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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Madison, Wisconsin » U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center » Environmentally Integrated Dairy Management Research » Research » Research Project #441102

Research Project: Managing Nutrients and Assessing Pathogen Emission Risks for Sustainable Dairy Production Systems

Location: Environmentally Integrated Dairy Management Research

Project Number: 5090-12630-006-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jul 13, 2021
End Date: Jul 12, 2026

Objective 1: Quantify the ability of innovative dairy nutrient management practices to improve soil nutrient distribution and runoff water quality. 1A: Evaluate the association between Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast (RRAF) forecasts and microbial contamination of private household wells in the dairy region of northeastern Wisconsin. 1B: Develop a prediction tool that expands upon the RRAF, incorporating groundwater-related factors, to be able to predict and avoid manure runoff contamination of private household wells. 1C: Quantify pasture management effects on surface runoff water quality, soil nutrient distribution, and soil health measures. 1D: Determine the impacts of using high-resolution soil mapping on crop nutrient recommendations and loss indices at the UW-Marshfield Agricultural Research Station. 1E: Characterize soil properties and evaluate nutrient attenuation in soils and shallow subsurface runoff flows of select riparian buffers adjoining forage crop fields at UW-MARS and the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center (USDFRC) Prairie du Sac Research Farm using field sampling and modeling approaches. Objective 2: Evaluate the ability of novel dairy manure management practices to improve on-farm nutrient use efficiency. 2A: Evaluate the impact of separated dairy manure solids and heifer manure on corn yield, soil biological indicators, and nitrate leaching over multiple growing seasons. Objective 3: Develop and apply improved quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) methods to assess the public health impacts of alternative dairy production practices. 3A: Develop a screening-level exposure and risk assessment model for waterborne gastrointestinal pathogens in private wells contaminated by human and/or bovine fecal material. 3B: Develop an updated, outbreak-based Cryptosporidium dose-response model. 3C: Conduct a state-wide QMRA for transmission of antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) via private wells in Wisconsin.

Dairy production has intensified over the past 30 years, shifting from many small farms to fewer large farms. Driven by goals of efficiency and economic productivity, this change has benefited producers and consumers alike. However, it has also altered the environmental impacts of dairy production because larger farms tend to concentrate livestock manure in smaller geographic regions and require more intense manure applications compared to less concentrated production systems, placing increased pressure on soil health and water quality as a result. At the same time, the pressures facing modern dairy operations, including high input costs, uncertain milk and commodity prices, and increasing regulatory demands and public scrutiny, have led to renewed interest in less intensive production practices (e.g., grazing-based systems). Technical recommendations for co-optimizing production and environmental impacts in these systems is limited. The proposed research will focus on impacts of dairy management practices on soil health, nutrient loss in water runoff and leaching, and public health risks of antimicrobial resistance and pathogen exposures. The approach is collaborative, including major contributions from the University of Wisconsin-Marshfield Agricultural Research Station (UW-MARS), UW-Madison, UW-Extension, the National Cooperative Soil Survey, and the U.S. Geological Survey Upper Midwest Water Science Center, among others. The approach also consists of observational and experimental field work along with complementary mathematical modeling efforts. Observational field work is based on randomized sampling of private wells in northeast Wisconsin and multivariate predictive statistical modeling. Field work is based on continued use and development of our long-standing field facilities at UW-MARS. And additional mathematical modeling is largely grounded in the quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) approach. This work impacts dairy and forage production systems in the upper Midwest and elsewhere. Products and outcomes consist of best management practices for nutrients, zoonotic pathogens, and antimicrobial resistance; fundamental knowledge about soil health and function; and improved tools for QMRAs. Stakeholders include dairy producers, the dairy industry, environmental and public health agencies, and rural residents.