The project – Off-paddock Wintering Facilities and Systems for Southern Dairying – aims to investigate alternative wintering options to reduce the impact of winter grazing on water quality and animal welfare and reduce the cost for farmers. The project will see collaboration between water, animal and farm-systems experts, engineers and farmers to design, approve and test a new off-paddock wintering system in Southland. The Southern Dairy Hub research farm will host the project.
It is hoped the results will provide Southern dairy farmers with an alternative sustainable integrated solution to winter cows on-farm.
The project will help government and the dairy sector achieve Action for Healthy Waterways and Wintering Taskforce goals. It will also benefit agritech firms and off-farm employment due to its collaborative nature.
Phase one 2020
Phase One of the project is complete. Farmers and experts have co-designed two concepts for integrated infrastructure and farm systems that are potentially fit-for-purpose.
Phase two 2021
In Phase Two, these two concept designs will be tested and evaluated by technical experts and farmers for their ability to provide a sustainable option for:
- cow comfort, health and performance
- reduced environmental impact on waterways (nitrogen and sediment) and air (greenhouse gases)
- staff working conditions
- internationally competitive cost to establish and operate.
Farmers and experts will choose one design for experimental testing and demonstration.
Phase two will also research alternate technologies for cow loafing surfaces.
Loafing surface is a core innovation goal – identifying a new 'super surface' that supports cow comfort to a much greater degree and at less cost than current options.
Other innovations sought include infrastructure design and less need for expensive farm machinery, through contract arrangements for harvesting and feeding winter forage supplements.
Phase three 2022
In Phase Three, a prototype off-paddock wintering system will be compared with conventional in situ grazed crop at Southern Dairy Hub’s 800-cow research farm in Makarewa.
What is this project aiming to achieve?
To identify tested and proven infrastructure options for southern dairy farmers who are considering an alternative wintering solution. The Southern Dairy Hub trial is designed to engage with farmers throughout the design and testing.
What is being researched?
The two concepts are uncovered structures where cows are kept for around three months over winter. The facility chosen for testing must meet animal care objectives, environmental requirements, be user-friendly for farm teams, and cost-effective to build and operate. The study is looking at infrastructure options to support farmers who want to a seasonal pasture-based system, but an alternative to winter crops.
When does it get underway?
Phase one is complete. Phase two is set to start – detailed research into the infrastructure design, material and costs. Phase three (the build) begins early 2022, with it in use that winter.
What will it achieve?
This research is the first time this type of infrastructure has been road-tested in New Zealand. International examples have provided inspiration, but this research will deliver a prototype farmers can confidently replicate on their own farms.