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Unpredictable times call for predictive measures

The combination of the dairy industry’s current troubles, market volatility, more frequent weather extremes and rising debt, leads to a greater uncertainty in the farming community. This article talks about putting the predictive back into farming businesses where we can.

The lofty heights of a $7 plus pay out distracted some in the dairy industry away from a “pasture first” approach. The profit margins encouraged the use of higher productivity feeds in the quest for increased production and higher revenue. This inadvertently exposed businesses to increased risk due to market and environmental volatility.

Ravensdown and Dairy NZ have been leading the way with the message to concentrate on growing and utilising as much pasture (our cheapest feed) as possible.

Modern pasture-based farms seek to match feed supply and animal demand, smoothing out peaks and troughs by way of nitrogen (N) fertiliser or supplementary feed. To do this successfully, we need repeated accurate measurements of pasture cover and timely generation of decision management tools.

One way to achieve this is combining the C-Dax Pasture Meter with an engaging online tool. HawkEye® will replace Smart Maps as an offering from Ravensdown for delivering this information. The software is a fresh new look to allow continuous review, improvement and expansion. Our recent advances have focussed on enabling farmers to farm with more certainty, particularly in the dairy industry.

"A key feature of HawkEye® is putting the predictive back into farming businesses where we can."

While a single day (snapshot) feed wedge is probably the most used grazing management tool at present, recent advances in pasture growth rate predictions allow us to view how the feed situation may look up to two weeks into the future.

HawkEye® also offers an interactive feed wedge where the feed situation is shown over time, with short-term pasture cover predictability and consumption. In addition, the user can interact with the feed wedge allowing supply/demand balancing via tactical use of N and a feed conservation tool. A typical scenario for a paddock is where the user applies N to boost pasture growth and mitigate a looming feed deficit. This situation can be modelled and animated so good decisions can be made to address the deficit. This same functionality can be used for feed conservation as well.

Longer term trending tools and background analytics have been developed and are being trialled at present. These tools provide deep insights into farm, block and paddock histories while benchmarking information highlights higher level trends at varying local and regional scales.

The predictive feed wedge uses available water and weather data through partnership with farmax and the pasture growth forecaster to predict available feed for different scenarios - helping you strategically manage your farming operation.

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