Presentations & Papers

Changing Production Systems: Improving Profit in Australian Dairy

High pasture harvest is not enough for consistently high levels of profit – a high percentage of pasture in the diet is also required!

By David Beca

This paper, and the associated presentation, was delivered to the 2021 Grasslands Society of Southern Australia Annual Conference.


Pasture harvest is important to pasture-based dairy farm profit due to pasture being a much lower-cost feed than concentrates and other forages. If a pasture-based farmer then feeds a high per cent of supplement, this undermines the benefit of low-cost pasture by increasing the average cost of feed. As a result, any argument relating to the benefit of pasture to dairy farm profit is likely to be based on either both pasture harvest and pasture as a percentage of the diet being important for delivering a high level of profit, or both not being important.

Nevertheless, a majority of Australian dairy farmers and their advisors can often be heard to make the following two statements:

  1. A high level of pasture harvest is important for delivering a high level of profit; and
  2. The choice of production system by a farmer is not relevant in determining the level of profit for a farm.

The second statement infers that a high percentage of pasture in the cows' diet is not important for delivering a high level of profit. This paper reviews the relationship between these two statements.

The arguments outlined in this paper only apply to pasture-based dairy farmers and not feedlot or total mixed ration (TMR) farmers. As defined by Beca (2020b), 'pasture' includes all pasture and other crops consumed by the cows in-situ as well as any pasture mechanically harvested on the dairy farm, and 'pasture-based' refers to farms where cows consistently walk to paddocks and harvest the pasture themselves. There is no minimum percentage level of pasture in the diet required for the definition of being pasture-based, although in practice it is rare to see pasture-based farms with less than 25-30 per cent pasture in the annual diet.

The paper does outline the primary cause of the Australian dairy industry's widespread reduction in profitability and loss of international competitiveness.

To view and download the paper please click here.

To view a video of the presentation please click

To view and download the PowerPoint slides please click here.

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