Dairy Trust Taranaki begins Stratford research project
Taranaki's new dairy trust has launched its first research project at the Stratford Demonstration Farm.
Dairy Trust Taranaki (DTT), which was established late last year, has begun a two-herd farmlet trial to evaluate the benefits of a covered stand-off and feed pad at the East Rd farm.
The herd of 166 jersey cows was dried off at the start of May and wintered as one until the trial began on June 1, farm supervisor Graeme Pitman told farmers and rural professionals at a field day on Tuesday.
For the past six weeks, half of the animals have used the covered pad every night and would do so through winter, over calving and as milkers on very wet spring and late autumn nights.
* Stratford Demonstration Farm reaches major milestone
* Dairy Trust Taranaki is launched
The remaining animals formed a control herd and would be paddock wintered as usual.
The trial was expected to last four years and would assess the impact of using the covered stand-off pad on factors including pasture growth, pugging damage, cow weights and condition, cow health and breeding, milk production, and nutrient and fertiliser losses and management.
Apart from the use of the covered pad, management and inputs would be the same across the herds, Pitman said.
"Supplements will be fed in equal amounts to each herd but will be on the pad on most days for the pad herd and in the paddock for the control herd."
Built in 2012, the covered pad facility had cost about $170,000, or about $1200 per cow, Pitman said.
The cost included site works, feed bins, drainage, peelings and bark, fencing and a 2000-litre sump.
About half the cost was for the 60m long building which features two bays 9.5m wide and divided by a central accessway containing the feed bins.
The structure has room for 150 friesian cows or 170 jersey cows at 7 square metres per cow. The animals stand on 200mm-deep wood chips on a 400mm base of bark peelings.
Although the plan had been to rake and turn over the wood chip regularly and use the resulting compost on the farm as fertiliser at the end of the season, the chip needed to be refreshed less often, Pitman said.
"The higher side was last cleaned up about 18 months ago and the lower side we've just cleaned out recently," he said.
The compost was spread on paddocks at a rate of 6 tonnes per hectare and had equivalent phosphate to the commercial autumn dressing otherwise used on the farm.
"There's some concern that the wood chip is using up nitrogen in the paddocks," Pitman said.
"It could be that bugs are using it up to break the chip down."
Even though the structure occupies 0.3ha of prime land on the 51ha farm, it's handy to the two main races and readily accessible for trucks bringing in woodchips and feed.
DairyNZ farm systems specialist Chris Glassey said the cost to cover the pad at the demonstration farm was worthwhile but anyone considering building a similar facility should do thier homework.
"Most of my experience is with uncovered pads and if this wasn't covered, you wouldn't be able to use the higher side now. Water would be pooling and the last thing the cows would want to do would be lie down in it," he said.
"But you need to consider rainfall and soil type because no two farms are the same and even if a covered pad would be the right decision for your farm, it might not be this exact set-up."