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Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering

Front. Agr. Sci. Eng.    2018, Vol. 5 Issue (1) : 87-97     https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2018202
RESEARCH ARTICLE |
Impact of introducing a herb pasture area into a New Zealand sheep and beef hill country farm system: a modeling analysis
Cécile DURANTON(), Cory MATTHEW
Institute of Agriculture and Environment, Massey University, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand
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Abstract

New Zealand is well known for export of meat and dairy products from low cost pastoral systems. These farm systems are continually evolving for increased efficiency, in part through the use of metabolic energy modeling tools by farmers and farm consultants to explore alternative farm system configurations and identify new efficiencies. One recent innovation is the introduction of a herb pasture area, such as plantain. We used metabolic energy modeling to quantify seasonal feed flows in two successive years in a New Zealand hill country farm system, and to analyze the impact of the introduction of an area of plantain. Models employed were a self-built Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and a commercial New Zealand farm systems modeling package, FARMAX. Herbage production, animal performance and financial results for a base farm scenario created from the average of survey data for hill farms in the southern North Island, and the same farm with 10% and 20% of the area in plantain for the years 2010–2011 and 2011–2012 were modeled. The self-built model performed similarly to the commercial model. The system configuration of the base farm stockpiles surplus autumn feed for release to animals in winter and also incorporates flexibility that confers resilience to interannual weather variation through varying dates animals are purchased or sold. The introduction of an area of plantain was predicted to increase herbage production, animal performance and financial returns. The predicted benefit was higher for the year 2010–2011 where a drought occurred in summer than for the following year with higher summer rainfall. This demonstrates the profitability of introducing a plantain area to New Zealand hill farm systems, and suggests plantain will assist to mitigate adverse effects of warmer and drier summer conditions associated with current climate change trends.

Keywords farm system configuration      herb pasture      metabolic energy budgeting      plantain      sheep and beef farming     
Corresponding Authors: Cécile DURANTON   
Just Accepted Date: 30 January 2018   Online First Date: 15 March 2018    Issue Date: 21 March 2018
 Cite this article:   
Cécile DURANTON,Cory MATTHEW. Impact of introducing a herb pasture area into a New Zealand sheep and beef hill country farm system: a modeling analysis[J]. Front. Agr. Sci. Eng. , 2018, 5(1): 87-97.
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http://journal.hep.com.cn/fase/EN/10.15302/J-FASE-2018202
http://journal.hep.com.cn/fase/EN/Y2018/V5/I1/87
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Cécile DURANTON
Cory MATTHEW
Species sown Percentage in seed mixture by number of seeds Percentage of ground cover 3 years later
Browntop (Agrostis capillaris) 7 39
Crested dogstail (Cynosurus cristatus) 14 11
Cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata) 28 2
Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) 21 3
White clover (Trifolium repens) 7 3
Lotus major (Lotus pedunculatus) 4 21
Danthonia (Rytidosperma pilosum) 11 11
Subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum) 2 2
Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) 4 2
Chewing’s fescue (Festuca rubra) 4 1
Tab.1  Botanical composition of a typical early 20th century New Zealand pasture taken from a study by Levy and Madden[1]
Process Equation Reference
Maintenance MEm= 0.55×(LW)^0.75 [7,8]
Walking Walking (w) represents about 10% of maintenance:
MEm+ w= 0.6×LW0.75
Assumed by the self-built model
Weight change Gain: MEg = LWG×CLWC
Loss: MEloss = 0.5×LWG×CLWC
[8]
Pregnancy MEp = 0.55×CW0.75 + 30×CWG Assumed by the self-built model, considering the conceptus as a small animal independent of the mother
Lactation MElact taken as equal to the energy needs of the lamb, calculated based on body maintenance and weight gain, as above Assumed by the self-built model, representing both milk and grass eaten by offspring
Tab.2  Equations used in the self-built model to calculate the daily metabolic energy needs of sheep and cattle, and their source or logical rationale
Fig.1  Monthly rainfall (mm) (a) mean temperature (°C) (b) and herbage accumulation rate simulated in GROW (kg·hm-2·d-1 DM) (c) for the years (June–July) 2010–2011, 2011–2012 and the average from 2001 to 2016. A full set of curves for each year from 2001 to 2016 is presented in the supplementary materials, Fig. S2.
Fig.2  Grass pasture supply (kg·hm-2·d-1 DM), whole farm supply (kg·hm-2·d-1 DM), cover storage and release (kg·hm-2·d-1 DM), supplements (kg·hm-2·d-1 DM), animal demand (kg·hm-2·d-1 DM), herbage loss (kg·hm-2·d-1 DM) for the base farm for the years 2010–2011 (a) and 2011–2012 (b), and animal demand for each class (kg·hm-2·d-1 DM) for the base farm in 2010–2011 (c) and 2011–2012 (d).
Fig.3  Whole farm supply (kg·hm-2·d-1 DM) for the base scenario and for systems with 10% or 20% of the farm area as plantain, for the years 2010–2011 (a) and 2011–2012 (b)
Scenario Total herbage production/ (kg·hm-2 DM) Total animal demand/(kg·hm-2 DM) Meat production/ (kg·hm-2) Intake per kilogram of product (wool+ meat) Farm profit/(NZD·hm-2) Farm profit/(NZD·SU-1)
Result Variation Result Variation Result Variation Result Variation Result Variation Result Variation
2010–2011
Base 7418 7104 313.04 19.6 409 31
10% plantain 7808 5.3% 7625 7.3% 421.7 34.7% 16.0 -18.5% 637 55.7% 45.6 47.1%
20% plantain 8197 5.0% 7893 3.5% 489.5 16.1% 14.4 -10.2% 681 6.9% 46.5 2.0%
2011–2012
Base 8226 7371 384.3 16.4 705 53.8
10% plantain 8697 5.7% 7826 6.2% 458.2 19.2% 14.8 -9.7% 788 11.8% 56.9 5.8%
20% plantain 9237 6.2% 8334 6.5% 534.6 16.7% 13.9 -6.4% 877 11.3% 58.8 3.3%
Tab.3  Results and variation between scenarios for the years 2010–2011
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