Get smart and save nutrients

By Dairy News

Keeping nutrients on-farm makes good financial and environmental sense.

Nutrients are derived from brought-in materials, including fertiliser and purchased feeds, as well as through nitrogen fixation by clovers in the pasture.

Excess nutrients lost from a dairy farm system literally equates to money down the drain. This culminates in reduced profitability through lower yields and higher fertiliser needs, while also having a negative impact on the environment.

Dairy farming businesses in south-west Victoria will have the opportunity to strengthen their understanding of efficient nutrient use through a series of new Fert$mart courses. The courses encompass the Australian dairy industry’s national nutrient management framework, which was developed to improve whole-farm nutrient management.

WestVic Dairy, with the support of local catchment management authorities, will deliver the Fert$mart training, teaching farmers the latest science and knowledge on effective soil, nutrient and fertiliser management.

Fert$mart uses the ‘4Rs’ concept — applying the Right source of nutrients in the Right place, at the Right rate and Right time — to meet plant requirements and optimise production.

Recently, 12 dairy farming businesses completed a Fert$mart course in Koroit, which received financial support from the Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority.

The workshops were delivered by Dairy Australia land, water and carbon technical specialist Graeme Ward, HEC Consulting independent consultant Hugh Crockford and Agriculture Victoria dairy extension officer Rachael Campbell.

Each farm business received partially subsidised soil testing and a property-specific, whole-farm nutrient management plan. Detailed farm maps showed soil nutrient status and soil type across farm management zones. Soil fertility trends, nutrient requirements and budgeting were also part of the plans.

The next round of Fert$mart, supported by the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority, will be held in late October with dates to be confirmed. It is open to dairy businesses in the Gellibrand River catchment.

Three courses are also planned for 2018. One for dairy businesses in the Curdies River catchment and two for dairy farmers in the Glenelg-Hopkins catchments.

Mr Ward said substantial savings could be made through more efficient nutrient use, along with environmental benefits, by keeping nutrients out of waterways.

“Fertilisers account for a high percentage of farm variable costs,” he said.

“Fert$mart provides a win-win approach whereby dairy businesses are given the tools to plan and account for the recycling and redistribution of nutrients within the dairy enterprise, and to minimise direct losses by locking up or re-using excess nutrients particularly in areas prone to environmental losses.”

Topics covered at a Fert$mart workshop include plant growth requirements, soil characteristics and limiting soil factors. It also outlines the role, types and analysis of fertilisers, soil testing, nutrient budgeting, yield responses and capital inputs.

Places for the Gellibrand Fert$mart course are limited to 12 farming businesses, with more than one person per business encouraged to attend. Participants will receive partially subsidised soil tests and a comprehensive nutrient management plan prepared by an accredited farm consultant.

Financial incentives are also available for on-farm improvements that support a reduction in nutrient run-off and improved productivity through a partnership between CCMA, WestVic Dairy, Agriculture Victoria and Landcare. Participating businesses will also receive an effluent management plan including free effluent testing to guide effluent use.

To register interest in the Fert$mart courses or for further information, phone WestVic Dairy on 5557  1000 or email: