Focus theme is reducing nitrate loss

Ways of reducing nitrate leaching will be discussed at the Lincoln University dairy farm next week. '

'Profitable or compromised'' is the theme for the farm's autumn focus day on Thursday, May 8. Farmers are being asked: ''What will it take for LUDF to achieve further reductions in nitrate leaching losses?''

One option was early autumn culling and whether this was an easy and profitable solution to reduce nitrogen losses.

In planning for the 2014-15 year, farm management will also ask whether ''grain, concrete or something else'' is the way forward.

Farming profitably within a nitrogen limit has been the farm's aim. In May 2011, farm management announced a five-year vision ''to maximise sustainable profit embracing the whole farm system''.

This was to be achieved through ''increasing productivity without increasing the farm's total environmental footprint, while operating within definable and acceptable animal welfare targets''.

At the farm's summer focus day, held in February, AgResearch scientist Samuel Dennis reported back on a study on the farm that showed there was little advantage in applying extra nitrogen to increase pasture production.

Mr Dennis hoped this research would help farm management meet the target of lowering the farm's environmental footprint, while maintaining profit levels.

The farm's management decided to reduce the application rate of nitrogen to 25kgN/ha last season after eco-N was removed from the market, because of traces of dicyandiamide found in milk. Eco-N had been the farm's primary tool for combating nitrate leaching.

South Island Dairy Development Centre executive director Ron Pellow told farmers at February's focus day he did not see buying in more supplements as a viable option, but said it was an issue farm management would need to consider.

Lincoln University dairy farm's autumn focus day will be held at the farm on the corner of Shands and Ellesmere Junction Rds, on Thursday, May 8, from 10.15am to 1pm, followed by a light lunch sponsored by Lincoln University.