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FAR Focus 10 - Crops for Cows

Crops for Cows - CoverIn the last five years FAR, DairyNZ and MPI’s Sustainable Farming Fund have funded a number of projects focussing on the integration of arable and dairy systems.

This FAR Focus summarises the results from these projects and provides evidence of the benefits of the integration of arable and dairy systems. In particular it focuses on:

1. The opportunity for maximising the productivity of a range of forage crops for dairy supply, both on and off the dairy platform.
2. The opportunity for using crops on the dairy platform to manage the nutrients associated cropping after long term pasture and effluent application.

Fodder crops for cows are grown under two scenarios.
1) Dairy farmers grow crops on the dairy platform as part of their pasture renewal programmes, to supplement the feed supply and to manage nutrient overloads in their effluent blocks.
2) Dairy support cropping farmers grow continuous rotations of cereal and maize silages, grain crops, forage brassicas and pasture for wintering off or to supplement the feed supply produced on the dairy platform.

This FAR Focus reports on three projects investigating the integration of cropping and dairying in both of these scenarios.
1. SFF project 08-016 – Cropping on the Waimate West demonstration farm (WWDF). This project compared the productivity of an all pasture dairy system with a system that that combined a period of cropping with long term pasture. The demonstration herd was split into two to measure the productivity of the two systems. The cropping sequences at WWDF were designed to fit in with the dairy pasture renewal management programme and were up to two years in length. An important additional focus of the project was implementing and demonstrating best practice for the cultivation and nutrient management of the crops.

2. SFF project 07-037 – Using maize to manage dairy shed effluent specifically addressed the opportunity of growing crops on high fertility soils that are to be cultivated after long term pasture and/or have received regular applications of dairy shed effluent. Nitrogen leaching from these soils can be an environmental risk but this can be lessened through careful agronomic practice.

3. SFF project 08-040 – Maize Silage: Other Side of the Coin looked at arable cropping sequences for dairy supply with the aim of maximising dry matter production per hectare. The project focused on maize silage as the summer crop option and a range of cereal silages and legumes as the winter crop options, measuring the productivity of the combined summer and winter crop sequence.

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