Dairy farm impacts of fencing riparian land: pasture production and farm productivity

Article


Aarons, Sharon R., Melland, Alice R. and Dorling, Lianne. 2013. "Dairy farm impacts of fencing riparian land: pasture production and farm productivity." Journal of Environmental Management. 130, pp. 255-266. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2013.08.060
Article Title

Dairy farm impacts of fencing riparian land: pasture production and farm productivity

ERA Journal ID5850
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsAarons, Sharon R. (Author), Melland, Alice R. (Author) and Dorling, Lianne (Author)
Journal TitleJournal of Environmental Management
Journal Citation130, pp. 255-266
Number of Pages12
Year2013
PublisherElsevier
Place of PublicationLondon, United Kingdom
ISSN0301-4797
1093-0191
1095-8630
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2013.08.060
Abstract

Dairy farmers are encouraged to restrict stock access by fencing riparian zones to reduce stream pollution and improve biodiversity. Many farmers are reluctant to create fenced riparian zones because of the perceived loss of productive pasture. Anecdotal reports indicate that pasture production in fenced areas is especially valued during summer months when water stress is likely to limit pasture growth in other areas of the farm. We measured pasture production, botanical composition, soil moisture, and fertility in Riparian (within 20m of the riverbank), Flat (greater than 20 but less than 50m from the riverbank), and Hill (elevated) areas on three commercial dairy farms from October 2006 to November 2007 in south eastern Australia. Riparian and Flat areas produced significantly more pasture, with on average approximately 25% more dry matter per ha grown in these areas compared with Hill paddocks. Percentage ryegrass was 14% lower on Hill slopes compared with Riparian and Flat areas and was compensated for by only a 5% increase in other grass species. Significant seasonal effects were observed with the difference in pasture production between Hill, and Riparian and Flat areas most pronounced in summer, due to soil moisture limitations on Hill paddocks.To examine potential productivity impacts of this lost pasture, we used a questionnaire-based survey to interview the farmers regarding their farm and riparian management activities. The additional pasture that would have been available if the riverbanks were not fenced to their current widths ranged from 6.2 to 27.2t DM for the 2006/2007 year and would have been grown on 0.4-3.4% of their milking area. If this pasture was harvested instead of grazed, the farmers could have saved between $2000 and $8000 of their purchased fodder costs in that year. By fencing their riparian areas to 20m for biodiversity benefits, between 2.2% and 9.8% of their milking area would be out of production amounting to about $16,000 in additional purchased fodder costs. We discuss the additional fencing, production, and on-going management costs associated with fencing riparian areas, the costs to the environment and the enterprise of stock freely accessing waterways, as well as the policy implications.

Keywordsadoption barriers; environmental benefit; incentives; pasture growth rate; production cost; soil moisture
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020380101. Agricultural economics
370901. Geomorphology and earth surface processes
300202. Agricultural land management
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Byline AffiliationsDepartment of Environment and Primary Industries, Victoria
Teagasc Agriculture and Food Development Authority, Ireland
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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