Choosing the best forage species for a dairy farm: The Whole-farm approach
Although a handful of forage species such as perennial ryegrass are predominant, there are a wide range of forage species that can be grown in sub tropical and temperate regions in Australia as dairy pastures. These species have differing seasonal yields, nutrient quality and water use efficiency characteristics, as demonstrated in a large study evaluating 30 species University of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia. Some species can be grazed, while others require mechanical harvesting that incurs a further cost. Previous comparisons of species that relied on yields of dry matter per unit of some input (typically land or water) cannot simultaneously take into account the season in which forage is produced, or other factors related to the costs of production and delivery to the cows. To effectively compare the profitability of individual species, or combinations of species, requires the use of a whole-farm model. Linear programming was used to find the most profitable mix of forage species for an irrigated dairy farm in an irrigation region of New South Wales, Australia. It was concluded that a typical farmer facing the prevailing milk and purchased feed prices with average milk production per cow would find a mix of species including large proportions of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) and prairie grass (Bromus willdenowii) was most profitable. The result was robust to changes in seasonal milk pricing and moving from year round to seasonal calving patterns.
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