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:
Chris Delladova from Kober in fodder beat in December
There has been significant excitement amongst farmers in the Accelerating Change project around the potential for fodder beets as a direct grazing option for the region. Fodder beet is high yielding annual crop which provides feed over late summer and autumn. It has large leafy top and large bulbs that sit high up out of the soil. This distinguishes it from sugar beet, where the majority of the bulb sits within the soil, and needs mechanical lifting in order to be grazed directly. Fodder beet also has a slightly softer bulb, and has been specifically bred for animal feed purposes, so has a lower nitrate content in the leaf than sugar beet.
Fodder beet is grown extensively in New Zealand and the UK, and has the potential for very high yields (30t/ha plus) under good management. Nutritive characteristics are around 12.5-13.5 ME and 6-8% protein. In Australia, fodder beet has been trialled in QLD, Tasmania and WA. There is an excellen...
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...
The Stewart PIT spoke at length about the data that could be collected on the farm to inform some key management strategies for the group. In the first couple of meetings the watering strategy utilised on the farm, in particular the longer irrigation intervals that Kelvin and Don use, were of particular interest to the other farms in the group. Some felt that the longer intervals might be causing a yield penalty where others were keen to know if they could implement a longer irrigation interval to save on water use without compromising on pasture accumulation. The PIT team discussed the monitoring and measurement methodology and it was agreed that Accelerating Change would measure the impact of different watering strategies on the Stewart’s lucerne and perennial pastures.
The following methodology was agreed to. Each square represents a different irrigation bay.
On the Stewart farm, we are taking regular weekly readings to examine pasture growth at different irrigation intervals and on...
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...
We've been busy on farm with our project partners, researchers at DEDJTR, testing and calibrating the pasture measurement gear we will be using as part of the project. One of the tools we are trialling is the Pasture Reader. See below for a YouTube clip of this in action.
The purpose of the monitoring and measurement strategy is to collect data on pasture accumulation and nutritive value as well as water use to assist in the identification on opportunities and challenges, inform management decisions and ground truth estimates and gut feel of our top operators for accuracy.
We have been getting both a CDax and a Pasture Reader calibrated and tested. The CDax is a proven and reliable way of measuring pasture but it's performance is limited in tall crops such as lucerne, as it is a pull behind device an ATV can squash the pasture before it is measured, confusing the results. The Pasture Reader is mounted on the front of an ATV so...