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Development of profitable milk production systems for northern Australia: a field assessment of the productivity of five potential farming systems using farmlets.

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Chataway, R. G., Walker, R.G. and Callow, M.N. (2010) Development of profitable milk production systems for northern Australia: a field assessment of the productivity of five potential farming systems using farmlets. Animal Production Science, 50 (4). pp. 246-264.


Article Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/an09124

Publisher URL: http://www.publish.csiro.au


Farmlets, each of 20 cows, were established to field test five milk production systems and provide a learning platform for farmers and researchers in a subtropical environment. The systems were developed through desktop modelling and industry consultation in response to the need for substantial increases in farm milk production following deregulation of the industry. Four of the systems were based on grazing and the continued use of existing farmland resource bases, whereas the fifth comprised a feedlot and associated forage base developed as a greenfield site.

The field evaluation was conducted over 4 years under more adverse environmental conditions than anticipated with below average rainfall and restrictions on irrigation. For the grazed systems, mean annual milk yield per cow ranged from 6330 kg/year (1.9 cows/ha) for a herd based on rain-grown tropical pastures to 7617 kg/year (3.0 cows/ha) where animals were based on temperate and tropical irrigated forages. For the feedlot herd, production of 9460 kg/cow.year (4.3 cows/ha of forage base) was achieved. For all herds, the level of production achieved required annual inputs of concentrates of similar to 3 t DM/animal and purchased conserved fodder from 0.3 to 1.5 t DM/animal. This level of supplementary feeding made a major contribution to total farm nutrient inputs, contributing 50% or more of the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium entering the farming system, and presents challenges to the management of manure and urine that results from the higher stocking rates enabled.

Mean annual milk production for the five systems ranged from 88 to 105% of that predicted by the desktop modelling. This level of agreement for the grazed systems was achieved with minimal overall change in predicted feed inputs; however, the feedlot system required a substantial increase in inputs over those predicted. Reproductive performance for all systems was poorer than anticipated, particularly over the summer mating period.

We conclude that the desktop model, developed as a rapid response to assist farmers modify their current farming systems, provided a reasonable prediction of inputs required and milk production. Further model development would need to consider more closely climate variability, the limitations summer temperatures place on reproductive success and the feed requirements of feedlot herds.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Animal Science
Keywords:Dairy farming; nutrient balances; subtropics; nitrogen fertilized grass; subtropical dairy system; stocking rate; animal production.
Subjects:Animal culture > Cattle > Dairying
Live Archive:18 Jun 2010 05:02
Last Modified:20 Mar 2024 04:59

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