We've been sharing some snapshots from Accelerating Change on social media. follow @Murray_Dairy and the tag #acceleratingchange to hear what project staff Amy Fay and Harriet Bawden and our farmers are discussing.
At the Stewart PIT meeting in December, the group reviewed the pasture accumulation data and nutritive values for the season so far. The group was put to the test to see if they could judge by eye the pasture mass and quality characteristics Accelerating Change has been collecting. One of our twitter followers guessed in first go! What do you reckon?
Match the nutritive results with the pasture species on the left:
At their meeting the Stewart PIT also discussed initial data from the 5 Observant capacitance probes installed on the Stewart farm. Throughout the project the PIT farmers have had numerous discussions on the value of moisture probes and how to use them most effectively.
Soil moisture probe take home messages
Look for the decline in daily water use and ground truth what the cause is. Is it moisture stress or another factor?
Set your own refill and full point management lines. Probe software might give you indicative positions but you have to tailor it to your farm, your soil, your crop and your water infrastructure. If it takes a few days to order or apply water give yourself a bigger buffer between timing of irrigation and the point of water stress, in case things go wrong.
Check it regularly! Read the soil moisture probe graph every couple of days and more frequently if you are nearing irrigation or there is a big change in weather-either rain or heat wave.
Accelerating Change Performance Innovation Teams met in November and December. A significant amount of the discussion focused on the group's summer feeding strategies, characterised by limited water availability and high prices.
Kelvin Matthews and Don Stewart are already seeing the results from improved data collection on farm. The nutritive sampling Accelerating Change has been conducting has revealed that their lucerne pasture was of excellent quality, much higher than the PIT group expected (ME 10.7, CP 29.4%, NDF 36.6% and ME 11.5, CP 33.2% & NDF 34.2%). Working with their nutritionist Andre Nel from Ridley's, they worked out their cows were receiving an extra 30 ME per day than required, and body condition score was increasing over time. Armed with this information they have reduced their grain intake by 1kg in the dairy, saving approximately 27c per cow per day. Over 500 cows this is a significant saving. Body condition is now being maintained. The herd will be monitored over ti...
Recently both PITs have had technical sessions on the value of moisture probes. Rob O’Connor and Dale Board, both from DEDJTR, have been talking to PIT farmers about the benefits and challenges of using soil moisture monitoring tools. A summary of Dale’s previous research into these tools in the region can be found here: http://irec.org.au/farmer_f/pdf_186/Soil-moisture-monitoring.pdf
Soil moisture monitoring provides a tool that enables irrigators to make more informed decisions regarding water requirements of various crops, which can result in on-farm water efficiency gains and increased productivity.
Some key lessons discussed for moisture probe sessions:
Moisture probes allows you to refine your irrigation schedule to increase water efficiency and productivity
You get the best value from moisture probes when you aim maximise production rather than to minimise absolute water use
Moisture probes allow you to maximise return on investment in farm layout and deli...
A lot has been happening in the Accelerating Change project and the broader industry over the last month. The hot dry start to spring meant irrigation was well under way when the Stewart Performance Innovation Team (PIT) met on 17 September. With the upturn in water prices, many farmers involved with Accelerating Change are reviewing their summer feeding strategies. Initial data collection will help assist with the calculations to weigh up whether certain pastures will be watered through or dried off. The Stewart PIT met in September to review farm performance, receive a technical presentation on moisture probes from Dale Boyd of DEDJTR and discuss and the monitoring and measurement strategy and pasture reading technology on the Stewart’s farm.
Accelerating Change is using the Automated Pasture Reader (APR) to collect data about the average pasture height, uniformity and estimated mass (kgDM/ha) across selected paddocks. In a number of these paddocks on both farms, we have taken sampl...
They don’t need to be deep - design them to your flow rate. The faster your flow the deeper they can be. With 10 ML flows on Tim’s bay they were only a few inches deep. If you have faster flow, experiment with a greater depth.
Keep them clean all year round. They need to be clean to work effectively and in winter to get benefits as well. When cleaning them out don’t make them deeper - just buzz out the grass.
Get the spacing of the spinner cuts right. Paul’s rule of thumb is for the two outer spinner cuts in each bay to be 7 m in from each check bank. Then evenly space the remaining spinner cuts at 10 to 14 m apart, depending on the bay width.
Start the spinner cuts 10 to 15 m from the top of the bay to allow water to spread across the bay before reaching them.
Run the spinner cuts all way down the bay to the bottom drain
Keep practicing and have patience - work out what works best for you.
They are not just to fix dodgy bays. They will really improve...
Picture: Mike Morris, DEDJTR irrrigation researcher speaking about spinner cuts with the Humphris PIT team.
They can be both modelled using new research that the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) are using to improve the precision of border check irrigation.
The Humphris PIT heard about this and the importance of good drainage at the second meeting for the Accelerating Change program. At the farm of Tim and Lyndal Humphris, of Tongala, discussion focused on the use of spinner cuts and how they can reduce the duration of transient waterlogging.
Now spinner cuts may not be the first thing that comes to mind in a project focusing on new technology! They have been around for a long time and have been tried and discarded by many farmers in the region, including Tim and Lyndal. However upgrading of infrastructure meaning faster flows on farm and new science which validates the benefits of them are bringing them back into focus. Paul Price, a member o...
Farmers attending the first meetings for the innovative Accelerating Change program are positive about their involvement and the benefits it will bring to their own farms.
Project Manager Amy Fay said the project is showcasing how leading farmers are using the latest research and technology to grow feed.
To do this, two partner farms – one owned by the Humphris family and the other by the Stewart family with their share-farmers the Matthews family – have started working with a team of farmers, researchers, consultants and service providers to achieve gains in irrigation and pasture efficiency by adopting leading research and technology on farm. The project is looking to a range of sources who are doing exciting things in the irrigation and pasture space, both regionally, interstate and in different sectors.
The farmers recently met with their performance innovation teams (PIT), which comprise farmers from 15 farms.
The PITs are providing feedback on how the partner farms are utilising...