A favourable environmental result is one of the positives from a challenging season at the Lincoln University dairy farm.

Speaking at the farm's autumn focus day on Thursday, May 3, South Island Dairying Development Centre executive director Ron Pellow said the farm's forecast nitrogen loss was estimated at 28% below its baseline in a season of lower than normal production.

''Lower milk production is the result of lower grass production and this has led to less nitrate leaching, which is a positive,'' he said.

''But we have to note this is just the nitrate loss for this milking platform and not catchment wide, as the cows have been grazing off-farm for longer.''


Based on Overseer, the farm was forecast to leach 43kg of nitrogen per hectare, well below the farm's baseline of 60kgN/ha.

The farm's total greenhouse gas emissions were 14,285 tonnes per hectare this year, compared with the farm's average of 15,392t/ha/year over the previous three seasons.

''On the environmental front we are making progress, but we have room to improve.''

But milk production was expected to finish up at around 250,000kg of milk solids, or 450kgMS per cow, which meant the farm's working expenses worked out at about $4.14 per kilogram of milk solids.

''Production is down which means our costs in terms of kilograms of milk solids produced are up and we hear that's happening on other farms, too,'' Mr Pellow said.

After three summers of dry conditions, this season has seen its challenges, with a wet and cold early spring, a dry period during November and early December and then consistent rain, including periods of high rainfall.

To manage the conditions farm manager Peter Hancox said the decision had been made to dry the lighter cows off early, meaning just 496 cows were still in milk at the end of April, compared to 530 last year.

-By David Hill