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ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #353679

Research Project: Sustaining Agroecosystems and Water Resources in the Northeastern U.S.

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Title: Identifying challenges and opportunities for improved nutrient management through U.S.D.A's Dairy Agroecosystem Working Group

item Holly, Michael
item Kleinman, Peter
item Bryant, Ray
item Bjorneberg, David - Dave
item Rotz, Clarence - Al
item Baker, John
item Boggess, Mark
item Brauer, David
item CHINTALA, RAJESH - Innovation Center For Us Dairy
item Feyereisen, Gary
item Gamble, Joshua
item Leytem, April
item Reed, Kristan
item Vadas, Peter
item Waldrip, Heidi

Submitted to: Journal of Dairy Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/15/2018
Publication Date: 4/26/2018
Citation: Holly, M.A., Kleinman, P.J., Bryant, R.B., Bjorneberg, D.L., Rotz, C.A., Baker, J.M., Boggess, M.V., Brauer, D.K., Chintala, R., Feyereisen, G.W., Gamble, J.D., Leytem, A.B., Reed, K., Vadas, P.A., Waldrip, H. 2018. Identifying challenges and opportunities for improved nutrient management through U.S.D.A's Dairy Agroecosystem Working Group. Journal of Dairy Science. 101(7):6632-6641.

Interpretive Summary: Nutrient management on U.S. dairy farms is complex with a diversity of issues and regional priorities for improvement. To investigate opportunities to improve whole farm nutrient use efficiencies we simulated representative dairy farms from the major U.S. dairy producing regions using the Integrated Farm System Model. Dairies exporting manure and importing feed, common for simulated dry lot dairies, had lower nutrient use efficiencies at the farm gate then the other confinement dairies. Environmental losses varied greatly between regions of the U.S. and were impacted by the type of housing facility used, climate, and manure management. Increasing on-farm feed production has the greatest potential for improving nutrient use efficiencies. Although, cost incentives exist to improve nutrient management by mitigating environmental N losses, as fertilizer expenses are considerable.

Technical Abstract: Nutrient management is a priority of U.S. dairy farms, although specific concerns vary across regions and management systems. To elucidate challenges and opportunities to improving nutrient use efficiencies, the USDA’s Dairy Agroecosystems Working Group investigated 10 case studies of confinement (including open lots and free stall housing) and grazing operations in the seven major U.S. dairy producing states. Simulation modeling was carried out using the Integrated Farm Systems Model over 25 years of historic weather data. Dairies with a preference for importing feed and exporting manure, common for simulated dry lot dairies of the arid west, had lower nutrient use efficiencies at the farm gate than freestall and tie-stall dairies in humid climates. Phosphorus (P) use efficiencies ranged from 33 to 82% of imported P, while N use efficiencies were 25 to 50% of imported N. When viewed from a P budgeting perspective, environmental losses of P were generally negligible, especially from dry lot dairies. Opportunities for greater P use efficiency reside primarily in increasing on-farm feed production and reducing excess P in diets. In contrast with P, environmental losses of nitrogen (N) were 50 to 75% of annual farm N inputs. For dry lot dairies, the greatest potential for N conservation is associated with ammonia (NH3) control from housing, whereas for freestall and tie-stall operations, N conservation opportunities vary with soil and manure management system. Given that fertilizer expenses are equivalent to 2 to 6% of annual farm profits, cost incentives do exist to improve nutrient use efficiencies. However, augmenting on-farm feed production represents an even greater opportunity, especially on large operations with high animal unit densities.