Improvement of Dairy Forage and Manure Management to Reduce Environmental Risk
Project Number: 5090-12630-003-00
Start Date: Oct 01, 2010
End Date: Sep 30, 2015
The overarching objective of our research project is to address current knowledge gaps in understanding and managing the nutrient cycles and pathogen transmission on modern dairy farms. Our specific research objectives are as follows: 1. Determine the effects of dairy cattle diet and dairy herd management (e.g. pasture, confinement, hybrid systems) on manure nutrient excretion, capture, recycling, and loss via gaseous emissions, leaching, and runoff. 2. Determine the effects of dairy manure management practices and cropping systems on crop production, soil properties, and loss of nutrients, sediment, and pathogens (e.g. Cryptosporidium parvum, Salmonella spp., and bovine diarrhea virus) in surface runoff or atmospheric emissions. 3. Determine the effects of timing and rate of dairy manure application on nutrient uptake and nutritional characteristics of fresh and harvested annual and perennial forages. 4. Develop crop management strategies to optimize the exchange of N, P, and K as manure and feed between neighboring dairy and cash grain farms. 5. Develop improved methods for detection and quantification of pathogens in manure, forages, and surface runoff and evaluate effects of management practices on pathogen transport and survival. 6. Improve the environmental sustainability and production capacity of integrated dairy production systems through novel manure application methods; manure handling/processing equipment/technology development; and/or alternative manure-use or processing strategies; to maximize the efficiency of manure nutrient use and retention, promote soil health and fertility, and improve forage crop productivity in integrated forage cropping systems. 7. Improve dairy industry production capacity and sustainability to meet the demands of existing and emerging markets, and improve dairy industry resilience to abiotic and biotic stressors while maintaining producer economic viability. Use a comprehensive, systems approach along with existing/new databases and models to identify opportunities and support Livestock GRACEnet, LTAR and Climate Hub efforts to improve the environmental performance of dairy systems across the Northeast, Midwest, and West. The following research focus areas will be prioritized:
a) Improve nutrient use efficiency across dairy production, emphasizing the conservation of nitrogen and phosphorus in local and regional crop production and reduction of off-farm nitrogen and phosphorus losses, especially through novel/greater use of forage crops and innovative practices.
b) Improve carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from dairy cattle, production facilities and land application of manure.
c) Improve the understanding of pathogen transport and control through water and/or bioaerosol pathways.
Improved management of dairy farms requires successfully managing its nutrient flows, both to maximize nutrient use by animals and crops to optimize profit, and to minimize nutrient loss to the environment. We will investigate most aspects of nutrient cycling throughout the dairy-farm system with a variety of methods and at different scales (replicated field plots, field-scale paired watersheds, feeding trials with replicated pens of heifers, etc.). We will also examine pathogen transport and viability at different points in the dairy farm system. Some experiments will investigate only one or two nutrient or pathogen pathways, while others will be more comprehensive, including, for example, surface runoff, gaseous emission, and plant removal. Our research team also has a longer-term goal, which is to integrate information across experiments to more completely describe, quantify, model, and manage the entire dairy-farm nutrient cycle. Achieving this goal will help ensure the existence of sustainable, profitable, environmentally benign dairy farming for coming decades.