Massey University researchers are testing a farm system that shows potential to improve the productivity of dairy farms, while minimising the environmental impacts on water quality.
The work is part of the Pastoral 21 research programme being conducted at the No.4 Dairy unit by scientists from Massey, AgResearch and DairyNZ.
Pastoral 21 is a collaborative venture between DairyNZ, Fonterra, Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand, Beef + Lamb NZ and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Its goal is to provide accessible systems-level solutions for profitably increasing pastoral production while reducing farms’ environmental footprint.
Professor Mike Hedley leads the research at Massey and at the most recent meeting with local farmers at the newly built free stall barn he discussed the work. He talked about how the common practice of standing cows off pasture to reduce winter treading damage to pastures during wet soil conditions can also reduce losses of nutrients in surface runoff and drainage. Loss of nitrogen to water is reduced if paddock urine patch load can be transferred to the standoff facility, such as a freestall barn, at critical times of the year.
The new research facility, a $1.4 million free stall barn has feeding and resting areas for 200-300 cows. “It is a significant undertaking for any farm and our work will explore how to manage the system to benefit production and the environment,” Professor Hedley says.
Stu Walsh and Steven Shaw, herd managers at Massey’s No.4 farm, use the freestall barn to house cows when they would do treading damage to winter wet soils and also house cows to reduce the summer- autumn urine load in the paddock.