AgFirst consultants Kim Robinson and Chris Boom are involved in running a supplement trial for the Northland Dairy Development Trust.
The three year trial is investigating the use of palm kernel extract (PKE) and other supplements on farm production, profitability and environmental measures.
This project compares a farm that does not import any supplement (Pasture Only farm, 2.7 cows/ha) with a farm that only imports PKE (PKE Only farm, 3.1 cows/ha) and a farm that imports PKE and other supplements (PKE Plus Farm, 3.1 cows/ha).
The trial came about as a result of farmers asking whether it was profitable to import other feeds such as DDG to boost production when FEI is limiting PKE use.
PKE is fed on the PKE Only and PKE Plus farms when pasture supply is limiting. Other supplements are fed to the PKE Plus farm when milk fat evaluation index (FEI) levels indicate no further PKE can be fed.
The first season of this project is now complete. Climatic conditions were considered average with some challenge from wet conditions during early spring and dry conditions during late summer/autumn.
Milk Production and Profit figures are shown in Table 1.
The purchase of PKE at $268/t average (landed) was profitable at the $6.35 milk price received. The cost of the extra milk produced was %5.33/kgMS. However the drop in profit on the PKE Plus farm showed that the extra milk produced from DDG ($540/t in silo) and baleage ($80/b delivered) cost around $10.40 to produce.
These results have confirmed that higher production per ha does not necessarily lead to higher profit, and farmers should be careful when purchasing extra supplement to increase production. Full results of the trial are on www.nddt.nz and fortnightly updates are posted on Facebook.
N, K, S Trial
NDDT is also conducting a plot trial this spring to measure the pasture responses to nitrogen, sulphur and potash. This is in response to farmers applying Ammo and UreaPot type fertilisers in mid to late spring in a bid to increase pasture growth above straight urea responses. The plots will cover a variety of soil types around Northland and results will be published in December.