By Liz Mann, Project Coordinator Major Innovations, Dairy Australia
With the current DairyFeedbase research program set to finish in June 2023 investment partners (Dairy Australia, Gardiner Foundation and Agriculture Victoria) are wanting to ensure that future research is focused on solving the problems (and capturing opportunities) that farmers will face into the future. As a result, a consultation process was developed to ensure that farmer voices are driving our future research investments.
Kevin Argyle and Liz Mann, part of the Major Innovations team at Dairy Australia, provided dairy farmers nationally with the opportunity to engage and have their voices heard. “For farmers to implement research outcomes they need to feel ownership and excitement of the research priorities,” Kevin Argyle said. “Therefore we designed a process that was multi-faceted to ensure that everyone had the opportunity to engage and contribute either in-person or online.”
In total, 174 farmers and service providers were engaged over a 5-month period using field days, workshops, tours, webinars and an online survey. During this time, participants were asked to think about and answer the question “What is the critical question/s you would like answered to help significantly improve your businesses from better soils, forage and nutrition performance?”.
Participants were asked to consider if there is an opportunity that the industry is missing, or a challenge holding the industry back or something that needs to be understood further when thinking about the questions that they would like answered.
Throughout the consultation process 328 suggested research questions were collected. “It was interesting to see that when you took a step back and looked at all the questions that came in from across the industry they can be broadly gathered under key theme areas regardless of which region they came in from,” Kevin said. “When looking at our future priorities, many farmers are concerned about future climates, how this will impact their business and what they can do to help now.”
“It is clear that future research needs to focus on management of the farm environment through different forage species, soil and fertiliser management, greenhouse gas mitigation options and more suitable forage species for a warmer climate.”
As a result of this consultation process, Agriculture Victoria’s researchers are now working on what future Dairy Feedbase projects could look like. New projects being considered will look at topics such as:
- Understanding dairy soils with a key focus on reducing synthetic fertiliser use, understanding soil microbes, the role of biological fertilisers and the role and management of mixed forage swards.
- Increasing forage resilience through focusing on enhancing the long-term productivity of current perennial pastures under future climate conditions while also examining alternative forage options to help reduce inputs such as nitrogen, water and synthetic PKS fertilisers.
- Improving dairy systems climate resilience by looking at the impact of phenotype on genotype to help improve genetic gain around feed conversion efficiency, heat tolerance and reduced methane emissions.
- Optimising Animal Production through improved lifetime production and animal intake by focusing increasing the understanding of individual intake and how nutrition impacts on whole of life production and reproduction of the cow.
- Integration of data across platforms to help identify and predict animal health issues earlier, quantify on farm changes to forage nutrition and near-real time farm emissions forecasting tool.
“Each of these projects will contribute significantly to improving the sustainability of our future dairy systems,” Kevin said.
The process of having project proposals examined and refined is currently underway and the final projects will be ready to commence come July 2023. To find out what happens with each of the projects and to follow the research outcomes keep an eye the DairyFeedbase website www.dairyfeedbase.com.au or sign up for the Dairy Innovation News (published quarterly) by emailing Elizabeth.Mann@dairyaustralia.com.au.