. We will investigate the effect of accelerated pre-weaning growth rate of heifer replacement calves by offering calves 8 L milk/day for the first 5 weeks and compare this with conventional 4-5 L milk/day. Yingluck’s PhD research, along with others (Margerison et al. 2013) have shown that increasing pre weaning growth rate can improve first lactation milk yield, irrespective of growth between weaning and calving.

Throughout the season the Living Lab team will meet regularly to track progress and present regular updates on the production and performance of the two farms. A summary of these meetings is posted below in the 'Farm Walk' section.

2020/2021 Farmlet Parameters

Dairy Now

Farm Size 11.9 ha
Breed Holstein Friesian x Jersey
Cows 40
Stocking rate 3.36 cows/ha
Pastures Ryegrass with clover (RGWC)
N fertiliser Up to 190 kg N/ha p.a.
Imported feed <1 t DM/cow
Winter system Crop
On/Off platform Off

Young Stock
Heifer replacements Restricted milk (TAD)
Non-replacements Bobbies

Dairy Future

Farm Size 12.5 ha
Breed Holstein Friesian x Jersey
Cows 40
Stocking rate 3.2 cows/ha
Pastures 65% Diverse and
35% Ryegrass with clover (RGWC)
N fertiliser Up to 100 kg N/ha p.a.
Imported feed Minimal
Winter system Pasture
On/Off platform On, if possible

Young Stock
Heifer replacements Ad-lib whole milk pre weaning
Non-replacements Rear all (no bobbies), restricted milk

Farm walk notes

2021-22 season