UNDERSTANDING GRAZING DECISIONS ON TASMANIAN DAIRY FARMS

Alison Hall1, Lydia Turner1 and Sue Kilpatrick2

1Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, University of Tasmania, Mooreville Road, Burnie, Tasmania 7320

2Faculty of Education, University of Tasmania, Launceston, Tasmania 7250

Corresponding Author: Alison Hall. Email: A.F.Hall@utas.edu.au.

 

ABSTRACT

Improving pasture utilisation on Tasmanian dairy farms is a key focus of research, development and extension programs, through increasing farmer awareness, knowledge and use of best practice pasture management practices. Recommended practices include using pasture management tools to provide objective information about pasture quantity, increasing control, flexibility and accuracy around pasture management decisions. A survey of 162 Tasmanian dairy farmers found large variation in tool use, and investigated the relationship between current tool use and key grazing management decisions. Key decisions include assessing pasture quantity (pre-grazing cover), grazing intensity (post-grazing residual), determining rotation length, and determining the level of non-pasture, supplementary feed required. There was a significant relationship between currently measuring pasture and using that information to assess pre and post-grazing cover, and decisions on rotation length (P<0.05). The relationship between currently measuring pasture and using that information to make decisions on supplement feeding was not significant. Using pasture measurement data can assist in increased accuracy in supplement allocation, with inaccurate allocation resulting in potential over-feeding, substitution of supplement for pasture, reduced pasture regrowth, quality and utilisation. Extension can increase farmer knowledge and understanding of how pasture measurement data can be used to make more informed grazing decisions, and subsequent increase pasture utilization, milk production and farm profitability.


BIOGRAPHY

Alison Hall is recently completed her PhD with the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA), based at the University of Tasmania. Alison’s PhD set out to investigate what pasture management tools and technology are currently being used on Tasmanian dairy farms; to understand what factors have driven the decision making behind tool and technology use and implementation, and to understand what factors influence engagement with extension activities. Prior to commencing her PhD, Alison worked as a Dairy Industry Extension and Development Officer for four years with TIA, developing an interest in pasture management, business management, farmer decision making and social research.

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