FERTILISER is one of the major costs on a dairy farm so monitoring and managing nutrient requirements is important to maximise production and minimise environmental losses.
An important part of this is getting your nitrogen fertiliser strategy right.
Applying N at the right time, in the right place, with the right product and at the right rate will improve on farm N use efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Farmers and agronomists are working together through DairySA nutrient projects to soil-sample paddocks and produce Fert$mart Plans, which assess soil fertility levels and provide recommendations on more profitable use of fertiliser.
Shane Gardiner helps manage Lorbeck Pastoral Co at Yahl in the South East.
The property runs a 235-cow milking herd and a 300-sow piggery.
The dairy and piggery effluent are stored together, with the liquid used on pastures (sprayed onto dryland pastures in winter and under a pivot in summer) and solids spread or sold as compost.
The process has enabled them to identify where additional nutrients need to be applied, and where they can save money by not applying fertilisers unnecessarily.
Low potassium levels under pivots due to effluent has encouraged growth of fog grass, so the new fertiliser program has increased the amount of K applied.
Shane's aim is to get more grass out of their fertiliser expenditure and Lorbeck's Fert$mart plan helped identify that one of the pivots was very low in K so he can address this.
The Gardiners test effluent three times a year and, in conjunction with soil tests, have implemented a supplementary fertiliser program.
They plan to strategically apply K and sulphur as well as a small amount of N when not using effluent through the pivot. Phosphorus will not be applied unless re-sowing.
The new Dairy Nitrogen Fertiliser Advisor is a free online tool that removes the guesswork when making expensive nitrogen fertiliser decisions.
The tool weighs up fertiliser costs against the value of extra pasture consumed so you can examine the profitability of each incremental increase in fertiliser use.
A video about Lorbeck Pastoral Co's Fert$mart planning and a link to the Dairy N Fertiliser Advisor tool are available at www.dairysa.com.au/soil-water-more.aspx under the Fert$mart & Making the Most of N headings.
Find out more about overall nutrient budgeting on dairy farms at www.accounting4nutrients.com.au
For more information about Fert$mart planning and how to get involved, contact DairySA at firstname.lastname@example.org or 08 8766 0127.
Fert$mart in the South East is part of the Profitable Dairy project and funded by the Australian government and Dairy Australia and supported by DairySA.