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J Dairy Sci. 1999 Aug;82(8):1808-16.

Optimized dairy grazing systems in the northeast United States and New Zealand. II. System analysis.

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AgResearch, Ruakura Research Centre, Hamilton, New Zealand.


Factors that optimize milk production from Northeast United States and New Zealand grazing systems are compared using a linear programming model. The objective function maximized gross margin per hectare of land farmed. The experimental design compared the optimum characteristics of each system over a range of milk prices. The Northeast has a shorter grazing season and lower cropping costs than New Zealand. The optimum pasture area was 49% of the farm for Northeast systems. Gross margins declined rapidly above 55% or below 36% pasture area. The optimum stocking rate was 1.13 cows/ha, or 2.3 cows/ha of pasture. Optimum per cow production was higher for Northeast [7105 kg of fat-corrected milk (FCM)] than New Zealand (5710 kg of FCM) systems. This was related to lower grain relative to milk prices in the Northeast. New Zealand, all-pasture systems gave the lowest cost per unit of milk but also gave the lowest gross margin across all milk price scenarios. The best use of purchased feed in New Zealand systems was to support increased stocking rate rather than per cow production. Optimum grazing management practices were similar for supplemented New Zealand and Northeast systems. All-pasture New Zealand systems are characterized by short lactations and long autumn rotations to transfer pasture in situ for winter feeding. Higher costs per unit of milk produced will be an inevitable consequence of maximizing gross margin at high milk prices in New Zealand systems.

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