Owner & Director Stewart Spilsbury
Specialist coaching business focused on –
- Pasture Use Efficiency
- Nitrogen Use Efficiency
- Water Use Efficiency
– to dairy farmers within the MacAlister Irrigation District in Gippsland, Victoria, on the south east coast of Australia.
Pasture Use Efficiency: the “Golf Ball Grazing” System
Get rich on growing pasture – not feeding supplements
High solids per hectare, one of the leading factors in profitability, requires high DM intake, which requires a high ME density, Most farmers obtain this by feeding supplements, but in so doing compromise profitability.
The following quotes out of New Zealand say it all:
- “the removal of imported feed from LUDF and maintenance of milk-solids production in 07/08 showed that, at a system level, the response to the supplements (in the previous seasons) was zero.” Cameron Clark. Dairy NZ
- “the average response to supplements on NZ dairy farms was well below levels measured in research trials, suggesting wastage of both supplements and pasture was the norm.” Dr John Roche, Principal Scientist, Dairy NZ
Golf ball grazing … residuals, residuals, residuals… why?
- The phrase ‘golf ball grazing” was coined by LUDF, so that farmers could have a visual “cue” to graze to, in order to achieve correct residuals – i.e. no clumps.
- Research shows that;
- Profitability is firstly most strongly linked to controlling costs, and
- Secondly to DM intakes from home grown feed
- DM intakes are highest at lower residuals (7 clicks) 1500
- Supplement wastage (substitution) increases as residuals increase over 1500
- Growth rates are higher over the entire year from a consistent residual base (1500)
- Tillering is inhibited by higher residuals and excessive graze heights.
The impact on poor quality is significant
The effect of average pasture quality (MJ ME/kg DM) over the season on dry matter intake and milk solids production, assuming a live-weight of 500 kg and 280 days in milk, is shown below;
|MJ ME/kgDM||Kg DM/day||ME intake||MS/cow/day||MS cow/year|
The difference in ME intake shown above is usually “made up” through the addition of grain or other supplements, but this is not necessary. While results on a whole farm level take many years to achieve, increases in per cow production and reductions in per cow supplement intakes can be achieved in a matter of months, depending on the time of year changes are implemented.
Pathway to profit
- Measure every paddock on the milking platform every week.
- Take feed test samples of the paddock to be grazed weekly (same day as farm measured)
- Take feed test samples of any supplements fed.
- Align rotation length to match growth rate (i.e. only feed in a week as much as you grow) – we do not use a rotation system – the allocation decisions are based on data from each individual paddock on each farm, each individual week of the year.
- Graze all paddocks each rotation to the same residual (golf ball grazing) – set up leafy pasture for the next rotation .
- Graze all paddocks at 2.5 – 3 leaf stage using feed wedge (paddocks ready first, grazed first)
- Monitor MS production and energy/DM intakes – adjust supplements to ensure a profitable response is obtained.
- Check feed quality weekly and compare to other clients/database.
- Feedback given weekly on poor residuals and/or paddocks that need attention (topping/spraying) etc to maintain quality standard.
- Set target covers and monitor through the year.
- Monitor tonnes grown versus clients/database and identify poor performing paddocks.
- Monitor response to nitrogen applied and adjust as necessary to obtain cheapest DM on offer.
Most farmers simply don’t have the time, or the tools to manage pasture at this level.
ONEsystem® in Australia
A collaboration with Dr Bert Quin of Quin Environmentals (Pty) Ltd
Optimising N, P & K has long been in my blood. I was Operations Director of new entrant Quinphos Fertilisers (Aust) Pty Ltd, the first company to import RPR (reactive phosphate rock) into Australia from the late 1980s. This collaboration evolved through to the development and trials of the first wetted prills prototype spreaders in Australia, as a contractor to Quin Environmental Pty Ltd. Several of my clients are already using ONEsystem®.
Over the many years working with Dr Bert Quin, we have created many savings for our clients, while helping to reduce the impact of P and N on the environment in which we all live. We look forward to many more firsts.
In addition to offering ONEsystem® to my clients, and given that I already can provide intra-paddock yield maps of each paddock each week, the next step is to combine the ONEsystem® with VRA (variable rate application) technology. I am currently in the process of creating a ONEsystem® trailed spreader complete with VRA capability.
Water Use Efficiency: “the challenge”
Optimising irrigation systems, for maximised pasture growth, quality and persistence – rather than wasting a resource.
Optimising irrigation water on farm has come to be my next challenge. While driving over, and measuring pasture growth rates on farms on a weekly basis, it has become plainly obvious that our irrigation efficiency is low compared to our NZ colleagues – with WUE numbers as low as 8 – 10kg DM/mm total water applied.
It is also evident from the data collected – that our decline in growth rates from re-sown paddocks is of major concern.
After much consideration, rather than ask my clients to install individual soil moisture monitoring systems – I decided to embark on the journey of measuring soil moisture by paddock, by week in addition to the existing pasture DM measurements already collected.
To achieve this I am currently testing and commissioning a Geonics EM38 Mk2 into my business and hope that by next irrigation season (15_16) I will be able to collect intra-paddock soil moisture data on a weekly basis for every client.
More information – see below
FLRC 2016 Proceedings: Spilsbury and Quin; Changing farmer perceptions…(uploaded April 2016)