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Southern dairy farmers will have a front-row seat in designing, approving and testing a new wintering system in Southland, DairyNZ says.
Invercargill's Southern Dairy Hub research farm is hosting a new project that will take an innovative, cost-effective wintering system into a full on-farm trial in 2022.
The research was the first time this infrastructure had been trialled in New Zealand.
DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said the project was researching two concepts for uncovered structures where cows are kept during winter.
Getting the new wintering systems up and running and "fit for purpose" was a balancing act, Mackle told The Country Sport Breakfast's Lee Piper.
"Balancing environmental impact with cow comfort and health ... the working conditions for the people involved, and lastly ... the economics have got to stack up."
Investing in new systems and infrastructure was a big decision and cost. The work would not only stress-test the solutions, but also put farmers and their animals at the centre, Mackle said.
Southern Dairy Hub was established to help develop and test new options for dairying in the southern South Island.
Integrating off-paddock infrastructure into pasture systems was a research area identified by farmers in 2017.
"Southland is a big focus because of the challenges around wintering, so that's one issue that we want to be able to solve," Mackle said.
Other benefits of the systems included feed utilisation, plus a good working environment and economic gain for farmers, Mackle said.
The $3.2m project was led and co-funded by DairyNZ, with investment of $1.75m from the Ministry for Primary Industries' Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund.
MPI and DairyNZ expected to finalise the contract for the project by the end of October 2020.
A lot of work had gone into the wintering research and Mackle wanted to give "a quick shout out" to the farmers involved.
"These things have been driven by local farmers and that's the key ingredient to success here - so thanks to the Southern Dairy Hub and the farmers involved."
The build will begin in 2022, with trialling underway June 2022.
The new integrated hybrid wintering system will be compared with the best of the hub's current grazed winter crop systems.
Wintering infrastructure and systems for Southern dairying
The project will research infrastructure for dairy farmers (including winter graziers), initially in Southland. Research results will illustrate how an integrated hybrid infrastructure solution can help winter cows on-farm.
Two concepts will be evaluated on ability to provide a sustainable solution for:
• Reduced environmental impact on waterways (nitrogen and sediment) and air (methane and nitrous oxide).
• Cow comfort, health and performance
• Staff working conditions
• Internationally competitive cost to establish and operate.
Phase one produced two concepts:
• Phase two takes these concepts and produces detailed designs to be costed and assessed against "fit for purpose" criteria. Loafing surfaces will be researched.
• The concepts will be evaluated by farmers and technical experts. Farmers will choose a design for experimental testing and demonstration.
In phase three:
• A prototype off-paddock wintering system will be compared with conventional grazed crop on-site at Southern Dairy Hub's 800-cow research farm in Makarewa.
For FAQs and to find out more about the project, visit www.dairynz.co.nz/wintering-project.