Submitted to: Wisconsin Forage Council Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: January 26, 1999
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Proper nutrient management is critical for economically and environmentally sustainable perennial forage production, but we have inadequate information about actual on-farm practices. A survey was conducted in 1996 of a stratified random sample of Minnesota dairy farms to determine farm characteristics, fertilizer and manure management, and sources of information. Many Minnesota dairy farmers apply fertilizer to their perennial forages, and it appears that they recognize native soil fertility characteristics. Soil tests are used by nearly two-thirds of the farmers, and fertilizer dealers are the most important source for soil test interpretation and recommendation. Nearly 80% of those who provided soil test results had P levels >20 mg/kg and about 50% had exchangeable K >160 mg/kg, confirming other reports of excess nutrient import on dairy farms. Daily or frequent manure hauling is the most typical manure handling practice, followed by manure pack in livestock housing and lagoon storage of liquid manure. There is a need to communicate to farmers the potential for water contamination from winter spreading of manure. Results of this survey demonstrate the diversity of nutrient management systems on contemporary dairy farms. Improved awareness of nutrient needs and better on-farm nutrient management should increase the yield, persistence, and quality of perennial forages and improve the viability of livestock farming. Fertilizer dealers are the most important source of nutrient recommendations to dairy producers in Minnesota, and independent consultants are the most important advisors to larger operations. Providing these two groups with the latest information on nutrient management likely will result in the most rapid transfer of this information to farmers.