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Lincoln University Dairy Farm is a well-known, frequently visited commercial demonstration farm, operated by the South Island Dairying Development Centre (SIDDC) to showcase best practice sustainable, profitable farming. In late February 2014, part way through a very high payout and production season, the farm adapted its management to ensure predicted nitrogen leaching did not exceed that of past seasons. This action resulted in 8% less N-loss than the 2012-13 season and 17% less than initially forecast for the 2013-14 season (as predicted with Overseer®). The farm therefore made substantial progress in regard to the changing expectations expressed via the community and through the regional council’s (proposed) Land and Water Regional Plan. The cost however was approximately $84,000 for this individual farm. If extrapolated across the Canterbury region’s 1000 dairy farms, this impact would markedly change the local economy. Uncomfortable with the above outcome, yet seeing potential legislative reductions in N-loss within 2.5 years, LUDF is voluntarily changing its management for the 2014-15 season to operate with lower N-loss. The farm is adopting research undertaken within the Pastoral 21 (P21) research programme whereby farm systems research with self-contained farmlets has shown an irrigated nil-infrastructure, low input (N-fertiliser and supplement) system is theoretically as profitable as the previous system at LUDF, yet should further reduce the catchment nutrient loss. The farm management system of a nil-infrastructure, low input farm operated at scale on large dairy farms is still being developed and will determine the opportunity (or cost) of adapting management practices to the changing expectations and requirements of farmers in coming years.


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