The dairy production chain in the State of Santa Catarina is founded in different production systems, which are identified by the management and supply of animal feed, technological level, and productivity obtained. Among the various production systems, the pasture based dairy production system incorporated in family farming stands out due to the fact that it adapts to different climates and topographies, generating good productivity at a low cost and fitting well to the land ownership characteristics of the Santa Catarina state. Aiming to increase the producers' income in a sustainable manner, the practice seeks to increase the efficiency of the use and management of forage resources in order to reduce the costs associated with the feeding of the animals and raise dairy production. Its implementation occurs through the use of perennial high-productivity pastures, conservative management of the pasture with rotating stock and administration/management of the property. perty.    

Some of the results observed from this practice are: increased efficiency in the production and harvesting of pasture for the animals from 5-7 t/ha of dry matter to up to 25 t/ha; increase in the quality of the pasture harvested by animals (from 7% to 15% of crude protein); optimization of pasture intake by cows; increase in the carrying capacity of the pasture to the equivalent of 4.5 livestock unit per ha (2,025 kg live weight); significant increase in the productivity of milk from 4 to 10-13 L/day; yields of up to 15 thousand L/ha per year, improvement in the well-being of the animals; reduction in the incidence of mastitis in the herd; improvement in the quality of the milk produced; increase in income and welfare of producers..

  

A - General Information

 

BEGGINNING:  2001

COMPLETION: In progress 

EXECUTING ENTITY: Company of Agricultural Research and Rural Extension of Santa Catarina - EPAGRI

PARTNERS: Microbacias II Project and SC Rural Program

PRESENTED BY: Felipe Jochims

RESOURCES: Own and third-party

VALUE RANGE: up to US$ 5,000.00

CATEGORY: Reference Unit

MAIN THEMATIC AREA: AgriculturE

KEY WORDS: Dairy cattle; Pasture management; dairy pasture; rotating method

TARGET AUDIENCE: Technicians and agents and rural producers. The practice indirectly influences the industrial sector by raising system productivity and product quality. 

LOCATION: Rural Area

GEOGRAPHIC COVERAGE: State

MUNICIPALITIES: 133 municipalities of the state of Santa Catarina, distributed througout the state's territory. 

SPECIFIC IMPLEMENTING AREA: technology reference units (TRU) selected by Epagri are distributed througout the Santa Catarina territory. Currently there are units installed in 133 municipalities, totaling 242 technology reference units. There are 151 unites implemented in the Western region of Santa Catarina, distributed in 80 municipalities. There are 24 units in 13 municipalities of the Northern region, 8 units in 7 municipalities of the southern region, 34 units in 21 municipalities of the Alto Vale do Itajaí, and 25 units in 12 municipalities of the coast of Santa Catarina. In total, there are technology reference units working with pasture based dairy production in 45,1% of the Santa Catarina municipalities.

 

B - Description of the practice

 

1- BACKGROUND

The beginning of the practice dates back to the 1980s in the Santa Catarina State, and was marked by the migration of integrated pig and dairy cattle farmers. At that time, the dairy production activity was carried out only for own consumption. However, it quickly became the main source of income to the properties. The migration incentives were related to: the ability of using natural resources and even unused portions of the properties; occupying of the family workforce; generation of monthly income. In this initial scenario, the quantity and quality of forage available to the animals was limiting, providing low production. Other problems also led to the adoption of the rotation management practice in the pastures, such as: the “traditional” inadequate management of forage resources, usually associated to high animal burden and excess pasturing. This practice caused other aggravating factors such as: the degradation of the areas, compaction and loss of soil fertility, loss of plant species of high nutritional value, and low animal productivity, all of which harmed the production and the sustainability of the rural properties.

These difficulties and challenges prompted the Epagri team (through its body of researchers and rural extension agents) to research and promote the implementing of dairy production technologies and techniques with low feed costs, high productive potential and low environmental impact. In this scenario, the use of perennial pastures, allied to the rotating capacity management of the areas and the control and management of the dairy production, emerge as central features of the Rotating Pastures Management System for Dairy production.

  

2- GENERAL OBJECTIVE

Icreasing the efficiency of the production, as well as the use and management of forage resources, in order to reduce the costs associated to the feeding of the animals, improving animal welfare and raising dairy production in order to ensure the permanence of the families in the rural areas.

Specific Objectives:  

  • Providing 70-80% of the animals' diet from perennial pastures;
  • Enabling the efficient management of high productivity pastures by the dairy producer;
  • Knowing and ensuring (through the division of the plots of land into paddocks) the appropriate time of rest for each piece of land for the recovery of the pasture that was consumed;
  • Reducing the need to use other foods during the year, mainly concentrated high cost feeds;
  • Reduction of the risks associated to climate variations with the use of systems based on perennial highly resilient plants;
  •  Improving the ambience and well-being of the animals;
  • Reduction and humanization of the workforce;
  • Improving the physical and chemical characteristics of the soil, through increasing vegetation cover throughout the year;
  • Ensuring the income for the maintenance of a comfortable life standard for the families in the rural areas, as well as ensuring family succession in the properties.

 

3 - ADOPTED SOLUTION

In general terms, the Rotating Pastures Management System for dairy production has the following technical guidelines:

(1) use of perennial summer cycle pastures with high productivity of dry matter and overseeding with annual winter pastures;
(2) management of the areas with animal rotating capacity with control of the plants' rest period, as well as maintenance of suitable residues in the pasture for efficient new outbreaks;
(3) fertilization, and maintanence of the fertility and of the physical characteristics of the soil according to the plants' necessities;
(4) unlimited availability of clean water, mineral supplementation, animal welfare and health;
(5) organization and control of dairy production and strategic use of food concentrates;
(6) management goals for the input and output of the animals, forage planning, and improvement or incorporation of legumes into the pasture;
(7) genetic improvement of the herd, considering genetic resources appropriate to pasture production systems and to the weather conditions.

The management of the rotating animal capacity areas consists in subdividing the larger area where the activity is implemented (or was intended to be implemented) into smaller subareas, called paddocks. The division is performed so that the biomass of pasture in the paddock is consumed in a controlled manner over a pre-set period of time (usually half to one day per paddock). After the grazing and the minimum residue goal is reached, this paddock is then closed and the animals move to the next one. The time of occupation and the rest interval is defined by the number of subdivisions in the area and may vary, mainly due to the climatic differences of the seasons and to the management system employed, especially regarding the pasture residue remaining after the removal of the animals. Epagri usually indicates the use of one or two paddocks per day, totaling up to 60 paddocks in the total available area.

The number of paddocks is set taking into account production data collected from pastures in technology reference units in the last few years, that is the production of pasture that will determine the capacity of the areas. As a general rule for the implementing of the system, one should consider the consumption of the animals (dry matter; DM) as 3% of their live weight, plus a quantity of fodder losses (due to trampling, waste, etc.) of 2% to 3%. Knowing the productivity of the pastures (historically measured in the units), we can obtain the amount of area for each livestock unit in the system. That production data is obtained through cuts in the pasture within a frame with a known area (usually 50 x 50 cm), at the location of the pasture required for maintenance (regrowth/residual). Once the weight of the pasture is obtained in this framework (in dry matter), the result is the availability of pasture in the paddock to be offered to the animals (weight of the pasture x area of the paddock, divided by the area of the frame). Knowing that the consumption of the animal is 3% of their live weight and that the grazing losses can be of up to 3%, each livestock unit (450 kg) will require 27 kg of dry matter of pasture per day for their feeding. In this way, the amount of pasture in the paddock will set the animal capacity that it supports. For example, if the pasture is producing 350 grams in each 1 m2 and the animal needs 27 kg/DM of pasture, the result is that the amount of area necessary for feeding each livestock unit in a paddock per day is 77,2 m2.

After defining the size of the paddock areas it is important to move the animals from one paddock to another, through rotation management, avoiding situations of excess of consumption in the same paddock. In the case of a reference unit with 60 paddocks, the animals use one paddock in the morning and another in the afternoon, returning to the same paddocks only 30 days later. In this way, by raising the competition between the animals and reducing the rate of selection of forage by the animals, efficiency of pasture use is increased. In a general manner, the indicated consumption of the pasture available in the paddock is of 50 to 60%, while the other 40% should be retained as residue for efficient regrowth. This can be easily controlled by taking into consideration the height of the pasture. It is recommended that the return to the paddock takes place after its pasture has recovered, and the time of return of the animals is directly related to the residue retained after the exit of the animals. In general, in favourable periods (when keeping the indicated residue) the times for return of the animals is much inferior to 30 days, depending on the management of the pasture.

The property's forage planning can still be improved through the introduction of superior quality species, such as legumes, or with the introduction of irrigation systems in the pasture.The organization and control of the dairy production, carried out through electronic spreadsheets provided by Epagri, also contribute to the property's pasture management. This control calculates the dairy production per area unit, and is an excellent way to compare units of reference and indicate to the producer the success or failure of the system in which the property is being managed.
Animal care, materials and staff hygiene, property hygiene, availability of clean and fresh water to all paddocks and animal welfare must all be included in the planning. Practices such as the provision of shade in the paddocks via planting of trees in the pasture (silvopastoral system), the availability of mineral salt and fresh drinking water are all necessary features for obtaining desirable productivity results. In addition, due to improvement in the environment in which the animals are being kept, they will have less access to areas with clay/manure or bare soil, contributing to a lower incidence of mastitis in the herd.

These practices are implemented by Epagri technicians in properties selected to serve as reference units. The properties are distributed throughout the territory of the State. The distribution of the units reflects the importance of the productive chains of each region. In relation to the selection of the producers, the profile of the property’s owner is taken into account, features such as leadership, pro-activity, commitment to the job, age (young people are a priority), commitment to the technical training and to the goals and technical actions to be developed, management capacity and commitment to technical and economic monitoring, and producer involvement are all important. Part of the success of the practice is obtained in the selection of the producers. These farmers receive orientation and periodic follow-up with visits from technicians approximately every 15 days.

After the implementing of the units and a period of production adhering to the Epagri indications (for data collection and dairy control), this property is ready to serve as a model for the transfer of technology in the region. This transfer is made via field days, visitations by producers or producers ' associations of the region or “practices” regarding a specific technology or process. The visitations in the units may be carried out at any time of the year, pending prior scheduling with the owner. Once or twice a year, Epagri uses the units for field days, where the technologies applied and the changes in production are demonstrated, as well as the property's profitability. Another technology transfer modality widely used by Epagri in the reference units is the demonstration of isolated practices that compose and/or are used in that unit (installation of electric fence or annual winter overseeding, for example). When these practices and field days are scheduled, invitations are submitted to the rural unions, cooperatives, municipalities and properties of the region.

 

4 - RESULTS ACHIEVED

The main results of the Epagri Rotating Pastures Management System techniques for dairy production are:

• Increase in pasture productivity from 5-7 t of dry matter/ha to 22-25 t of dry matter/ha (results may be even higher);
• Increase in the capacity of the pastures from 0.8 AU/ha to up to 4.5 AU/ha;
• Increase in pasture quality indexes from 7-8% to up to 16-17% of crude protein in spring/summer;
• Reduction in the dependency on concentrate and conserved feeds (silage/hay) and possibility of greater production efficiency in the supplementing of the animals due to dairy control;
• Increase in the average productivity per animal from 3-4 L/day to 10 to 13 L/day, without any supplementation other than mineral;
• Improvement in the hygiene of animals and consequent reduction in the incidence of mastitis due to the abundant ground cover system (abundant pasture);
• Possibility of selection of animals for adaptation to the system by its dairy production levels, sanitary features, and interval between births;
• The productivity of the system can achieve up to 15 thousand liters of milk per year per hectare;
• 242 dairy farming units are already installed in the state;
• One or two field visits per year are held in the unit for transfer of technology, with the average presence of 35 farmers per field day. It is estimated that at least 8,000 producers a year have access to the technologies and knowledge offered by Epagri.
 

 

5 - NECESSARY RESOURCES

Human Resources

  • Multi-disciplinary team for technical guidance and follow-up: a team of researchers from the Epagri livestock program for analyzing the data collected and solving any possible problems and providing guidance to the extension body of the municipality in which the unit is installed. Two or more people for implementing the structures that will compose the management paddock and one or more for the everyday handling of the animals.

Material resources 

  • The amount of resources will depend on the property's goals, as well as on the availability of area and herd size.
    Materials used for the implementing of 1ha: Considering, for example, 30 paddocks with 21 x 16 m (336m2, 4 animal units), if the fence is made from galvanized wire or eletroplastic wire and with only 1 wire, the necessary materials are: 1275 m of galvanized or eletroplastic wire; 130 plots (one every 10 metres), each with 1 electrical insulator; 23 fence posts/poles for the corners or beginning of the lines, each with an electrical insulator of the “carom” variety type; 1 fence electrifier; 1 copper rod for grounding; 8 troughs for water with a float (1 for four paddocks); and approximately 80 m of water sleeve.
    For the implementing of new forage varieties, the recommendation is planting the pasture seedlings 50 cm apart, totaling about 20,000 seedlings/ha. Periodic soil analyses should be carried out for correction of the pH and fertility levels, in accordance with the recommendations of the specific literature. In the case of seedling purchase in commercial establishments in the Western region of SC, the cost per ha is of around R$ 1,500/ha.

 

6 - TRANSFER 

 

The practice was initially implemented in the Epagri technological reference properties, mainly in the region with the largest concentration of dairy cattle at the time (western region, SC). These properties hold open houses and “field days” with the producers of each region. These events are organized in partnership with local municipalities and agriculture departments, the objective is to show the largest possible number of farmers the pasture based productive system. One of the units with a high flow of visitors is in located the town of Concórdia, where the first Epagri unit was installed. The town is today one of the municipalities with the largest dairy production in Santa Catarina. In that sense, the practice has been disseminated throughout all producing regions of the state. At the present time, in addition to the 242 Epagri reference units, thousands of other properties use the principles indicated by Epagri. The region's cooperatives constantly contact Epagri seeking training and lectures on the subject so that companies' technicians can improve their expertise in the subject and apply this knowledge in their properties. In the last year for example, the research team received over 250 people, among technicians and farmers from various cooperatives (Cooperalfa, Unitagri, among others) in the research unit for meetings, lectures and demonstrations on the subject of pasture production. The success can be observed through the large amount of producers in the region who have joined the practice and also through the fact that Santa Catarina is currently the 4th producer of industrialized milk in spite of its small land area. The western portion of the state is responsible for the production of 76% of that milk. The vast majority of the produced amount comes from family-based small farms, representing up to 85% of the state's dairy producers.

 

 

7 -LESSONS LEARNED

 

The most important lesson in adapting scientific knowledge for developing a production management system is that there is no single recipe to solve the entire system’s problems, also there is no “right or wrong”, since all the factors are interconnected and the intervention in one end of the system is directly reflected in the other. Biological systems respond in different ways according to the condition of each location. It is also important to emphasize that the practice is suggested, but the manager of the property is the person who determines its acceptance, and this “human factor” is extremely important to the success of the activity. We must take into consideration that the manager has emotions, problems, a cultural background, etc., which causes each of them to see the system in a way, the responsibility of the technical officer, in addition to knowing the technology to be applied, is acting as a “therapist” to the producers. After they gain an understanding of the practice, the farmers tend to become self-reliant and transmit the practice to other people in the community, giving continuity to the process, sometimes incorporating other technologies and even more complex processes than those indicated by Epagri.

    

8 -THE ORIGINALITY OF THE PRACTICE

The practice is an amalgamation of knowledge from various fields related to the physiology of plants, livestock production and management, adapted to local conditions and realities. The practice is based on various sources, such as the Voisin principles of pasture management, the data collected in USP-ESALQ on "luminous interception" of plants, data on pastures management and animal behavior obtained from UFSM, studies on morphogenesis and grass growth dynamics provided by INRA (France), physiology and nutritional requirements of cows by NRC and AFRC, among others.

 

 

 

Visitations from Monday to Friday, during all times of the year. No maximum number of visitors. Prior scheduling required at the Campos Novos Experimental Station Management.

 

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