Dairy wintering systems in southern New Zealand : quantification and modelling of nutrient transfers and losses from contrasting wintering systems : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Soil Science at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Traditional dairy wintering practice in the lower South Island of New Zealand has been to graze
brassica crops in situ. This practice has been under increasing scrutiny from local Regional Councils
due to the relatively high nitrogen (N) leaching losses from this component of the whole farm system.
Alternative wintering options to reduce N leaching losses that are currently available to farmers (such
as barns and permanent wintering pads) are high cost and involve a large capital investment. In this
work a new wintering system (termed a ‘portable pad’) was developed for use on support blocks
(which can be located many kilometres from the milking platform) as an interim measure for reducing
N leaching losses that is low cost and low input. This system is designed as a mitigation strategy that
is available for use immediately while research investigates more permanent solutions. This system
is a hybrid of the traditional crop grazing system and an off-paddock system, where effluent is
captured. It makes use of the advantages of each of the original systems utilising the low cost feed
source of the brassica crops, grazed in situ, while also utilising the benefits of duration controlled
grazing with its associated effluent capture and irrigation at low rates.
The aim of the research was to generate whole system N leaching loss values for each of the three
farm systems investigated (crop wintering, deep-litter wintering barn, and portable pad). Field and
laboratory research was conducted to fill identified knowledge gaps such that system N loss values
could be estimated. OVERSEER Nutrient Budget software tool was used in conjunction with measured
and modelled (APSIM) data to simulate whole farm N leaching loss values for the three farm systems
investigated. Nitrogen leaching losses from the portable pad and barn systems were between 5 and
26 % and between 13 and 26 % lower, respectively, than the crop wintering system.