Southern Dairy Hub,
one year on
5 September 2018
A year after its official opening, the Southern Dairy Hub (SDH) is providing Southland dairy farmers with world-class research that farmers have had input into shaping.
Southland and South Otago farmers and businesses invested $1.25 million in the Hub through the Southern Dairy Development Trust, while principal shareholders DairyNZ and AgResearch invested $5 million each.
The Hub, near Invercargill, has been set up into farmlets to run four 200-cow herds. It will address regional issues at scale, by integrating proven and emerging technologies into
farm systems, testing farming practices against each other in a scientifically-robust way, while maintaining a benchmark system for comparison.
DairyNZ senior scientist Dawn Dalley says farmers have helped shape the research that’s underway on the farm.
“We canvassed the industry down here, which included a workshop with farmers and a session at the first SDH field day, where we identified the issues and then sorted them into themes.
“So, it wasn’t a group of scientists who have gone away and come up with the questions. The direction has been driven by regional industry issues,” says Dawn.
The three priority areas identified at the sessions were fodder beet, nutrient loss reduction and wintering.
Current research, which will run for the next three years, is testing different types of crop and management decisions to reduce nitrogen (N) loss and improve profit. Farm systems modelling has been used to determine the types of systems that will be implemented.
“We consulted farmers to define the standard kale and fodder beet systems in Southland and then looked at the management changes we needed to reduce the environmental footprint – mainly focusing on nitrate leaching,” says Dawn.
Two of the four farmlets will winter on kale and two on fodder beet, each with differing levels of nitrogen fertiliser and supplementary feed inputs.
Last season, Hub scientists monitored the performance of the cows on four different winter diets. They also regularly recorded reproductive performance, lactation performance, body condition score, mineral levels in the blood and liver regime for the systems comparisons.
Meanwhile, AgResearch scientists led by Ross Monaghan have been investigating options for variable width critical source area buffers along the farm’s waterways. This winter they’ve been measuring the nitrate leaching losses from autumn and winter grazed fodder beet and winter grazed kale.
“Ultimately, we want to provide southern dairy farmers with the confidence to adapt their own farming systems, so they can achieve improved environmental outcomes based on evidence from the Southern Dairy Hub,” says Dawn.
For more information, including weekly data and updates on research, visit southerndairyhub.co.nz
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