Diverse forage mixtures to optimise ruminant animal production, nutrient use efficiency, environmental impact, biodiversity and resilience

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Diverse forage mixtures to optimise ruminant animal production, nutrient use efficiency, environmental impact, biodiversity and resilience

The ultimate aim of the proposed project is to optimise the balance between forage utilisation for animal performance and sustainability in terms of environmental impact, biodiversity, and resilience through the use of diverse forage mixtures. A major emphasis of the project is on developing sward management practices for improving drought (and flood) resistance and nitrogen (N) use efficiency at animal and farm system scales through use of diverse grass and legume sward mixtures as a replacement for conventional ryegrass. The key objective of greater sustainability, biodiversity, and resilience of livestock production will be achieved through the harnessing of diverse forage mixtures that have the capability to be more productive under variable climates, require less mineral N fertiliser due to reliance on N-fixation capabilities, and contribute to greater N use efficiency. Specific objectives are: 1) To develop two different forage mixtures (a diverse forage mixture [DFM], and a drought resistance mixture [DRM], both which do not require N fertilisation) to form the basis of forage treatments for this project, which will be tested alongside an already marketed and state of the art diverse mixture supplied from Cotswold Seeds Inc. (CSM, no N fertilisation), and a conventional perennial ryegrass sward (PRG, fertilised with recommended N). 2) To quantify the agronomic performance of the forage mixtures 3) To feed the forage mixtures to growing dairy cattle and measure growth rate, digestibility, methane emission and N use efficiency 4) To determine the resilience of the mixtures to drought and flood/water logging 5) To evaluate economic and environmental impacts at the farm scale 6) To assess production and environmental impacts through modelling, including upscaling to the national scale 7) To acquire and dissseminate knowledge of the mixtures to the wider community of farmers, consultants, industry, etc

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