Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Great Dairy Research in France

So are we being left behind the French?
I've just returned from France with groups from South Wales & Leicestershire.Everytime I go to Brittany & meet the research people from Travarez (like Valerie Brocard) I am very impressed with the quality of Agricultural Science & Research in France.
Farmers in Brittany still have a huge say in the on farm research programs.
Sadly UK grass based dairy farmers have precious little input or say in the research funded by levies.
I fear for the research & the quality of the agricultural science in the UK. At some point this will severely affect the competitiveness of UK grass based dairy farmers.
Valerie introduced us to the new French (EU) feeding standards & system developed by INRA. She has been responsible for a new publication which is a practical guide to dairy herd food (unfortunately in French)
The new INRA system (the Irish are already using it) is a huge step forward in a better understanding of dairy cow nutritional requirements. It takes account of the stage of lactation & better estimates the true value of the feed. It will be an ideal tool to measure N in & N out (as most of the N a cow eats is excreted).

We should be able to identify the ideal supplement to partner good quality grazed pasture & not have a detrimental impact on the environment by using the INRA system.

Photo Scoop of the year....Chris standing in deep dairy clover pasture
"So what did you say this stuff was Nigel?"
Traditionally diets have been formulated to metabolisable energy (ME) but this system overvalues the energy value of poor quality feeds relative to good quality feeds. For this reason a net energy (NE) system is being adopted which will allow better comparisons between the nutritional value of feedstuffs. The NE value of feedstuffs is expressed in terms of FEED UNITS (UF). The system applies two NE values to feedstuffs: (I) UFL for lactating dairy cows, growing beef cattle and sheep and (2) UFV for finishing cattle. In most situations (dairy, beef and sheep) UFL values are used, apart from situations where high levels of concentrates (80% +) are being offered or growth rates over 1.0 kg per day are being achieved. In this situation the UFV value is used.

Barley is the standard feed in this system and all other feeds are given values relative to barley. Standard barley has a net energy value of 1 UFL or 1 UFV per kg as fed. The lower the UFL or UFV value the poorer the energy value of the feed. The NE value of feedstuffs range from 0.45 UFL / kg as fed for good quality straw to 1.05 / kg as fed for maize grain. The UFL value of grass silage (70% DMD) is 0.78 / kg dry matter and that of maize silage (25% starch) is 0.80 / kg dry matter.

Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids. The true protein value of any feedstuff is best measured by the quantity of these amino acids that are absorbed by the animal, not what the animal consumes. The amino acids that are absorbed by the animal come from two sources: (1) bacteria in the rumen (first stomach) of the cow, which converts energy and nitrogen into bacterial protein (bacterial amino acids) and (2) undegradable protein in the feed, which is not changed in the rumen. The quantity of bacterial amino acids made by the bacteria in the stomach is reliant on a supply of nitrogen and energy. There are potentially two amounts of bacterial protein that the cow can generate - one that relies on there being enough nitrogen in the rumen and one that relies on there being enough energy in the rumen. If there is a limited supply of nitrogen the protein value is called PDIN. If there is a limited supply of energy the protein value is called PDIE. Each feed has two values (PDIN and PDIE).
The lower of the two values is the actual protein value of the feed. Feeds that are high in crude protein tend also to be high in PDIN. Usually in grass silage based diets there is not enough energy to convert all the nitrogen in the diet into bacterial protein. Therefore, the energy supply is limiting and the protein value of grass silage is normally as PDIE.

Much of this is taken from a 2000 Irish Dairy Conference paper presented by Dr Siobhan Kavanagh & Dr John Murphy of Teagasc....the full paper is well worth reading.
If we are being left behind in the UK what are you going to do about it! I think we in the UK should be very concerned at the lack of dairy pasture based research

Friday, 10 September 2010

The Origins of the Pasture Wedge Graph

Have you ever wondered how the

"Pasture Wedge Graph" started. 

Who invented it & who developed the original concept?

Tom Phillips (thats me!) developed the original concept of the Pasture Wedge Graph.
 I was working with Discussion Group dairyfarmers in the Matamata area of the Waikato, New Zealand in 1976. Initially it started as chalk drawn wedge diagrams on milking shed (milking parlour) walls or concrete floors.... that resembled silage clamps of pasture stored on the farm that day. This was before white boards or computers remember....we had it tough in those "oldie" days.
The development of the Pasture Wedge Graph is a classic example of a product of an ideas person/adviser working with smart farmers & combining forces with very good researchers & communicators....classic "Tipping Point"as the Pasture wedge Graph is now used in every pasture based dairy industry through out the world.

This photo is of the very first "Pasture Wedge Graph".....a photo that very proudly hangs in my office.

The very first official "Pasture Wedge Graph" was drawn by me (1976) to represent the "ideal pasture for grazing "......fast growing lush pasture of about 15cm (6 inches) at the top of the diagram & at the bottom of the wedge we showed the short residual (stubble) that was 3cm long. At the extreme ends was grass that was too long for grazing (note the stalky tall grass with little clover & dead matter at the base OR pasture that was too short.....both affecting milk yields (cow pasture intakes) & opening up the sward & encouraging weed infestation.
The next "small but very important"step was taken by me working closely with two now famous NZ Researchers at Ruakura.....Des Clayton & Dr Arnold Bryant. Arnold was a friend of mine & at the time was one of NZ's best known dairy researchers heading the team at No2. Dairy Ruakura. The concept of the wedge appealed to Arnold as it neatly summarised the work at No.2 Dairy. This was quite an achievement as Arnold was a tough man & a very rigourous scientist. Des then took the idea of the wedge across NZ in his role as advocate for research at Ruakura....the rest is history as they say.....
Dr Arnold Bryant had a massive impact on NZ Dairy farmers & the way in which grazing management was so important to low cost productivity. You may not have heard of Dr Bryant but believe me he influenced a generation of farmers & advisers. Quite rightly he has been honoured for his contributions to grass based dairy farming world wide.
After working in NZ I moved to Victoria Australia......where we used the pasture grazing wedge extensively in the DPI Dairy Officers' extension program & later the Target 10 program in the mid 1980s.
Australian dairy farmers really contributed to the thinking as they faced abrupt changes to pasture growth patterns. So how to move from one grazing rotation to a different grazing pattern was really tested in Victoria. Its a very good example of collaboration and participatory research & development. Now there are so many packages and cloud based products available to farmers in many different countries.......sadly few realize nor acknowledge the participatory process that key farmers contributed to......... to even get the thinking right back in the 1970-80s.
Victorian dairy farmers played an important role to the development of the Pasture Wedge Graph concept.
Thanks guys!
Much much later in the early 2000's work at Lincoln University Dairy Farm revisited Arnold Bryant's work. Adrian Van Bysterveldt & Peter Gaul started to put numbers on the pasture wedge graph & ask the question how could they record plate meter readings and use it as a predictive tool. They had a very special WOW moment.....the rest is history!

The very first scientific paper documenting this mathematical assessment of the pasture wedge graph was written by Adrian at the SIDE Conference 2005 "Lincoln University dairy farm, now a cropping farm?" Proceedings of the New Zealand South Island Dairy Event. LUDF and Adrian & Peter in particular  very successfully used the demo farm to extend the grazing message.....this time world wide as the internet website has been so successful. http://www.siddc.org.nz/.

Actual figures & an understanding of the mathematics of the Demand line gave this humble graph immense power.
The real power lies in the fact that it is VERY SIMPLE but conveys a powerful message in the visual picture.
When I first arrived in the UK in 2001 I was amused but very proud to hear terms like "Pasture Wedge Graphs" & "Magic Spring Day" which I had developed back in 1976. It's intriguing that that language of the grass based dairy farmer has traversed through out the world & is being used not only correctly but very successfully by advisers & farmers.
It's not only the UK of course but the grazing wedge has got to the USA as well as Ireland, Argentina & Chile & South Africa & France.

Now we are moving rapidly into a new & exciting phase....online data bases where individual grass based dairy farmers anywhere in the world can log their pasture measurements, look at their pasture wedge graphs & compare with other groups of farmers & their consultants.
This could have a big influence on how Dairyfarm Discussion Groups use & compare grazing data.
Can I introduce Agrinet.....https://www.agrinet.ie/Default.aspx
The Agrinet website will allow grass based dairyfarmers who regularly measure grass with a platemeter to go online & calculate their data & wedge graphs online. The real power will be the ability to team up with your fellow Discussion Group members & compare graphs. Keep your grazing consultant in the loop too.

I strongly recommend you have a look at the Agrinet website......its free until 2011 when the annual fee is expected to be approx 80 Euros per year. Try it & talk to your group about joining .....lets talk about it on the Pasture to Profit Network Discussion Group on Facebook.

I'm incredibly proud of this humble little Pasture Wedge Graph that started life before many current users were even born. It's had a huge impact on grass based dairy farm management for thousands of farmers all over the world.....it's come a long way from Jim Diprose's concrete cow yard chalk diagram at Matamata.

I guess we've reached the "tipping point"!
Can I make the plea with current & future users to "Keep it Simple" as the real power is in it's simplicity!

In the UK we are now entering a critical stage of the grazing cycle. We are currently grazing the second to last time & we need to build covers to approx 2600-2700 by or for the first week of October.

Regular measurement & use of the grazing graphs is critical. This is a time of critical decisions & you have to get the timing just right. You must know the target covers for October. You must graze grass out cleanly & get the residuals down to 3cm or 1500kgs DM/ha.

A current dilemma on many Discussion Group farms (especially those that have only had recent rains) is the patches (Grass Monuments) of high nutrient grass that the cows are very reluctant to graze. Under each of these "Grass Monuments" that are embarrassingly obvious (due to colour & height) at the moment is an old dung pad. Grass Monuments are normally associated with under grazing or low stocking rates but in this case its a seasonal issue after rains that broke an unusual dry spell. The issue is do you pre mow & graze these paddocks or do you get it in the first week of October when you start your last grazing rotation.

Some Autumn Calvers have stored pasture since June which they are now grazing with the Springers mob. Below is a photo of an Autumn calving group on a mixed sward of deep rooting species including Chicory. This is an interesting concept that along with the "tall Grazing concept" is designed to increase the Soil Organic Matter....interesting onfarm experimental work by innovative farmers.
Remember the target now is to build pasture covers to approx 2600-2700kgs DM/ha by the first week of October. The last grazing rotation will start on most UK grass based dairyfarms in the first week of October & end sometime in November or December depending on wetness & when grass covers reduce to about av. 2100kgs DM/ha.
Grass Covers & Pasture Growth This Week
Northern Ireland 2350kg Av Cover, 70kg DM/ha growth, Demand 45kgs/ha
Dumfries 2550, 55kg growth, 51day rotation
Cumbria 2600, 54kg growth
North Wales 2050kg, 43kg
Cheshire Organic, 2223, 43kg
Shropshire 2470kg, 89kg
Staffordshire 2396, 51kg
Staffordshire 2610, 45kgs rain needed
Hereford Org 2329, 41kg
Hereford Org 2520, 45kgs
Hereford 2300, 50 kgs, 35kg demand, 3kg cake
Gloucestershire 2522kg, 77 kg growth, 30 days
SW Wales 2537, 85kg growth, 37 demand, 32days
SW Wales org 2664kg cover
SW Wales 2350kg, 65kg growth
Somerset Org 2350, 50kg growth
Dorset 2289, 40kg growth, 45 days
Dorset 2250, 47kg growth
Cornwall 2500, 80 kg growth
Cornwall 2250, 40kg, 36 days
Limerick Ireland 2400, 65kg
Rotorua NZ 2040kg cover & 52 kg growth