Guideline Index

Chapter 10 - Keeping Nutrients on Farm

10.4 Optimise production

The keys to optimising production, in terms of converting nutrients into milk, are:

10.4.1 Get top value from low-risk areas

A good way to ensure nutrients are not lost to the environment is to use them in production – converting them to produce. For example, if higher rates of nitrogen are being applied, then higher rates of stocking are needed to make use of extra pasture growth. Optimising production from areas that are more resilient and a lower-risk in terms of nutrient loss is one way to profitably manage risk at a farm scale. That is, strive for peak production in resilient areas, and reduce the pressure on critical source areas.

10.4.2 Recycle nutrients

Effluent can be a valuable source of water and nutrients when treated as an irrigation supply and/or applied in the 4Rs framework. Recycling effluent can reduce risks to the environment and optimise production without additional fertiliser inputs.

Infrastructure is a key to optimising the productive value of effluent. There must be adequate storage capacity for the effluent, the ability to get treated effluent to where it will be useful and an appropriate irrigation or spreading system. Separating solids and liquids can make effluent recycling an easier proposition.

10.4.3 Optimise irrigation efficiency

Excess (lost) water inevitably means lost nutrients on a dairy farm. Optimising water use efficiency to minimise water loss will drive measures of production (yields of dry matter / mega litre) while containing nutrient loss. The approach should be the same when irrigating water and recycled effluent. An irrigation and drainage management plan is a useful tool to help design appropriate infrastructure and to develop a plan for scheduling irrigation, including irrigating with recycled effluent.

10.4.4 Consider stock as a management tool

Options to redistribute nutrients through grazing patterns and feed transfers are discussed in Section, and can be an effective aide to optimal productivity. Another practice to reduce nutrient losses and optimise production is by managing grazing pressure to avoid wet-soil pugging by the use of on-off grazing; keeping pastures productive for longer and avoiding higher risks of nutrient loss from compacted, saturated soils.