Looking at fertiliser use

By Country News

The 2019 Dairy Research Foundation Symposium, to be held in Bega on July 10 and 11, offers attendees a rare chance to get out and visit Kimber Farms — a family dairy farm five years into an eight-year plan to reduce their synthetic fertiliser use.

The business is aiming for a sustainable approach to their large herd, which is fed a partial mixed ration on an 800-cow feed pad.

Todd Whyman, who helps run the family business along with his parents-in-law Ken and Judy Kimber, said the farm was run with a biological focus.

‘‘We are not organic, but we are aiming to cut our nitrogen use right back to help reduce on-farm costs,’’ Mr Whyman said.

‘‘We wanted to utilise the nutrient base we have, and it is something we have been focusing on as a priority over everything else for the past five years.’’

The irrigation system — a centre pivot, travelling irrigators and solid set irrigation — is all capable of pumping liquid effluent.

The manure is run through a separator screen and the solid manure is mixed with old bedding from the calf sheds and composted.

‘‘With all the effluent and compost we produce, we shouldn’t really need any other inputs,’’ he said.

Mr Whyman is deputy chair of the local dairy development group and is passionate about spreading his knowledge on reducing synthetic inputs.

He recently set up a 5ha trial plot on the farm to see the effects compost and effluent can have on pasture growth.

The trial was set up on land that had not seen fertiliser for at least 30 years and consisted of a control plot, a conventional plot and additional compost and effluent plots.

‘‘Each plot was split in half to enable us to compare results and five weeks in, there is an extreme difference — the compost and effluent plots have at least 60 per cent more pasture cover.

‘‘We set this plot up for our own peace of mind, but I am keen to share what we do with others and this trial creates a tangible thing for others to look at.

‘‘As we all know dairying is getting harder and harder as costs continue to rise and whatever we can do to keep those costs down is very important.

‘‘Something like this is sustainable and can help all dairy farmers.’’

Registrations for the symposium are now open.

■For more information, visit: www.drfsymposium.com.au or phone Tara Wolfson on (02) 8089 1388 or email: tara@ejmevents.com.au