DAIRY farmers using a partially mixed ration (PMR) feeding system might not be getting best bang for their buck.
In a report presented at the Western Dairy Spring Field Day, the on-going results of the Dairy Australia-funded flexible feeding system project run by the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) revealed very similar milk production and quality results for PMR systems and the more conventional system where all concentrate is fed in the dairy.
However, DAFWA dairy research officer Bronwyn Edmunds believes there is unrealised potential for PMR farms to increase milk production
"Results indicate that providing your cows with the opportunity to eat more quality feed through providing a well-balanced ration is key for a PMR system," she said.
Dr Edmunds said significant investment is required to change to a PMR feeding system and the reality was "it does not guarantee profitability".
"You would expect PMR systems to out-perform in dairy systems in milk, fat and protein yield," she said.
"Findings from both WA and Victorian studies imply that PMR systems have not yet been optimised in WA.
"One of the advantages of a PMR wagon is the ability to incorporate a wider variety of feedstuffs into the ration.
"A more complex, well-balanced PMR may improve milk production over the dry season and changeover to and from pasture in WA."
The flexible feeding systems study in WA has been going for two years in collaboration with seven PMR and six in-dairy operations.
Funding is being sought for research to continue for a further two years.
The work mirrors existing studies being conducted in Victoria and aims to quantify what the benefits are of adopting a PMR system and how to finetune these systems to reach the best milk production, feed conversion efficiency and farm profitability.
So far, Dr Edmunds said results illustrated little difference between PMR and in-dairy practices and rather "whole farm management and good cost control" were more important drivers of farm profitability.
In its second phase, the study will feature PMR feeding trials in order to pinpoint methods for improving production.