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Incorporating a prediction of postgrazing herbage mass into a whole-farm model for pasture-based dairy systems

Gregorini, P., Galli, J., Romera, A.J., Levy, G., Macdonald, K.A., Fernandez, H.H., Beukes, P.C.
Journal of dairy science 2014 v.97 no.7 pp. 4354-4366
animal models, correlation, cows, crops, data collection, dry matter intake, farming systems, farms, forage, grazing intensity, grazing management, harvesting, milk production, pastures, prediction, regrowth, soil, sward, New Zealand
The DairyNZ whole-farm model (WFM; DairyNZ, Hamilton, New Zealand) consists of a framework that links component models for animal, pastures, crops, and soils. The model was developed to assist with analysis and design of pasture-based farm systems. New (this work) and revised (e.g., cow, pasture, crops) component models can be added to the WFM, keeping the model flexible and up to date. Nevertheless, the WFM does not account for plant-animal relationships determining herbage-depletion dynamics. The user has to preset the maximum allowable level of herbage depletion [i.e., postgrazing herbage mass (residuals)] throughout the year. Because residuals have a direct effect on herbage regrowth, the WFM in its current form does not dynamically simulate the effect of grazing pressure on herbage depletion and consequent effect on herbage regrowth. The management of grazing pressure is a key component of pasture-based dairy systems. Thus, the main objective of the present work was to develop a new version of the WFM able to predict residuals, and thereby simulate related effects of grazing pressure dynamically at the farm scale. This objective was accomplished by incorporating a new component model into the WFM. This model represents plant-animal relationships, for example sward structure and herbage intake rate, and resulting level of herbage depletion. The sensitivity of the new version of the WFM was evaluated and then the new WFM was tested against an experimental data set previously used to evaluate the WFM and to illustrate the adequacy and improvement of the model development. Key outputs variables of the new version pertinent to this work (milk production, herbage dry matter intake, intake rate, harvesting efficiency, and residuals) responded acceptably to a range of input variables. The relative prediction errors for monthly and mean annual residual predictions were 20 and 5%, respectively. Monthly predictions of residuals had a line bias (1.5%), with a proportion of square root of mean square prediction error (RMSPE) due to random error of 97.5%. Predicted monthly herbage growth rates had a line bias of 2%, a proportion of RMSPE due to random error of 96%, and a concordance correlation coefficient of 0.87. Annual herbage production was predicted with an RMSPE of 531 (kg of herbage dry matter/ha per year), a line bias of 11%, a proportion of RMSPE due to random error of 80%, and relative prediction errors of 2%. Annual herbage dry matter intake per cow and hectare, both per year, were predicted with RMSPE, relative prediction error, and concordance correlation coefficient of 169 and 692kg of dry matter, 3 and 4%, and 0.91 and 0.87, respectively. These results indicate that predictions of the new WFM are relatively accurate and precise, with a conclusion that incorporating a plant-animal relationship model into the WFM allows for dynamic predictions of residuals and more realistic simulations of the effect of grazing pressure on herbage production and intake at the farm level without the intervention from the user.