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Decision support system for grazing

The Grazemore decision support system for grazing management of dairy cows

Low prices of concentrates and the high demands for good management of grass growth associated with grazing, have led to lower utilisation of grazed grass in Europe. Decision support systems (DSS) with valid predictions of herbage growth (HG) and milk yield (MY) may improve grazing management for dairy farmers. The aim of this study was to explore the possibilities to improve grazing management of dairy cows in Europe, by developing a DSS within the European Union project, Grazemore.

Material and methods

The Grazemore DSS was developed for rotational grazing systems with perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) and white clover (Trifolium repens L.) swards. The DSS is a large simulation platform displaying the effect of variance of management and environment on, MY (kg cow/day), herbage intake (HI) (kg DM/cow/day) and HG (kg DM/ha/day). The solution of the DSS can be described as a group of bank accounts. The "accounts" (paddocks) are replenished with grass with individual growth rates (interest rates) predicted by an HG model (Barrett et al., 2004). The removal of grass from the paddocks acts as withdrawals, and is predicted by an HI model (Delagarde et al., 2004). The DSS can also optimise a suggested grazing and cutting calendar for the farm depending on the management and feeding preferences of the user. Different grazing scenarios can be biologically and economically evaluated under different climatic conditions.

Simulations are available from the first of March to the end of November based on, N fertilizer input, daily measurements of average temperature (˚C), precipitation (mm) and photosynthetic active radiation (MJ/m2). The DSS performs daily predictions of herbage mass (HM) (kg DM/ha), HG, organic matter digestibility (OMD, %), crude protein (g/kg) and white clover contribution (% DM) for each paddock. MY and HI are predicted as herd averages for the residence period in each individual paddock, depending on the grazing management, supplementary feeding and the status of the herd. The DSS predictions of HM on a paddock level and MY on herd level have been externally evaluated by Centro de Investigaciones Agrarias Mabegondo, Spain on 27 farms in five countries in Western Europe during the 2004 season. The evaluation is based on weakly measurements of HM in individual paddocks and herd average MY, during the residence in the paddocks.

Preliminary results from the on farm validation indicate that the Grazemore DSS may be used as a management tool to improve the use of grazed grass in Europe.

Barrett, P.D., Laidlaw A.S. and Mayne C.S. (2004). Development of a European herbage growth model (The EU Grazemore project) In: Lüscher, A. Jeangros, B. Kessler, W. Huguenin, O. Lobsiger, M. Millar, N. & Suter, E. (eds.) Proceedings of the 20th General Meeting of the European Grassland Federation, Volume 9 Grassland Science in Europe 653-655.
Delagarde R., Faverdin, P., Baratte, C., Bailhache, M. & Peyraud, J.L. (2004). The herbage intake model for grazing dairy cows in the EU Grazemore project. Proceedings of the 20th General Meeting of the European Grassland Federation, Volume 9 Grassland Science in Europe 650-652.

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