Dairy Australia - Dairy information for Australian Dairy Farmers and the industry

Primary content

Information and tools to use fertiliser more efficiently, improve effluent management, assess the value of composting and address soil constraints.

Soils, nutrients and effluent

Nutrient management has a big impact on farm profits. Dairy Australia works with a range of industry and natural resource management partners to help farmers manage fertiliser application, soil health and effluent.

Fert$mart

Many farmers are now finding that when they get soil and fertiliser management ˜right, they can produce more feed at no extra cost, and with careful planning fertiliser becomes a strategic tool to boost feed when it's most needed. Fert$mart provides farmers and advisors with a planning approach and the know-how to achieve this.

For information about Fert$mart, visit fertsmart.dairyingfortomorrow.com.au

Effluent and manure management  

Effluent management is an important part of any dairy farm business. Good effluent management has a number of benefits both on and off the farm including:
  1. saving money on bought in fertiliser;
  2. soil conditioning properties from the organic matter;
  3. improved soil moisture-holding-capacity;
  4. improved nutrient-holding-capacity; and
  5. productivity gains from pasture responses.
A series of short video clips explaining key aspects of effluent management is available from dairyingfortomorrow.com.au.

Each video has an accompanying printable factsheet summarising the video topic, and providing references for further reading or information on the topic.

More information

The Effluent and Manure Management Database for the Australian Dairy Industry.

Visit this site for reliable and scientifically validated technical information on dairy effluent management adaptable to all dairying regions in Australia. This database stores information that underpins state and regional guidelines on dairy effluent management, technical and farmer-based extension programs and educational material.

 
It includes advice for:
  • On-farm effluent designs
  • Principles for effective effluent management 
  • Design criteria for components of effluent containment and reuse systems
  • Decision support systems and relevant tools 
agriculture.vic.gov.au

Agriculture Victoria maintains a directory of accredited private sector providers who provide effluent design services for dairy farmers.

Anaerobic Digesters

Anaerobic digesters are attracting interest among dairy farmers. However research to date suggests they are unlikely to be viable for pasture based dairy systems.

More information

Is Biogas technology right for Australian Dairy Farms (PDF, 8.8MB)

Biogas technology does not have to be complex or difficult to operate, but it does need to be tailored to the specific needs of the farm in terms of farm management, waste characteristics and biogas use. Read this fact sheet to find out whether it is the right choice for your farm.

Feasibility of biogas technology in the Australian dairy industry (PDF, 68.1KB)

Since 2012 almost 1,400 dairy shed energy assessments have been conducted in all dairy regions across Australia as part of the national Dairy Australia project Smarter energy use on Australian dairy farms, funded by the Department of Industry and Science as part of the Energy Efficiency Information Grants Program. During the project, the potential for implementation of biogas technology for specific situations on dairy farms was raised. This fact sheet summarises information on the feasibility of this technology for the dairy industry.

In This Section

  • Soil fertility tips

    Soil fertility tips

    Home grown feed is the cheapest source of feed. It'™s important to make sure pasture growth is not limited by soil fertility. Here are some key tips and focus areas for soil fertility.

    1. Get good advice

    Ask your adviser for a 4Rs fertiliser plan (Right fertiliser, at the Right rate, at the Right time, and the Right place) and a nutrient budget. The budget will account for the plant nutrients you may be importing on to your farm in feed, as well as identifying other plant nutrients needed to reach your pasture growth goals.

    Ideally, look for an adviser with Fertcare accreditation.

    2. Get more out of your soil tests

    Why soil test?

    Without recent soil tests it is almost impossible to get soil fertility right. Soil tests check the status of essential plant nutrients, and identify other soil related issues that can limit pasture growth, for example pH (acidity-alkalinity).

    Where should I soil test?

    You need a soil test from each group of paddocks with similar soil types and management history. This means breaking the farm up into farm management zones (FMZ) for fertiliser management.

    Big savings can be made by customising fertiliser blend types and rates to suit each FMZ, rather than using blanket applications across the farm.

    Start by identifying the FMZs on a map, and then record the soil test results, previous fertiliser/manure applications, silage/hay making, cropping etc. Use this info to target your fertiliser requirements to each FMZ.

    How do I collect samples?

    Soil testing should be done at the same time of the year, however soil test now if results are more than 2 years old. At least 30 soil cores are required for each sample. Cores should be taken along monitor lines or transects that you can come back and re-sample in 1-2 years, or collected randomly across the area, but in each case taking care to avoid dung and urine patches, areas near gateways, water troughs, and stock camps etc.

    Take the samples to the standard depth (7.5cm in Tasmania, 10cm in all other states). Keep the samples cool and send them to a NATA accredited or ASPAC certified soil testing laboratory ASAP. Soil samples should be sent to the same soil testing laboratory each year to ensure consistency.

    3. Use Nitrogen fertiliser strategically

    Get better results from N fertilisers by using the following tips: 

    • Consider four factors when evaluating the economic value of a N fertiliser application:
    1. Nitrogen fertiliser cost ($/kg of actual N in the product.).
    2. The expected pasture growth response to N fertiliser [kg of dry matter (DM)/kg N applied].
    3. Efficiency of pasture utilisation (by grazing or harvesting) and cost of the pasture consumed ($/t DM).
    4. The cost of nitrogen compared to alternative feeds.
    • Using N to produce feed that can be grazed directly is the most cost-effective option.
    • The response to N fertiliser is related to the underlying growth rate of the pasture; to get a response to N, soil moisture should not be limiting.
    • Appling the equivalent of 1-“1.5 kg of N/ha/day of N fertiliser during the growing season is a '˜rule of thumb'™ for best pasture growth.
    • Even though pasture growth responses are variable during the yea,r N applications can be profitable even at low response times due to the high cost of other feeds.
    • Check that the nutrients in dairy effluent are being used well. Effluent and manure provide an opportunity to further reduce fertiliser costs.

    4. Pasture Consumption on the farm

    Calculating how much pasture was consumed on your farm is an important factor when considering the amount of plant nutrients required. Maximising the use of pasture is a cost effective, environmentally responsible and financially viable starting point.

Major Initiatives

Focus Farms

Dairy Australia has established a network of Focus Farms to support farmer decision making.

DairyBase

DairyBase is a web-based tool that enables dairy farmers to measure and compare their farm business performance over time.

More Initiatives