Effects of grazing platform stocking rate on productivity and profitability of pasture-based dairying in a fragmented farm scenario

F. Fenger, I. A. Casey, C. Buckley, J. Humphreys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The area adjacent to the milking parlor, accessible for grazing by lactating dairy cows (i.e., the grazing platform [GP]), can be limited on fragmented pasture-based dairy farms. Such farms, with a moderate overall farm stocking rate, typically have a much higher stocking rate of dairy cows on the GP. This study quantified the effects of farm fragmentation on milk and herbage production and profitability in a whole-farm systems-scale study over 3 yr (2017–2019). Four systems, each with an overall farm stocking rate of 2.5 cows/ha but with different grazing platform stocking rates (GPSR), were examined. The proportions of the overall farm area within the GP were 100%, 83%, 71%, and 63% in each of the 4 systems, respectively. Hence, the 4 systems had a GPSR of 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, and 4.0 cows/ha. The GP was used for grazing and silage (ensiled herbage) production, and the non-GP portion of each GPSR system was used solely for silage production. Concentrate supplementation per cow was the same across all GPSR systems; approximately 10% of the annual feed budget. All systems were compact spring-calving with 24 cows per system. We discovered a lower proportion of grazed herbage in the diet with higher GPSR. All silage produced on the non-GP areas was required to support higher GPSR on each of the systems. Annual herbage production and milk production per cow were not different between GPSR systems, resulting in similar milk production per hectare of the overall system area. The economic implications of different GPSR on fragmented farms were modeled in 2 scenarios: (1) quantifying the cost associated with different levels of farm area fragmentation; (2) investigating the optimum GPSR on fragmented pasture-based dairy farms, depending on variable criteria. A greater level of farm fragmentation lowered the profitability of pasture-based dairy production. Costs of production increased with higher GPSR and longer distances between GP and non-GP areas. At a fixed GP area, it was most profitable to increase GPSR up to 4 cows/ha on the GP when milk price was high, land rental price was low, and shorter distance existed between GP and non-GP areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7750-7768
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Volume106
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01 Nov 2023

Keywords

  • farm fragmentation
  • grazing management
  • grazing platform stocking rate
  • pasture-based dairy production
  • profitability

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