8 May 2013

Telford open day

6:36 am on 8 May 2013

About 70 southern dairy farmers will hear the first year results of an industry research project at the Telford Farm Training Institute open day on Wednesday.

Dairy NZ senior scientist Dr Dawn Dalley said three different approaches to farming cows over winter are being trialled to help farmers maximise their performance and minimise their environmental impacts.

She said one approach uses a largely traditional method while the second introduces several innovative measures, including calving the herd two weeks later so the cows return to more pasture cover, reducing the need for supplementary feed.

The final approach involves wintering the cows completely off pasture. They are kept in a barn 24/7 from the beginning of drying off in about June, and are fed silage.

Dr Dalley said cows are kept there through the spring to minimise damage to soils during the wet spring period.

"We also have got the cows in there overnight now, to capture more of the urine so it's not being returned to the pastures through the autumn and again being at risk of leaching losses."

Dr Dalley said there hasn't been a big difference in milk production across the systems yet, but researchers have seen big falls in water and sediment loss off paddocks, where gully areas have been protected from grazing over the winter period.