Grazing management practices on Waikato and Canterbury dairy farms diverging in bulk milk urea content
New Zealand dairy farmers have little realtime information on surplus nitrogen (N) in their herd’s diet to help manage farm-scale N loss. By understanding the influence of management on bulk milk urea (BMU), farmers could potentially use milk components to identify changes in dietary N surplus. Our study examined the relationships between grazing management and BMU concentration on 38 dairy farms selected for low or high BMU in Canterbury and Waikato. Measurements included pre- and post-grazing herbage mass, perennial ryegrass leaf stage at grazing, and botanical and chemical composition (crude protein (CP) and metabolisable energy (ME) content) of herbage on four occasions over a year. Herds with Low BMU tended to graze pastures with a greater pre-grazing herbage mass (+153 kg DM/ha), a more advanced leaf stage (+0.13 number of leaves), and longer grazing intervals (+11 days). Consistent with this, herbage on Low BMU farms had lower CP (-2.7%) compared with High BMU farms. We identified grazing management differences between Low and High BMU groups, which could be linked to reductions in N surplus in the herd’s diet through the lower CP% of pasture offered. Future work should determine the importance of this in relation to other farm management factors such as
supplement and N fertiliser use.
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