For the past three years, another index as useful as BW has been evolving.
The Forage Value Index (FVI) helps farmers choose the best performing grasses for their dairying region.
It provides a star rating for each cultivar, with five stars being the premier cultivar and one star the poorest.
Like BW for sire selection, the FVI provides farmers with an indication of the likely annual benefits of selecting a ryegrass cultivar based on its performance value, weighted by appropriate economic values for each trait included in the FVI.
Performance values are based on how well a cultivar performs in a trait, relative to older ‘genetic base’ cultivars such as Nui perennial ryegrass. Economic values are the change in farm operating profit in dollars/hectare/year for a unit change in the trait.
If all farmers moved from using a three-star perennial ryegrass cultivar to a four- or five-star perennial ryegrass cultivar, it would contribute an estimated $160 million/year extra to the dairy industry through improvements in farm profitability.
New traits coming
DairyNZ forage value manager Cameron Ludemann says while dry matter production of the cultivars is the core means of assessment at present, seasonal metabolisable energy (ME) concentration trait star ratings will be included in the FVI Lists as ‘additional information’, without the data being included in the FVI calculation.
DairyNZ is also working with the NZ Plant Breeding and Research Association (NZPBRA) to incorporate a persistence trait value into the FVI.
A tool for all farmers
The interface between farmers and the FVI is DairyNZ’s online Cultivar Selector Tool, which provides a simple five-step process to choose the right cultivar, as illustrated below.
Farmers can tailor their cultivar selection based on their region, forage type, endophyte need, tetraploid versus diploid, and heading date.
Access the Cultivar Selector Tool at dairynz.co.nz/fvi
Farmer awareness growing
Waikato sharemilker John Assen was an early adopter of the FVI, and says time has proven it’s helped him make the right choices.
“It's my first port of call for identifying strong performers for our region, with a suitable endophyte. We have quite a high stocking rate and prefer the diploids,and the FVI has proven to be accurate in helping with the choices we've made.”
John has found Trojan perennial ryegrass performs welland he’s also planted One50 AR37 perennial ryegrass because he prefers to spread the risk around.
“Both cultivars were ranked near the top and both have performed well over time.”
He’s found the FVI to be “farmer friendly” and is looking forward to seeing persistence incorporated into the index.
Further south, Nelson’s Michael Shearer was also a keen early adopter of the FVI. Having a passion for pasture and data, it was a perfect match.
“It held the same appeal to me as the BW, possibly even more so.”
He says the FVI has always helped narrow down his pasture options in an unbiased way, and he appreciates having a few choices presented to him through the Cultivar Selector Tool.
Like John, he’s looking forward to ME and persistence being included in the index figures.
“That should be a good level of information to satisfy the needs of most farmers looking for the best cultivar.”
Where does the data come from?
FVI data comes from the National Forage Variety Trials, which regularly evaluate the dry matter production of cultivars being assessed. With 25 years’ history, these long-running trials are administered by the NZPBRA in partnership with DairyNZ.
NZPBRA general manager Thomas Chin says the trials also go a long way to ease any farmer concerns about the independence of FVI data.
“While seed companies have their cultivars in the trials, they run them in conjunction with independent trial operators. The system has independent analysts and biometricians, sometimes including DairyNZ. The trials are at times run in commercial farm environments and, when they are not, they are simulated to match farm rotations and environments.”
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy February 2017