Adapting Farm Systems



The Adapting Farm Systems project began in 2019 and aims to provide dairy farmers with information and resources to support them to make well-informed decisions when considering new feeding and housing systems.

The Australian dairy industry is currently in a state of unprecedented and rapid transformation, with numerous dairy businesses in northern and southwest Victoria, inland New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia making changes in the production system to address evolving feedbase and climatic pressures.

Without targeted technical, planning and strategic support to facilitate farming system adjustment, there is a significant risk sections of the dairy industry may not transition quickly enough, and farmers could make poor investment decisions.

Adapting Farm Systems consists of:

  • the Dairy Transition Project, an in-depth economic and risk analysis based on data from farms which have already transitioned to a Total Mixed Ration (TMR) or Partial Mixed Ratio (PMR) system
  • development of a new national guidelines for feedpads and contained housing systems
  • creation of a Decision Support Process (DSP) process for farmers.

Through Adapting Farm Systems, Dairy Australia has formed collaborative partnerships with Agriculture Victoria, Murray Dairy, NSW DPI and subject matter experts both within and outside of Australia.

  • Dairy Transition Project

    The Dairy Transition Project aims to provide farmers with economic and risk information which will help support their decision making when considering transitioning to these new systems. 

    The project involves examining assumptions on total mixed ration (TMR) and partial mixed ration (PMR) systems using on-farm data, as well as an-depth risk assessment utilising case study farms.

    The project looks to support dairy farmers who are moving down a path that transitions them to a new feeding system, based on sound economics and risk assessments and case study examples of farmers setting up and optimising their new feeding system.

    Dairy feed production systems can be described on a graduated feeding system scale, depending on the proportion of pasture and supplementary feed in the diet. The feeding system is a consequence of a series of decisions by the dairy farm manager through time to achieve their goals, manage available resources and adopt new technology, management practices or infrastructure.

    Due to constraints around irrigation water availability, water price, pasture growth period variability and pasture persistence, there is now ample evidence of a shift in dairy farm systems towards more complex combinations of feedbase, feed delivery and herd management including cattle housing systems.

    The economic component of this project is about using farm data to test and validate the assumptions commonly made about total mixed ration (TMR) systems to understand the circumstances and factors that contribute to making the new system profitable. The data will be aggregated with selected TMR farms from other states and supported by NSW DPI. This information will be used to design a framework that supports dairy farmers currently changing their feeding system or considering a change.

  • National Guidelines for Feedpads and Contained Housing Systems

    New National Guidelines for Feedpads and Contained Housing Systems are being developed collaboratively in partnership with Agriculture Victoria. The guidelines will be the first of their kind anywhere in the world.

    They will be based on best practice, underpinned by published research and engineering standards, and reflective of current statutory and regulatory planning. 

    The guidelines will be written by a team of subject matter experts from around Australia as well as from the United States.

  • Decision Support Process

    The Decision Support Process will assist farmers faced with making the myriad of decisions required when contemplating changing to a more “intensive system”. 

    It is hoped the DSP will reduce the risk of the wrong decision being made and will enable a more strategic and streamlined approach.

    The DSP would be applicable for farms that are contemplating a system change from grazing and PMR to a system that may incorporate permanent feeding infrastructure through to cattle housing with TMR.

    The DSP should provide an organised, logical method to prompt a farm owner (and their team) to ask the correct questions regarding all aspects of the farm system that might require change.


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