With increasing consumer demand for healthy, environmentally sustainable food products, it could be advantageous for NZ dairy farmers to adopt practices that align with those demands and move to more environmentally sustainable systems.
One approach to this is the introduction of multi species pastures. Some mixed sward pastures (including chicory, plantain and clover) have previously been shown to have greater root biomass and turnover than traditional ryegrass/clover pastures, leading to increased soil health. This is believed to flow on through to increased animal and human health.
DTT is running a 7-year trial to show if and how diverse pastures can deliver these multiple claimed benefits in comparison to conventional NZ farming systems.
The paddocks of the farm have been randomised into two farmlets with a stocking rate of 3.47 jersey cows/ha and are balanced in terms of Olsen P, Soil K, effluent application, cropping and regrassing history and location. 20% of the diverse farmlet has initially been planted in a diverse multi species pasture mix, with the rest of the farmlet to be gradually re-sown in diverse pastures over the remainder of the trial.
The diverse pasture mix currently includes:
Maxsyn perennial ryegrass
Safin superfine cocksfoot
Rohan perennial ryegrass
Bareno pasture brome
Kotuku white clover
Weka white clover
Morrow red clover
Laser persian clover
Coolamon sub clover
This trial will test evidence for any links that diverse pastures might have to enhanced soil health, improved soil carbon and improved soil biodiversity as well as a reduction of N loss and reduction of GHG emissions. It will test the impact of diverse pastures on profitability and production as well as on social and wellbeing outcomes. Finally we will be testing the milk composition and sensory traits to test claims of improved health benefits.