Pasture response to fertiliser inputs under dairy grazing


  • J.S. Rowarth
  • C.G. Pennell
  • T.J. Fraser
  • D.B. Baird



Conversion of sheep and beef farms into dairy units has resulted in research on appropriate fertiliser rates and pasture species to achieve maximum productivity in minimum time. An onfarm trial involving five different mixtures of pasture species (based on fescue, prairie grass, an improved mixture, farmer mixture or original pasture), three rates of nitrogen as urea (0, 50 or 100 kg/ha of N applied half in March and half in August) and four rates of superphosphate (0, 250, 500 or 1000 kg/ha applied annually in March) was established in Canterbury on a Waimakariri sandy silt loam with border-dyke irrigation and an Olsen P of 5 pg/ml. The trial was grazed by dairy cattle as part of the general rotation; plots were not fenced individually. Pasture growth rates were measured pre- and post-grazing using a calibrated pasture probe. Botanical dissections ,were made seasonally and soil samples were taken annually. Pasture dry matter production was greatest from the prairie grass, "improved" mixture and the original pasture, involved often contain a high proportion of annual and perennial, low-producing species. Grass species, nutrient status and management have been identified as the limiting factors in dairy conversion (Kleyngeld & Kleyngeld 1992). Ryegrass and white clover are still the most common species used in pasture renovation (Maloney 1991). However, short-rotation ryegrasses are favoured by some dairy farmers, and in new dairying areas such as Canterbury, optimally producing species may differ from those used in the more traditional North Island dairying areas (Charlton & Belgrave 1992). Nitrogen (N) is recognised as a strategic tool for increasing grass production in winter-spring in summerdry areas (Thomsoneta/. 1991) as well as for extending the milking season for factory supply herds in Southland (Kleyngeld & Kleyngeld 1992). High rates of nitrogen (217 and 324 kg/ha per year) have been found to increase annual net herbage accumulation by 23 and 27%, respectively, in the Waikato, but clover content declined significantly (Harrisetaf. 1994). Maintenance fertiliser requirements have been related to desired stocking rate in the past, based on animal production system and soil type (Computerised Fertiliser Advisory System (CFAS), reaching 13 000,ll 000 and 16 000 kg/ha in years Cornforth & Sinclair 1984). Recently responses in milk one, two and three, respectively; production from yield have been recorded to very high rates (100 kg/ha- IT the fescue increased with time; the 'farmer' mix performed poorly. Nitrogen at 50 kg/ha was generally sufficient to produce maximum yield increases. Increasing superphosphate increased production; this effect decreased with time. Change in Olsen P reflected superphosphate inputs and after three years of differential superphosphate application the Olsen P status was 8, 14, 27 or 42 (corresponding to 0, 250, 500 or 1000 kg/ha superphosphate). Keywords: Bromus wildenowii, dairy conversion, dry matter production Festuca arundinacea, Loliumperenne, nitrogen, Olsen P, superphosphate







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