The design of dairy systems with increased production and profit, but reduced environmental footprint, presents a problem with objectives that are seemingly at odds. We argue that this is why we have to go back to the ecological principles that underpin farm systems and use these to develop new systems that will achieve the above objectives. Healthy topsoil is a living nutrient trap. It requires long term thinking and action to achieve and maintain healthy topsoil. The rumen is a very complex ecosystem with the microbes as a key component. Farm systems aimed at optimal performance per cow, with lowest possible methane and urinary nitrogen waste products consistent with this performance, need to ensure effective rumen function. Maintenance dilution and cow longevity are important principles for sustainable and profitable farming. Pastoral livestock systems need ecological and financial buffers to remain resilient in uncertain times. We present a plan consisting of five strategies, based on some of these fundamentals, that we believe is a step towards farming profitably and within limits.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 74, Napier, 241-244, 2014
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