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Dairy cattle diets go digital

North Coast Local Land Services (NCLLS) are currently rolling out a ruminant nutrition training programme for dairy farmers in the region.

"We recognise that with the prolonged dry conditions and high commodity prices that it is becoming increasingly difficult for farmers to make informed decisions around feed purchases" said NCLLS Livestock Advisory Officer Julie Dart. "Feeds that they would normally buy are now either unaffordable, or just not available. This means that farmers may be purchasing feed types that they have not used before, or have significant constraints around how much can safely be fed as part of the diet".

"Often they have a good idea of what they can afford to feed, but they don't have an easy way to estimate the likely effects of a change of diet on milk production or weight gain."

"We have been running small group training with commercial dairy farmers and local advisors that give them a refresher on ruminant nutrition, followed by a practical session on their own computers that teach farmers how to use the dairy decision support tools Mini Ration Check and Milk Predict"

The programs were developed by the NSW Department of Primary Industry (DPI) dairy extension team some years ago as part of a ruminant nutrition course.  "It's time to refresh existing skills and also introduce the tools to a new generation of farmers".

Apart from their use in checking that a diet is within the ballpark of requirements, there is also the ability to run some basic cash-flow and feed budgets as part of the decision making process.  This assists with longer term management.

Courses have already been conducted at Kempsey and Dorrigo in late August, with further sessions planned on 10 September 2014 at Bowraville and 11 September 2014 at Wauchope.

"Whist most farmers in our area have received some good rainfall in August, the effects of limited pasture growth are likely to be an issue for some time and supplementary feeding will need to continue".

There are still places available in the workshops at Bowraville and Wauchope.  Courses in other locations in the region can also be arranged where there is sufficient interest. The computer programs are provided free of charge to NSW dairy farmers.  Please contact the North Coast Local Land Services on 1300 795 299 for further information.

NCLLS Livestock Advisory Officers are based at: Kempsey- Brendan O'Brien, Coffs Harbour- Julie Dart and Alstonville- Nathan Jennings.

Media Contact: NCLLS Livestock Advisory Officer Julie Dart on 0427 007 501 or 6653 0150