WTARS is situated just south of Hawera on the greenbelt surrounding the Fonterra Whareroa dairy factory.
Commissioned in 2002, the farm focuses on cutting edge farm systems research and small plot trials. The site provides a DairyNZ research base in Taranaki.
|Farm area||110 ha effective|
|Milking cows||350 cows depending on scientific requirements|
|Soil fertility||Egmont black loam|
|Paddocks||20 (1/2 ha paddocks) 100 (1 ha paddocks)|
||40 - bail rotary dairy
Automatic cow ID, daily electronic milk weight recording
|Feed Conversion Efficiency stall||28 stalls
Electronic weighing feed bins
Research at WTARS
Tactics Demonstration Project
How grazing residuals impact on profit, pasture quality, and milk production
Research has shown that high cow production is best achieved through maintaining post grazing residuals of 1500-1600 kg DM/ha and an average cover of 2100 kg DM/ha between September and December. Allowing post-grazing residuals to creep higher will result in lower quality pasture.
In the last 20 years the use of supplementary feed has increased considerably. In some cases, farmers continue to use supplement throughout spring, despite having enough pasture to adequately feed cows on pasture alone. This is usually due to concern that taking out supplement during the mating period will impact reproductive targets.
However, this approach means that costly supplements are being used when there is no feed deficit. Another downside is that it becomes harder to control grazing residuals, due to substitution, so average pasture cover tends to creep up and reduce quality in the next grazing round.
In a lower payout year, this is a double whammy for the bank balance. Add to that, research has shown that taking out supplements during mating has no negative impact on reproductive performance.
To demonstrate this, a two farmlet demonstration was set up in the spring of 2015. The ‘Target Residual’ farmlet was stocked at 3.1 cows/ha (~31 ha and ~100 cows), with grazing residuals managed between 1500-1600 kg/ha pre balance date and up to 1700 post balance-date (accounting for increasing DM content in late spring/early summer). Only home grown feed is used on this farmlet.
The ‘High Residuals’ farmlet had the same stocking rate, but cows were also offered up to 3 kg DM/cow/day of PKE. As a result, residuals were allowed to creep up to 1800-2000 kg/ha, and up to 2100 post-balance date.
This project was replicated at Scott Farm (Hamilton), with the same post-grazing residuals being targeted for each farmlet and a stocking rate of 3.0 cows/ha (~7 ha and ~21 cows per farmlet).
This demonstration highlighted the carry-over consequences of not achieving target post-grazing residuals in spring. Feeding supplements when there was a surplus of pasture, and not achieving target residuals, resulted in economic losses of between $20 and $40/cow at both locations. This was due to leaving valuable high energy feed in the paddock in spring and compromising subsequent pasture quality and production in summer and autumn. Read more about this demonstration in the September 2016 issue of DairyNZ Technical Series.
Feed conversion efficiency
Are RFI values for growth measured on young Friesian bulls a reliable predictor of the RFI for growth of their half-sisters? This question is being answered through a project from the Transforming the Dairy Value Chain (TDVC) Primary Growth Partnership programme*
The facilities have been used to measure residual feed intake (RFI) of 6-9 month old Friesian bulls and their half-sisters. This research will improve our understanding of the RFI trait, and may lead to the development of a BV for RFI.
*a seven-year, $170 million innovation investment led by commercial partners, including DairyNZ and Fonterra, and partnered by the Ministry of Primary Industries.
A National Forage Variety Trial (NFVT), run by the New Zealand Plant Breeding and Research Association (NZPBRA), was established at WTARS in 2013. These trials are undertaken throughout New Zealand, and measure yield of current ryegrass cultivars on the market, as well as breeding lines which individual plant breeding companies want to assess against the current cultivars. This information feeds into the Forage Value Index (FVI) which provides farmers in different regions of New Zealand information on the performance of ryegrass cultivars.
Two WTARS farm open days are held each year.