MDF Travel and Learning Scholarship 2013 – Jon Ryan
As the 2013 and inaugural recipient of the Macalister Demonstration Farm (MDF) Travel and Learning Scholarship, I head off on my planned study tour to Tasmania and New Zealand at the end of January.
My study focuses on how the application of new technology to manage forage on pasture based dairy farms that is readily available today can impact on the dairy farmers of the MID (of which I am one) into the future. To achieve this goal, my aim whilst on the tour is to learn more about innovative technologies used to assist in maximising pasture utilisation and hence drive down the cost of production in our dairy businesses. Technologies such as the Rapid Pasture Meter (RPM) approach, including appropriate software that makes use of the collected data, is what I will be focussing on during my travel time.
A brief summary of my tour is as follows;
- 27 – 29 Jan inclusive: Burnie Tasmania – Tasmania Institute of Agriculture research Farm, extension staff and relevant farms to observe the use of same technology in Australian conditions.
- 01 – 04 Feb inclusive: Christchurch/Canterbury region, South Island New Zealand – visit Lincoln Demonstration Farm and nearby farms to examine the benefits of managing pasture cover using the latest in rapid pasture meter and sensory GIS spray irrigation technology.
- 05 – 07 Feb inclusive: Palmerston North & Taranaki region, North Island – visit a Massey University’s Centre for Precision Agriculture and nearby farms to examine the benefits of managing pasture cover using the latest in rapid pasture meter technology.
For those of you, not familiar with my background here is a quick relevant summary;
My wife Lauren and I run a pasture based operation currently milking 800 cows as part of our family’s (Clynes) dairy business in the MID. The 230 hectare milking area is made up of 170 hectares of flood irrigation, 22 hectares of spray irrigation and 43 hectares of dry land. In addition, 70 hectares of dairy support is located nearby and agistment is also used for some of the replacement stock. Our farm is also the Newry farm in Dairy Australia’s current Focus Farm Project
To my knowledge 6 farms in the MID are regularly measuring their pastures, of which our farm is one. Our business has been measuring for 18 months and this to date has resulted in:
- significant improvements in pasture utilisation
- a reduction in supplement cost per cow of $360
- easier daily management of pasture allocation
A key part of this study tour which will directly contribute to the reporting element required as recipient of the MDF Travel and Learning scholarship is to share my ongoing learning via appropriate forms of digital media such as a blog and or audio interviews with farmers, consultants and researchers and perhaps social avenues like face book/ twitter at the same time.
To get me started in the digital reporting world, Sandie Brown, MDF cooperative manager, has set up this page to which I will upload daily entries into, including daily summaries of key visit highlights, photos, interviews, face book and twitter updates etc. See links to the right of this article.
To get you enthused to make comments or ask questions on my daily entries; what I aim to find answers for on my travel and learning tour to Tasmania and New Zealand from Jan 27- Feb 07 includes;
- What devices or processes are available and what are the strengths and limitations?
- Has feed budgeting changed with the use of the technology?
- Has the technology itself assisted with increasing utilisation or has it allowed a system of management to form that has facilitated getting it right more often?
- What challenges, failures and successes have been experienced with the consistent use of the technology?
- By measuring on regular basis over a long period of time have farmers changed the way they invest on farm (e.g.long term data has identified that three of our main paddocks only grow 6 t/DM/ha, so we addressed the cultivars, drainage or irrigation and now they are performing in the top 10% of the fields)?
- Can water use efficiency be effectively assessed and improved as a direct result?
- Can we make more money? And make our business more resilient?
I look equally forward to both updating you all on the ongoing progress of my trip and receiving your comments!
Jon’s Diary Business Website
Leathorn Milk Facebook site (opens in a new window)