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 one dried off paddock (all these paddocks have moisture probes installed in them). This strategy will help the Matthews and the Stewarts work out whether it is feasible to push out the length between waterings and dry off perennial pastures without compromising plant growth or quality.
In contrast, the Humphris PIT team are keen to understand the contribution each forage type is making to their overall system. On the Humphris farm we are taking pasture readings pre- and post-grazing to compare the growth rates of different paddocks and the relative value of each fodder type for the herd. With consideration of the price of water and the price of hay, this strategy will help Tim and Lyndal decide which paddocks, if any, to water through the dry season.
Exact plans for the Humphris pasture management over the summer period are currently being discussed as they weigh up options for securing water and alternate feed sources. This will be discussed at the next Humphris PIT meeting scheduled for the second week of November. The monitoring strategy will be adjusted accordingly.