Autumn is fast approaching and with this in mind, Murray Dairy recently held a ‘Progress with Less’ workshop in Kyabram.
The workshop included a presentation from Luke Nagle from Advanced Agricultural Products and Systems who spoke about sowing in dry conditions and the most valuable use of water.
Guest speakers were Rob Singleton from Blighty and Ian Litchfield from Mayrung, who spoke about management changes they had made to their NSW dairy operations, after their first year of zero allocation back in 2007.
Both have implemented a ‘dry lot’ approach, which includes the use of shade sheds, troughs and dry loafing areas — neither operation grazes cattle in the paddock any longer and instead they bring feed to the cows through a TMR.
Both agree their current system offers them flexibility when water is expensive.
Mr Singleton milks 800 cows on 1000 ha with access to 2400 Ml of general-security water, while Mr Litchfield milks 800 cows on 700 ha with access to 2000 Ml of general-security water and a 300 Ml bore allocation.
Both operators have found consistency in the herd diet has taken out production variables and cows are content and milk supply is constant.
“Our cows are now totally lot-fed and I will never go back to grazing,” Mr Litchfield said.
“This system allows us to keep expanding numbers because we are no longer limited by what we can graze,” Mr Singleton said.
Mr Nagle spoke about the importance of deciding on autumn, winter and spring goals in relation to water availability.
He said without rain, he would expect water use to be around 1.5 Ml to 2 Ml/ha; if summer rains do occur weed control will be paramount.
“Newly germinated summer weeds can remove a large percentage of recent rainfall and with good weed control management, around 30 to 50 per cent of summer rain can be conserved for autumn/winter crop use”
Cereal crops have the potential to produce about 20-30 kg/ha dry matter per mm of rain conserved.
“For example, from a 60 mm summer rain event, about half or 30 mm of this rain can be converted directly to dry matter during the growing season,” Mr Nagle said.