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Benchmark Farmlet

One of DairyNZ's long-running farmlets has been keeping a low profile

DairyNZ's Hamilton-based research farm, Scott Farm, has been home to a number of farmlet studies in years past - most recently, the Super P and Tight N demonstration farmlets have combined leading science results with best practice farm management.

However ticking away in the background, for years, has been a Benchmark Farmlet.

Formerly known as the Control Farm, this farmlet is based on a typical Waikato dairy farm operating an all-grass system.

DairyNZ farm systems specialist Chris Glassey says the Benchmark Farmlet is one of nine farmlets at Scott Farm and, while it's useful as a benchmark to other more experimental projects, it also has its own key goals around production and profit.

"The Benchmark Farmlet is a 7 ha area with 23 cows and is run like the standard Waikato all-grass farm," says Chris.

"The information provided to farmers through the Benchmark Farmlet is based on many years experience, allowing a comparison with the current year and enabling us to comment on management decisions made for a very common farming system.

"The pasture production and climate may be unique to us, but many of the principles we have learnt can be applied throughout the country, adapted to climate and pasture production in those areas.

"Many farmers successfully apply the principles that have been developed."

The Benchmark Farm's key goals include an operating profit of $2500 per ha (at a $5.20 payout this is more than double the Waikato average of $1000 per ha) and ensuring 75-80 percent of the pasture grown (18 t DM/ha) is eaten.

Chris says they also aim to keep operating expenses below  $3 kg/MS and produce 1300 kg MS/ha (the Waikato average is 1000 kg MS/ha). The farm has averaged 1140 kg MS/ha and $2.65 kg/MS over the last three years.

Chris says increasing the stocking rate to 3.3 cows/ha this year was another vital step towards regularly achieving the farmlet's goals.

"This decision was based on eight seasons of pasture growth measurement telling us we were understocked. Other important features include an early July calving date, utilising the Spring Rotation Planner, grazing to 1500 kg DM/ha residuals, identifying surplus grass to harvest for silage and drying off in time to meet condition score targets for calving.

"We have developed proven ways of profitably turning grass into milk and will always try to improve that, making sure we do not increase the impact on the environment."

Along with Chris, the DairyNZ team working on the farmlet's development include scientists Dave Clark, Cameron Clark, Sharon Woodward, Errol Thom and Kevin Macdonald, senior research technician Chris Roach, along with Scott Farm staff.