NZ Dairy Autumn 2022

64 | nzdairy DAIRY PEOPLE » Dairy Trust Taranaki Ensuring the future viability of dairy farming Richard Loader By its footprint Dairy Trust Taranaki (DTT) is one of the largest research businesses in the world, enabling research and testing to be carried out on large scale, with key learnings applied to commercial farming systems. Established December 2015, DTT brought together four dairy farms in the Taranaki region with the mission of advancing knowledge and discovering solutions to ensure the future viability of dairy farming throughout New Zealand. The Trust’s Board includes representatives from Fonterra, landowners, Young Farmers, Dairy NZ and local farmers and rural professionals from the Taranaki region. Last November Jason Rolfe was appointed to the newly established role of General Manager Operations. Enjoying the challenge, Jason says he has been charged with elevating the Trust’s profile and awareness, and ensuring the farms continue to operate sustainably into the future. “All our farms are leased and run commercially with the science overlaid across them. We’re researching the challenges facing farming and trialing ways to overcome them in a commercial setting so that farmers can see what works and what doesn’t. Each DTT farm has a different research focus and that’s the benefit of having four separate properties. Some of the trials are aimed more at issues facing local Taranaki farms, while others are aimed at problems faced nationally.” Milking just under 180 Jersey cows at peak on 50 hectares Stratford DTT sits under Mount Taranaki and is traditionally a higher rainfall area. That farm is looking at nitrate leaching and technology to treat urine patches. “In partnership with Pasture Robotics Ltd, Stratford is trialing a machine called Spikey that identifies where the urine patches are and treats them to make better use of that nitrogen to grow grass, rather than leach through. They’re looking at the science behind that machine and there will be demonstration of that once the four-year trial nears completion.” At the Waimate West farm, a 34 hectares property near Manaia has just commenced an exciting project looking at diverse pastures. “There’s a lot of talk about diverse pastures and we’re trialing what the difference between conventional and diverse pastures are. Half the farm will transition into diverse pastures with measurements taken looking at leaching, soil carbon, production, cow behavior, milk in the vat, make up of the milk including Omega 3s and other nutrients and sensory differences. If we’re getting good results, farmers can see how they can transition to diverse pastures and what the challenges are.” At 100 hectares and 300 cows, Gibson is known as the Step Change project, operating at a lower stocking rate with lower nitrogen use and imported feed, reflecting where dairy farming could be going with environmental challenges. “That’s in the second of a four-year trial,” says Jason. “The goal is that profitability does not drop too much. We’re trying to show farmers, industry and decision makers what the potential profit drop off is and what is required to transition to that kind of system.” Kavanagh is DTT’s biggest farm at 210 hectares effective and milks 600 cows. For the last four years Kavanagh has been trialing a split autumn/ spring calving herd. “That trial has been successful, though an increase in imported feed was needed for autumn calving. The trial results will be written up and published in the next six months. We’re about to move to a new trial looking at net zero carbon emissions.” Every year farmers and rural professionals from throughout the Taranaki region are invited attend the annual field days on the four farms while weekly updates on trial progress are emailed to about 900 subscribers throughout the country keeping people apprised of progress “Once the trials have been completed and published they have national significance, particularly the Step Change trial, diverse pasture trial and in the lowering emission space. “Every farmer in New Zealand will be facing “Every farmer in New Zealand will be facing those challenges. We’re looking at the emerging challenges that the industry is facing and how farmers may change their systems to meet those challenges.” Each of the four Dairy Trust Taranaki farms has a different research focus – from nitrate leaching and technology to treat urine patches, to diverse pasture systems. those challenges. We’re looking at the emerging challenges that the industry is facing and how farmers may change their systems to meet those challenges. “It’s really important that we’re not just sharing the good stuff – we need to share negatives as well. For example, in the first year of our Step Change Farm trial there was an 11% drop in profitability. So that’s good for decision makers in say Wellington to be aware of – that the new environmental changes that they want to drive in the sector come at a cost.” Proud to support Dairy Trust Taranaki with their feed and animal nutrition requirements