Pasture Technology

This report presents key results of the Pasture Technology project, a joint initiative between the University of Melbourne, Pacific Seeds Ltd., and WestVic Dairy from July 2001. June 2004. The objective of this project was to determine the potential for alternative pasture types and feed-base systems for improving total forage production and the seasonal spread of production on non-irrigated dairy farms in southwest Victoria.

The project comprised 3 main phases:

Phase 1 compared the agronomic performance of combinations of short- and long-term winter- and summer-active pasture types with the industry standard, perennial ryegrass / white clover, at 3 sites in southwest Victoria. Perennial ryegrass pasture receiving higher N fertilizer inputs (210 kg N / ha / year) was also included. Measurements continued for 3 years and focused on total annual herbage accumulation of the pasture treatments and, importantly, the seasonal distribution of forage supply.

Phase 2 compared the potential per cow milk yield possible from the pasture types included in Phase 1 with the perennial ryegrass .control. to determine whether or not penalties or benefits in milk production could be expected from their use in practical feed-base systems. Short-term (10-day) experimental runs were completed in each of the 4 seasons of the year with animals at different stages of lactation offered high pasture allowances.

Phase 3 applied modelling and financial analysis tools to investigate the effects of using different feed-base options, either alone or in combination, on milk production, operating profit, and return on assets for typical farm businesses in the Terang and Simpson districts of southwest Victoria. This phase allowed us to interpret the results of Phases 1 and 2 within a whole farm systems context with a focus on financial outcomes and accounting for all the interactions between system components and management policies that affect the end result.

Pasture Technology for Dairy Production Systems