Management

Spotlight on feed-pad needs

By Dairy News

MANY FARMERS are looking to transition their herd to a temporary or permanent feed-pad type system this summer as reliance of bought-in fodder becomes a key part of management — a $14 000 load of hay with wastage of 25 per cent will cost the farmer $3 500.

Reducing wastage is a key focus for many of our country’s farmers.

Agriculture Victoria’s Paul Wallace was guest speaker at a recent Murray Dairy workshop talking everything feed-pad related to a crowd of about 20 at Katunga.

He said when it came to setting up an area, key issues to be considered included:

  • Odour − wet manure near troughs and stockpiles, spoilt feed, by-product storage areas.
  • Dust − topsoil losses from heavily trafficked areas (cows and machinery).
  • Noise − feed mixing and delivery equipment.
  • Flies — attraction and/or breeding in wet manure, spoilt feed, by-product storage area.
  • Runoff − containing manure (nutrients and pathogens) rainfall runoff transporting manure beyond the property boundary and/or into a waterway.

Mr Wallace said it was important to consider short- and long-term goals and not allowing minimising feed wastage be the only driver, as wastage can vary — feeding out on the ground greater than 30 per cent, hay ring and conveyor belting 20 per cent, concrete trough 12 per cent and concrete pad or barn less than five per cent.

Establishing a construction type depends on type of fodder or supplements fed, the frequency of use and time on area, ability to manage different stock groups, opportunity to reduce travel to pasture further away, designated stand-off areas to reduce pugging and laneway damage, and shade and shelter during summer.

Common issues to consider include:

  • Wear and tear across feed face and around stock troughs.
  • Machinery traction and slippery surface for cattle.
  • Congestion and bottle necks reducing cow flow and cows cast in troughs.
  • Need to remove spoilt feed in and around rings and troughs.
  • Surface water pooling and loafing area causing pugging and odour.
  • Damage to module rings and feeders with a need to brace and anchor.
  • Rainwater seeping underneath modules and troughs and damaging feed and ease of removal of damaged feed.
  • Trough height.
  • Poor tension on cables and wires allowing cows to access feed.
  • Herd shelters may be misinterpreted as dairy barns which require an intensive permit.

Mr Wallace said building permit requirements varied between different councils but a general rule of thumb was if you pour concrete you need a permit.

“Engage early with the shire if you are looking to build a more permanent structure,” Mr Wallace said.

He said it was a good idea to position the structure away from busy roads and waterways.

“Goulburn-Murray Water infrastructure is not classified as a waterway but ideally build 60 m away to better control rain events and nutrient runoff. Systems can get boggy in winter so consider orientation to maximise sun as well.”

Feed-pad access to water is important along with making sure there are enough troughs along with good water delivery.

Placing troughs a short distance away from the feeding area helps stop cows contaminating the water source with feed.

It also important to remember to place the structure in a central position; somewhere where you can view the cows often and keep an eye on things if they go wrong.

“They can get smelly in wet conditions and bring flies so ideally not close to a house.”

Murray Dairy also touched on feed budgeting and pointed to the Dairy Australia Feed Tools — a web-based program that uses regional data to assist with planning and tracking of farm feed requirements.

Usually less planning means more issues

√ Wear and tear across feed-face and around stock water troughs

√ Machinery traction and slippery surface for cattle

√ Congestion and bottle necks reducing cow flow causing injury

√ Cows cast in troughs

√ Need to constantly remove spoilt feed in and around rings and troughs

√ Surface water pooling and loafing area causing
pugging and odour

√ Damage to module rings and feeders, with a need
to brace and anchor

√ Rainwater seeping underneath modules and in
troughs damaging feed

√ Trough height too low for feeding or too high for mixer wagons

√ Poor tension on cables and wires allowing cows to access feed

√ Herd shelters may be misinterpreted as dairy barns — Intensive permits

Source: Agriculture Victoria

Why introduce feeding infrastructure? What is the intended purpose? What do you want to achieve (short and long term)?

1. Minimise feed wastage — (Don’t let this be the only driver).

Feeding on ground — >30 per cent, hay ring and conveyer belting — 20 per cent, concrete troughs — 12 per cent, concrete pad/barn — <5 per cent

2. Depends on type of fodder or supplements fed

3. Frequency of use and time on area to supply
fodder or supplements

4. Ability to manage different stock groups

5. Opportunity to reduce travel to pastures further away

6. Designated stand off to minimise pasture
pugging and laneway damage

7. Shade and shelter area during Summer