Comparing a covered stand-off pad for on/off grazing during winter with conventional winter block grazing 2017-19 at DTT Stratford Demonstration farm
A two-herd farmlet comparison was carried out on the DTT Stratford Demonstration Farm in Central Taranaki examined the profitability, environmental outcomes, animal welfare benefits and practicality of using a covered woodchip stand-off feed pad for wintering cows (Pad.) compared with wintering cows with no removal from pasture (Control). The two farmlets were set up and managed similarly in all aspects except that the non-lactating cows of one herd used the pad every night through the winter and over calving.
Use of the covered pad limited winter pugging damage of pasture to minimal levels while the control farmlet had 6% of the area requiring rolling and some re-seeding. Pasture growth on these pugged areas was 24 to 30% lower than non-pugged areas over the spring to early summer period while estimated annual pasture growth was 2.2% higher on the Pad farmlet compared to the control over the two years. The mean difference in milksolids production across two years was 3%, (range :<1%- 5%) in favour of the Pad herd. Nutrient losses calculated using OverseerFM calculated a 9% reduction in nitrogen leached from the use of the covered pad.
A cost benefit analysis suggests that at best the use of the covered stand-off in winter covered the annual operating cost of the stand-off pad but failed to contribute to the capital cost of providing this facility.
Keywords –Pasture growth, pasture pugging, milksolids production, profit, Labour input, nitrogen leaching
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