Dairy Trust Taranaki hopes to put spotlight on farm systems with first projects

Dairy Trust Taranaki science co-ordinator Debbie McCallum hopes the trust will be able to launch its first projects at ...
SIMON O'CONNOR/FAIRFAX NZ

Dairy Trust Taranaki science co-ordinator Debbie McCallum hopes the trust will be able to launch its first projects at the start of June.

The first projects to raise dairy farming profits and skills by Taranaki's new dairy trust could be launched as early as June 1.

Dairy Trust Taranaki (DDT), which was established late last year, has applied for funding to run several trials comparing the productivity and profitability of various farm systems.

If funding was secured, each of the sites operated by the trust would be involved, DTT science co-ordinator Debbie McCallum said.

Dairy cows at the Westpac Taranaki Agricultural Research Station.
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Dairy cows at the Westpac Taranaki Agricultural Research Station.

"We've put our proposals to DairyNZ and we're just waiting on funding before we can give them the green light," she said.

DTT controls two farms at the Westpac Taranaki Agricultural Research Station (WTARS) near Fonterra's Whareroa site just outside Hawera, as well as the Stratford and Waimate West demonstration farms.

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The WTARS site is made up of two farms - the 110 hectare  WTARS Gibson and 210ha WTARS Kavanagh. 

During the proposed project, the WTARS Gibson property would be divided into three farmlets, each using a different feed system.  

The first would be all-grass, the second would allocate 500 kilograms of palm kernel expeller (PKE) per cow, per year and the third would feed up to 500kg of grain per cow.

McCallum said it was important that the trial used locally sourced grain as a PKE alternative.

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"With Fonterra introducing the voluntary 3kg PKE per cow, per day limit and starting to test for it, Taranaki farmers will be looking for affordable alternatives," she said.

"We don't have the range of locally grown supplement that other regions do and by the time you add transport costs to supplement brought in from elsewhere, it's not always a viable option."

Locally sourced kibble maize or barley would be fed in sheds as needed, McCallum said.

Across the road at WTARS Kavanagh, two farmlets would look at the comparative productivity and profitability of spring and autumn calving across two herds of 300 cows.

Next season would serve as a lead-in, with the first herd milking through winter and being mated to calve the following autumn. The second herd would continue to calve in spring.

The 34ha Waimate West Demonstration Farm (WWDF) near Manaia would also use next season as a lead-in.  Currently spring calving, the 124 jersey cows would be split into two equal herds and moved to autumn calving.  

The first of the smaller herds would have its pasture intake supplemented with cropping while the second was topped up with imported feed, likely to include maize silage and PKE.

At the Stratford Demonstration Farm (SDF), the 166 jersey cows would continue to calve in spring but would be split into two herds of 83 animals, the first of which would be grazed on pasture year-round.

The second herd would make use of the farm's covered feed pad as required to minimise pugging and save on feed costs.

McCallum said the trust had canvassed the region's farmers over the last year and believed the proposals were solid.

"Hopefully we'll secure the funding and be able to start the ball rolling on June 1 on all of the proposals," she said.

DTT comprises the incorporated society which operates the SDF, the trust which operates the WWDF and the Taranaki Agricultural  Research Trust which leases a commercial farm and the 126-hectare WTARS.

The trust began on December 1 and is focused on studies that boost the knowledge and skills of Taranaki farmers.

DTT farms 300 hectares, milks about 900 cows, employs or contracts 8.5 fulltime equivalent staff and owns assets worth $4.5 million, including about 290,000 Fonterra shares, livestock and machinery.

 - Stuff

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