Fodder project looks at dairy and reduced GHG emissions

Vic Drought Hub - Farmland 1
Sineka Munidasa-RA-Fodder for the Future project Dookie 4280
Sineka Munidasa, Research Assistant with Dr Paul Cheng at The University of Melbourne’s Dookie Campus, is checking winter cereals – a high quality crop for conservation.

Friday 24 May, 2024

Innovative study reveals path to greener dairy production and reduced emissions


In a ground-breaking study in northern Victoria, researchers have unveiled crucial insights into the intersection of dairy production, forage feeding and greenhouse-gas emissions.


Researcher Dr Paul Cheng said the “Greener and Climate-Resilient Dairy Production” project investigated the impact of feeding conserved forage on both dairy production and greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr Cheng said the study, conducted by the Victoria Drought Resilience Adoption & Innovation Hub (Vic Hub) with funding from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), was co-funded by Murray Dairy.

“Dairy farming in Victoria heavily relies on supplementary conserved forage, such as silage, hay and straw, to meet feed requirements during grazing-pasture gaps. Winter cereals harvested for conserved fodder have emerged as a vital feed source due to their high water-use efficiency and adaptability to dryland conditions.

“The study’s primary objective was to explore how feeding different types and qualities of conserved cereal forages influences enteric methane [CH4] emissions in diverse dairy-production systems. Enteric CH4 is a significant contributor to greenhouse-gas emissions from dairy farms, making it crucial to understand its impact.”

Figure 1 Absolute emissionDr Cheng, a Senior Lecturer in Livestock Nutrition & Grazing Management with Vic Hub partner The University of Melbourne, said the study assessed the influence of feeding high-quality and low-quality hay and silage on enteric CH4emissions and emission intensity in lactating dairy cows across two distinct farming systems in northern Victoria.

He said key findings from the study include:

  • Quality changes in hay did not significantly alter absolute CH4 emissions or emission intensity.
  • Farm A, employing a more intensive feeding system, produced higher absolute emissions but lower emission intensity compared with Farm B.
  • Diet, liveweight, live weight gain and milk-production all influenced enteric CH4
  • Hay represented on average approximately 40% of the diet in Farm B, while only about 6% in Farm A.

Figure 2 Emission intensity“This study highlights the complex interplay between dairy production, forage feeding and emissions. By understanding these dynamics, we can pave the way for more sustainable and climate-resilient dairy farming practices.

“Findings from this study have significant implications for dairy farmers, policymakers and environmental advocates striving to mitigate the environmental impact of dairy production.”

For more information on the study, including tables, graphs and references, see the Greener and Climate Resilient Dairy Production project on the Vic Hub’s project page.

Dr Cheng works in Melbourne University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Ecosystem Sciences (SAFES), within the Faculty of Science.


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Sineka Munidasa among the winter cereal crop test sites at Dookie Campus.