Is nitrogen fertiliser right for your farm this Autumn?
As the price of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium fertiliser continues to increase or remain high due to increased international market demand, Australian dairy farmers are being encouraged to consider all their options before paying the higher fertiliser prices this Autumn.
Research has shown that responses to nitrogen fertiliser in Autumn can be varied and are usually lower than in the Spring due to low soil moisture and high soil nitrogen. In order to have a good response from nitrogen fertiliser, you will need both good soil moisture for future plant growth and adequate soil fertility.
It is therefore important to carefully calculate the expected cost of the extra feed grown using nitrogen.
By comparing the cost of alternative feed sources, you can calculate a break-even price for nitrogen to determine whether nitrogen or a bought in feed source is the most cost effective for your farm.
For example, for a urea price of $1,200/t and a grain price of approximately $350/t DM, a response to nitrogen fertiliser of around 10:1 or greater is needed to justify the use of nitrogen fertiliser.
Dairy Australia’s updated Nitrogen in Autumn fact sheet explains how to use the cost of urea, the expected pasture response and the price of alternative feeds to determine the most cost effective feed source solution for your farm.
If you determine it is the right economic decision for your farm to use nitrogen fertiliser, you should ensure you utilise as close to 100% as possible of any extra feed grown.
Should you determine that the use of nitrogen fertiliser is uneconomical however, then it will be important for you to create a feed budget to determine how much feed to buy.
Dairy Australia provides a range of helpful tools and resources to assist with making your feed budget including:
Feed Budget Fact Sheet - describes what is needed to calculate the amount of feed to purchase for your farm.
Feed Budget Spreadsheet tool - helps you better understand your monthly feed demand, total feed deficit and required bought-in feeds per month.
Monthly Back of Envelope Feed Budget - assists you with calculations for monthly feed surplus or deficit.
Nitrogen Fertiliser Use on Dairy Pastures – including a best management practice guide and case studies can be found here.
Fert$mart Nitrogen Pocket Guide - a pocket guide which covers efficient use of nitrogen fertilisers on dairy pastures as part of the More Profit for Nitrogen program.
In the coming weeks, Dairy Australia will also be publishing a fact sheet on clover and fixation of nitrogen that can also help inform your decision around whether or not to use nitrogen fertiliser on your farm this Autumn.