Fertiliser is one way of providing plants with the required nutrients to grow.

Macro-nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, calcium and magnesium are required in larger amounts than micro-nutrients.

For more information on nitrogen fertilisers, continue on below.

Maintenance fertilisers

Soil testing provides farmers with good information about the amount of fertiliser required to optimise production from home-grown forages.

At lower levels of soil fertility, capital fertilisers may be required. At higher levels, only maintenance fertilisers will be needed.

More information on soil testing, maintenance fertiliser and capital fertiliser applications can be found on the Dairying for Tomorrow website. 

Learn more.

Nitrogen fertilisers

Nitrogen (N) fertilisers are most often used to increase pasture or crop growth to fill a feed gap. Responses to N vary depending on soil moisture conditions, soil N levels and temperature.

Pasture responses to nitrogen in autumn are often less than responses in spring due to low soil moisture and high soil nitrogen, both as a consequence of the dry summer.

Nitrogen fertiliser can be applied when the pasture is actively growing to assist in filling feed gaps, but the potential response should always be compared to the cost of buying the same feed.

Discover further information on using nitrogen in autumn and feed budgeting in the resources below.

Maximising spring feed with nitrogen

When hay and grain prices are high, nitrogen can be a cost-effective way to generate additional feed. The cost of nitrogen-grown grass will depend on the cost of urea, the response rate and the utilisation, or how much of the extra growth is wasted.

When purchased feed prices are high, below-average response rates to nitrogen will be profitable.

Conversely, when fertiliser nitrogen prices are high, purchased feed sources may be a better option.  See the resources below for further information on nitrogen responses in the autumn and comparing the costs of nitrogen grown feed to purchased feed. 

Pasture conservation

Higher rates of nitrogen can be applied (up to 60 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare in later spring), after grazing, when pasture is to be locked up for conservation.

Results from using split applications of nitrogen – such as after grazing and again partway through regrowth – are more variable and this practice is not recommended.

In this short video, farm consultant Matt Harms talks to nitrogen expert Professor Richard Eckard about how to use nitrogen to maximise feed.

Dairying for Tomorrow website

More information on nitrogen fertiliser use is available on the Dairying for Tomorrow website.

The More Profit from Nitrogen project is supported by funding from Dairy Australia and the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program.


  • Nitrogen in AutumnPDF629.15 KB
  • Fert$mart Nitrogen Pocket GuidePDF1.55 MB
  • Nitrogen Best Practice ManagementPDF856.21 KB
  • Back of the envelope feed budgetPDF455.77 KB
  • Feed budgetingPDF1.09 MB
  • Maximising spring feed with nitrogen factsheetPDF118.51 KB
  • Fert$mart nitrogen factsheetPDF731.84 KB

Learn more about the economic case studies developed from the More Profit from Nitrogen project including applying nitrogen strategically throughout the season and using soil moisture monitors to determine likely pasture response from nitrogen in autumn. 

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