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Five Feeding System in Australian Dairy Farm

Question

Task:The following criteria will be used to assess this assignment:

  1. The five feeding systems used on Australian dairy farms are clearly explained.
  2. The relevance of dairy systems topics/issues to each feeding system is clearly explained.
  3. . Relevant literature has been comprehensively covered.
  4. . The arguments presented are evidence-based.
  5. The document has a logical structure.
  6. General presentation: the writing is clear and concise, Figures and Tables used are numbered and cited in the text, and a consistent referencing style is used.

Answer

Introduction
Dairy farming is an important industry in Australia. In fact, according to Dairy Australia (2013), statistics revealed in 2012-2013 indicated that dairy production in Australia had a value of 3.7 billion Australian dollars and this ranked Australia as the third largest milk producing country in the world. Following the deregulation of the milk prices in Australia in the year 2000, dairy farmers have been adopting new farming practices, backed by technology to increase milk production and reduce the cost of production. Nonetheless, these changes have been characterized by changes in the use of dairy feeding systems as exemplified by the use of purchased feeds to increase farm outputs (Fulkerson & Doyle 2001; Dharma et al 2012). However, although the use of purchased feeds has been on a rise in the past few years, a lot of questions have been raised against this approach (Ozkan, 2012), leading to the adoption of five feeding systems (pasture –based feeding systems) complemented by forages especially during the times of unavailable pasture. The main aim of this essay is to evaluate the pasture-based feeding systems adopted in Australia and how productive and profitable they are especially when used in complementarity with forages. In doing so, the paper will highlight the different feeding systems in relation to cow nutrition, profitability energy balance and general effectiveness in increasing milk profitability. Similarly, whereas the paper may focus on other areas within Australia, much focus will be on Victoria, a place that accounts of 65% of Australia’s milk production according to (Dairy Australia, 2013).

Australia’s Dairy Feeding Systems
Various regions practice dairy farming in Australia and these regions have various climatic conditions such as coastal/subtropical, irrigated/inland, and high-rainfall/temperate regions. However, typically, the Victoria region is characterized by both high-temperature rainfall and inland irrigated farming systems allowing for the growth of significant amounts of pasture especially during the spring season (Mason 1993; Fulkerson 2001). All in all, the following are the five feeding systems applied in various parts of Australia according to Ozkan & Hill (2015, pp. 2): “Pasture, forages, and low concentrate/grain feeding in milking shed (less than eight hundred kg of dry matter (DM) grain per year; pasture, forages, moderate-high concentrate/grain feeding in milking shed (less than eight hundred kg DM annually); pasture and partially mixed and/or concentrate/grain feeding system using stand-off areas or feed pads; hybrid system (pasture grazing for less than 9 month annually and partial mixed ration on feed pad and/or concentrates/grains); and a total of mixed ration system (housed cows in zero grazing)”.

Feeding Systems and Cow Nutrition
From the above identification of the feeding systems used practiced in Australian farming system, a common characteristic of the feeding systems is that the animals will have to consume pasture at one particular time. However, what are the nutritional characteristics of these pastures? Doyle et al (2000) argue that the nutritional characteristics of pasture include their fibre, energy, mineral contents and protein levels. Similarly, pasture digestibility, also referred to as “DM digestibility” (DMD) is defined as the quantity of pasture feed taken by the cow that is not excreted and therefore remains in the cow for nutritional purposes. Against this backdrop, it is important to note that an increase in the digestibility of pasture leads to an increase in the amount of energy the cow receives from the feed, while the DMD (also referred to as metabolizable energy content or ME) varies with the season and pasture. Likewise, according to Ozkan & Hill (2015), the ME denotes that amount of energy available for activity, maintenance, milk production, weight gain, and pregnancy. All in all, according to Jacobs et al (2009) and Chapman et al (2003), these feed characteristics are useful during feed rationing for supplementary feeds.

In South West Victoria region, ME content typically ranges from 11.7, and 8.4 MJ/kg during the seasons of autumn or spring respectively while in midsummer, the ME content typically stands at 8.4 KJ/kg (Jacobs et al 1999, Doyle et al 2000). Similarly, according to Doyle et al (2000), the perennial ryegrass has an average ME content of 10.2 MJ/kg, 10.4 MJ/kg, and 8.4 MJ/kg in autumn, spring and summer respectively. On the same note, Ozkan & Hill (2015) observe that perennial pasture for DMD in Victoria stands at 73% during spring, 61% during summer and 72% during autumn. Nonetheless, it is important to note that different pasture species have different levels of crude protein (CP) content i.e. pastures that are newly grown and have high levels of nitrogen fertilizers have high CP compared to those that have no fertilizers applied to them. Typically, according to Jacobs and colleagues (1999), the CP for pastures in Victoria ranges from 100 g/kg DM in winter to 250 g/kg DM during spring.

Farmers in Australia apply various principles of energy of balance in order to support or increase their milk yield. For example, according to Ozkan & Hill (2015), farmers in Victoria match the nutritive and yield characteristics of the pasture with the demand of animals in respect to a particular lactation stage in order to a maximize profits when applying the pasture-based dairy feed systems. According to Greig & Sheridan (2009), this information is monumental when conserving feed surpluses and deciding which feed supplements should be used. For instance, when grazing yields little nutrients than required by the cow, the farmers usually supplement the grazing with purchase or home-grown forages, concentrates/grains, and/or food industry by-products. Noteworthy, in Australia, pasture deficits for cows calved in autumn may occur when lactation is at the peak during winter because the cow requirements at this stage cannot be met by the available supply of pasture (Ozkan & Hill, 2015). Contrastingly, according to Garcia & Fulkerson (2005), spring-calved cows in Australia experience a pasture deficit during late lactation when there are a low intake and requirement of cows compared to the peak lactation period.

According to Garcia & Fulkerson (2005), the main aim of adopting pasture-related feeding systems is to increase the quantity of milk produced per unit of feed farming space rather than the production of milk per cattle and this depends on the level of purchased inputs. Hence, irrespective of the calving seasons, the farmers are able to convert more DM into milk during early lactation than late lactation. This means implies that with pasture-based dairy feed system Australian dairy farmers are able to achieve higher feed conversion efficiency during early lactation periods of their cows (Garcia & Holmes, 2005).

Pasture Feeding Systems and Complementary Feeding Systems
The dairy systems in Australia are considered as one of the most efficient dairy systems in the world. According to Doyle et al (2000), this illustrates their high regard for cheap ryegrass pastures grown at home specifically in the souther Australia. According to Doyle et al (2010), ryegrass has an advantage of easy establishment and high yield of DM besides having high nutritive values. On the flipside, ryegrass has a disadvantage of a seasonal growth pattern and the inability to yield year-long sufficient nutrients.

According to Morley (1978), Australian dairy farmers may face a shortage in supply of forage due to the inherent variability of rainfall and this causes a short supply of feeds during the season of high milk price. The shortage of forage supply is also amplified by the dry summers and wet winters, labour and land requirements, and limited irrigation and rainfall water (Ozkan & Hill, 2015). Millar & Badgery (2009) and Jacobs & Woodward (2010) write that in order to mitigate the seasonal risk of forage supply, farmers in Australia use various complementary systems and change farm management practices to ensure there is constantly enough DM for the production of milk and to ensure that the climate change does not impact the availability of feed supply. Typically, according to Chapman et al (2014), Australian dairy farmers combine ryegrass with other pasture and crop species to improve productivity through a complementary integration of pasture feed systems and supplementary feeds.

Doyle & Kelly (1998) argue that the main reasons why Australian farmers practice the integration of pasture systems with supplementary feeds increase the DM when the existing pasture is lesser than required, in order to reduce the wastage of both supplementary feeds and pasture through effective management practices and to ultimately achieve a maximization of the total feed utilization system. Hence, productivity levels are a function of the quantity of home-based produced and consumed forage meaning that for productivity to increase there must be an increased quantity of home-grown forage (Garcia et al, 2008).

Scholars in the field of dairy farming generally agree that purchased feeds can be replaced by summer-grown feeds especially when off-season feeds are produced, when storage costs are reduced and when wastage is reduced. According to Malcom (2005), this argument gives a perfect reflection of why most Australian dairy farmers face a higher cost of dairy cow feeds during autumn compared to spring.

Literature by Jacobs et al (2009) and Chapman et al (2011) also reveal that the off-season feed contribution to farm income is dependent on the level of extra feeds developed and the efficiency with which the feed is converted into milk. For example as opposed to the spring season when there is excessive pasture, the extra feeds accumulated in the summer season is likely to be put into a better use – indicating the stage of lactation and quantity of feeds on offer. Typically, according to Dairy Australia (2013), 95% Australian dairy farmers buy feeds to meet the pasture deficits while specifically in Victoria, the ME 46% out of the 73% of consumed ME is accounted for by grazed pasture.

Currently, according to Chapman et al (2009), there are pieces of evidence revealing the growth patterns of pasture-based feed systems, leading to the modelling of a growth pattern of pasture products and the evaluation of nutritive characteristics of different types of pasture products throughout the year. Contrariwise, there seems to be a paucity of research evaluating the different pasture deficit and surplus patterns of different pasture-based systems for various subsequent lactations, yet these evaluations are important in the identification of the number of feeds on plan for production are actually required for conservation and later use during lactation and stored for subsequent lactations for purposes of creating an extra feed supply (Ozkan & Hill, 2015). Against this backdrop, a question that arises is that: what are the types of complementary forage systems practiced in Australia?

Australian dairy farmers can use different species of fodder and pastures combinations to evade feed supply shortages during the year and to yield more forage for meeting cow requirements. According to Chapman et al (2008), this helps to develop alternative dairy feed systems usable in areas such as Victoria with specific climatic conditions. Ideally, complementing pasture feeds with alternative forages may only contribute to more DM per square area of land compared to a sole use of pasture feeds, yet their higher DM availability may not contribute to higher profitability (Ozkan & Hill, 2015). Nonetheless, according to McKenzie et al (2003), these systems may lead to water-use efficiency and improved nutrient availability if they happen to be successful.

Profitability and Dairy Feeding Systems
Existing literature indicates that Australian dairy farmers employ the efficient use of pasture and home-grown feeds to increase the profitability of their dairy produce. In doing so, according to Ozkan & Hill (2015), they adjust their farm management systems and stocking rates to ensure that low costs and ultimately high profitability are achieved. In cases where they practice intensive dairy production, the farmers use a combination of reduced feed purchase and increased milk production to keep their profits high (Ozkan & Hill, 2015). This implies that for purchases to below there must be an increased use of home-grown forages and a moderate use of supplements such as concentrates to cover for the supply deficits that characterize pasture-only systems (Yates et al, 2010). Equally, as Garcia & Fulkerson (2005) argue, this may contribute to an increased profitability through reduced stocking rates, lower use of pasture as the main feeding system and increased marginal response to concentrates.

In conclusion, this paper has evaluated the use of various Australian-based pasture feeding systems and how they contribute to nutrition and increased milk productivity. For instance, the paper has identified how pasture-based feed system in integrated with supplementary feeds is increase the DM when the existing pasture is lesser than required, in order to reduce the wastage of both supplementary feeds and pasture through effective management practices and to ultimately achieve a maximization of the total feed utilization system. Similarly, the study has highlighted that farmers from different parts of Australia can use various combinations of fodder-specific pastures to achieve adequate feed supply throughout the year and to yield more forage for meeting cow requirements. Hence, it is recommendable for farmers to consider different strategies of using pasture-based feeding systems to the advantage of increased milk production.

References
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Chapman D., Donaghy D., McKenzie F., O’Brien G., Rowe B., Jacobs J. (2003) DAV11272 A Target Driven Approach to Increase Forage Production and Utilisation in Southern Dairy

Systems Final Report, Report on Literature Review, Industry Workshops and Future Options for Investment into Forage RD&E in Dryland Southern Australia. Melbourne, Australia: Department of Primary Industries Victoria.

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Chapman F., Cullen R., Johnson R., Beca D. (2009) Interannual variation in pasture growth rate in Australian and New Zealand dairy regions and its consequences for system management. Anim Prod Sci, 49, 1071–1079.

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Doyle T., Kelly B. (1998) The Victorian dairy industry – improving performance. In: Michalk DL, Pratley JE, editors. Agronomy, Growing a Greener Future? Proceedings of the 9th Australian Agronomy Conference. Wagga Wagga, Australia: Charles Sturt University.

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