Tuesday, 8 December 2009

12th December Agriculture Talks Start at Copenhagen

Saturday the 12th December is the start of Agricultural Talks at Copenhagen. As agriculture is now believed to contribute 14% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, these talks will be important to the future of grass based dairying in the UK. Livestock farming is sure to come under scrutiny but so too should pasture based farming where there are huge opportunities to store carbon in soil. Will there be taxes on livestock methane emissions for instance?

Pasture based dairy farming in UK & Europe can present the world with real opportunities as carbon is built up & stored in the top soil. Pasture based farming has a low carbon footprint. At last there is some acknowledgement of this science.

I wonder who is out there fighting our cause??? Who is in our corner????

Outwintering Pads
A group recently visited Paulo Dumont a young Chilian PhD student at Reading Uni. His outwintering pad experiental work is at North Wyke in Devon, UK. The trial is in its second winter....using beef animals on 4 different size wood chips....from large chips 7.5cm (SAC style) down to 2cm, 1cm & sawdust. The effluent is collected from each pad & analysed. As are the weight gains of each group of animals. Various measures of animal welfare are checked too...like how dirty the animals are & how many are resting on the pad surface.
The essential outcome is that there is virtually no difference between the different pad woodchip materials & that the effluent is very similar to "dirty water"
These measurements include Total N, NH4N, NO3N & total Phosphorus. Dirty water is typically 850mg/l Total N (1cm chip pad was 750 Total N), 460 NH4N (1cm chip pad was 290NH4N) & dirty water is typically 52mg/l Phosphorus whereas 1cm chip pad was 38mg/l P.
So wood chip pads are achieving "dirty water" status.
In terms of animal comfort the sawdust & smaller particle pads seemed to be better than the large chip pads. The key issue is stocking rate on the pad & the rainfall during the pad use. The North Wyke trial has 2 stocking rates 12sqm/animal & 18sqm/animal.
These results are very similar to work at Trevarez in France & Moorepark in Ireland. At Trevarez they also found that straw was a very good surface material (see photo). Travarez had some difficulties trying to pad milking cows.
There was a workshop on winter housing including outwintering pads at Lille France earlier this year.
We really do need young scientists like Paulo Dumont working in areas of Dairy Research that directly affect low cost dairying in the UK. Even if they come from Chile.....well done Paulo.
We look forward to the outcome of the agriculture talks at Cophenhagen.
I think the foloowing Chinese proverb is worth quoting:-
"Most people sow rice for next years harvest.....some look further forward & plant trees for the next generation....but to look even further forward you need to educate the young".

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