NE1044: Whole farm dairy and beef systems: gaseous emissions, P management, organic production, and pasture based production

(Multistate Research Project)

Status: Inactive/Terminating

NE1044: Whole farm dairy and beef systems: gaseous emissions, P management, organic production, and pasture based production

Duration: 10/01/2010 to 09/30/2015

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Statement of Issues and Justification

Livestock farms face a number of environmental concerns including both water and air quality issues. Stakeholders and regulators agree that attaining the dual goals of profitability and environmental accountability are major challenges facing animal agriculture. Under current economic conditions with increasing input costs and stagnant or decreasing product prices, many farms are struggling to survive. The additional costs of mitigating environmental impacts may accelerate farm exit. Producers need to control or reduce leaching of nutrients to ground water, runoff of nutrients in surface water, release of hazardous compounds to the atmosphere and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These potential impacts are interrelated, so regulations to reduce one environmental problem may aggravate another. A proper assessment of management changes and mitigation technologies requires a comprehensive approach, which integrates all important management decisions, environmental and economic impacts, and their interactions. Traditional experimental methods must be combined with systems approaches to adequately address such complex environmental challenges. Monitoring all the relevant aspects of farms would be very costly, and likely impossible at any cost. A more feasible approach is to use process-level simulation, as recommended by the National Research Council (2003), to evaluate the environmental and economic implications of production systems.

The scope of this work requires a multi-state approach because the needed technical expertise is not present at any one location and because livestock production systems vary so much across the country. In addition, the most pressing environmental problems differ by region. The investigators participating in this project represent various disciplines with a broad range of knowledge and skills from field research to modeling, and all regions of the country. Coordinated efforts through this project will advance our understanding of these issues and identify strategies and management practices to mitigate environmental problems while maintaining farm profitability. The products and tools developed by this project will be used by a wide range of audiences including service and supply dealers, producers, nutrient management planners, policy makers, and extension and university educators.

Related, Current and Previous Work

During the 2004 -2009 term, the NE-1024 Project made the following progress in the areas noted below: Crop Growth and Conservation - (WI, MA)
The polyphenol oxidase (PPO) system in red clover that protects protein during ensiling was the primary focus. The PPO enzymes were isolated, transferred to alfalfa, and silenced in red clover. These studies elucidated which substrates for PPO are most effective in protecting protein during ensiling. Outside of red clover, legumes do not have PPO in appreciable quantities. In grasses, however, some species have PPO but not the appropriate substrate whereas others have substrate but no PPO. Crop/pasture, soil, dairy and social sciences were integrated in an agro-ecological approach to further our understanding of on-farm nutrient cycling and to develop integrated farming systems that sustain natural resources and profitable dairy production. Over the past 4 years, the impacts of consumed forages and dietary crude protein levels were evaluated by their effects on manure N chemistry, in-barn and in-field ammonia N volatilization, and the mineralization of manure N in soils. Animal Components - (OR, PA, WI)
An NRCS CIG grant was awarded to a team of land grant universities and lead by WSU to develop the infrastructure to implement the Feed Management 592 practice standard for NRCS. Since 2005, about 62,000 animals units from livestock production across the US have been associated with feed management plans since 2005. Survey tools were developed and applied for rapid assessment of feed and manure management on confinement dairy farms in the US, and these were extended recently to grazing-based dairy farms in Wisconsin and Australia (Powell et al., 2009). Using these on-farm survey tools we discovered that most dairy producers feed excessive amounts of P. This resulted in increased need for cropland for recycling manure and affected greatly the number of cows a farm could keep and the duration a farm could operate before all cropland attained excessive levels of soil test P. In addition, farmers' inability to utilize more cropland for manure spreading is linked to the amount of manure actually collected, and therefore that needs to be land-spread. Additional factors affecting manure management included; the presence of manure storage; labor availability and machinery capacity for manure spreading; variations in the manure 'spreading window', or days that manure can be spread given regional differences in weather and soil conditions; and distances between where manure is produced and fields where manure is applied. A novel test was developed for measuring and managing potential P loss from dairy cattle feces (Dou et al., 2007). Based on experimental data with samples originated from commercial dairies, combined with knowledge of P metabolism and partitioning in dairy cows, we found that excess P intake by the animal leads to greater amounts of bioavailable but unabsorbed P which is excreted in feces. Additional work using extensive farm data (n = 575 from > 90 farms) further support the findings, as fecal extract P in 0.1% HCl was responsive to dietary P changes while the remaining P fraction in feces was not (Dou et al., 2009). We identified a provisional benchmark, fecal extract P of 4.75 g/kg, to represent near adequate P status. A Western SARE grant funded some development work on locally-produced organic protein sources. A feeding trial evaluated: 1. acceptability of minimal processed field peas and Oregon grown soybeans to dairy cattle, and 2. milk production and intake of a total mixed ration (TMR) when these proteins replaced the entire conventional protein supplement. The results showed it can be profitable to grow soybeans and field peas organically in the West. High sugar forage grasses were evaluated as a way to use dietary nitrogen more effectively and improve milk production efficiency. Cool season grasses selected for higher non-structural carbohydrate resulted in higher dry matter intakes. However, there was no difference in milk production.

Manure and Soil Components - (LA, MA, WI)
In the nutrient cycle, livestock manure returned to the soil contributes to soil fertility reserves, plant production, or loss to surface and ground water. The end-of-season loss of nitrogen from carryover from the harvested corn crop and fall application of manure is a nutrient loss gap ignored in most nutrient management plans because of the focus on optimum nutrient needs of the main summer crop. Research conducted in support of the goals of this project demonstrated that much nitrogen could be conserved by early planting of cover crops. Without an effective cover crop, any soluble nitrogen (nitrate) is lost in leaching. Effective (early planted) cover crops also reduce phosphorus runoff losses. A replicated set of biological treatment systems (anaerobic lagoons - aerobic lagoons - constructed wetlands) was used to test the modular application of technologies to identify tools and practices that can enhance dairy parlor wastewater treatment for grazing operations. Among 20 water quality characteristics studied, efficiency of contaminant removal was highest (removal rates e 67%) for COD, TSS, TKN, NH3-N, SO4, and log of ECC. Influent TKN concentrations were around 110 mg/L and the removal rate was higher than 85%. Escherichia coli count was reduced by 4.5 orders of magnitude from 6.65 log MPN/100mL at the inlet. Sequential anaerobic-aerobic-wetland wastewater treatment design could be a viable alternative for dairy wastewater contaminant abatement in Louisiana. Greenhouse and field trials were conducted to evaluate relationships between lactating dairy cow diets, manure nutrients and nutrient loss via ammonia volatilization, nitrate leaching and crop uptake. We discovered critical relationships between (1) herd size, cropland/pasture areas, and a farm's ability to recycle manure nutrients through crops/pastures (Saam et al., 2005), and (2) farm size, housing, herd management and the amounts of manure collected and recycled through cropland/pasture (Powell et al., 2005). A long-term field trial in Wisconsin discovered that corralling dairy cattle in fields between cropping periods captures and recycles more manure nutrients and increases yields substantially, often for 2-3 years, saves fertilizer costs, and requires less labor than conventional confinement systems whereby manure is hauled, and most urine N is lost from barns (Powell and Russelle, 2009). Pasture and Grazing - (MA, PA, UT, VT)
Too often pasture management has been lacking on many dairy and beef farms. The Integrated Farming System Model (IFSM) was used to simulate the performance, costs and returns of five types of pasture with stand lives of 3, 5, or 10 years on a representative 100-cow dairy farm (Sanderson et al., 2006). Four species mixtures (two, three, six, or nine species of grasses, legumes, and chicory) and nitrogen fertilized orchardgrass with a 10-year stand life were compared. Planting grass-legume or grass-legume-chicory mixtures increased net returns per cow compared with the orchardgrass pasture by $57/cow for the two-species mixture and up to $191/cow for the six-species mixture with a 3-year stand life. With a longer stand life, savings were from $136 to $246/cow. Many producers in the Intermountain West are facing curtailments and restrictions in public land for livestock grazing. To meet these challenges, producers need to find highly productive, cost-effective forage production methods that are environmentally safe. Grazing systems that extend the season beyond the standard growing season, such as deferred or stockpiled grazing, reduce the need for harvested feed resulting in significant reductions in machinery and labor costs. However, with the economic benefits of extending the grazing season come additional environmental concerns. Plant growth is minimal in the late fall and early spring which severely limits utilization of nutrients in the animal waste. In addition, snow melt and early spring rainfall events may flush many of the nutrients past the root zone. Excess nitrogen and phosphorus can result in groundwater contamination and eutrophication. Funding was obtained to initiate in three states (MA, PA, VT) the evaluation of 25-28 pasture blends under intense rotational grazing with beef cattle. The project was in direct response to a farmer's question of why little information is available on pasture varieties while much is stated concerning suitable pasture species. This project is in the second grazing season at all sites and will continue in the new project.

Integration and Modeling - (PA, WA)
Simulation of farm production systems, supported by case study farm data, was used to compare economic benefits and environmental impacts of organic and conventional practices (Rotz et al., 2007; 2008). Production systems using 1) all grass production, a spring calving herd, and outwintering of animals or 2) crop production, supplemental grazing, random calving, and winter confinement both showed good economic benefit for organic relative to conventional practices. Environmental concerns for organic production were 1) long-term accumulation of soil nutrients (up to 25 kg/ha per year of soil phosphorus) due to the importing of poultry manure for crop fertilization and 2) three times greater soil erosion and twice the amount of phosphorus runoff loss due to greater use of tillage for weed control. The economic benefit may encourage more grass-based dairy producers to transition to organic certification, so more attention must be given to strategies that better utilize farm nutrients and reduce losses to the environment. Concern over greenhouse gas emissions and their potential impact on global climate has grown rapidly in the US over the past few years. Livestock agriculture is recognized as an important emitter of these gases, but little quantitative data exist on emission rates and the effect of management on these emissions. Simple process-level relationships were integrated in the development of a comprehensive model for predicting all important sinks and emission sources to determine a whole-farm carbon balance and an estimate of the net farm emission of greenhouse gas. Relationships were used to track carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide flows during crop production, from the animals and from manure on the barn floor, during storage and following land application (Chianese et al., 2009a, 2009b, 2009c). These relationships were added to the Integrated Farm System Model to predict net greenhouse gas emissions along with nitrogen and phosphorus losses and the overall performance and economics of farm production systems. The Dairy Greenhouse Gas Model (DairyGHG) was developed to provide an easy to use software tool for estimating greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon footprint of dairy production systems (Rotz and Chianese, 2009). DairyGHG uses a relatively simple process-based model to predict the primary greenhouse gas emissions from the production system, which include the net emission of carbon dioxide plus all emissions of methane and nitrous oxide. A carbon footprint is calculated as the sum of the primary and secondary emissions in carbon dioxide equivalent units divided by the milk produced. A new tool was developed in Washington (Feed Nutrient Management Planner Economics (FNMP$) tool) which links feed management and whole farm nutrient management and allows estimates of manure volume and nutrient content, land requirements for agronomic utilization of manure nutrients, labor and land application equipment time requirements and travel distance of manure hauling, the costs associated with land application, the potential nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient value of manure, and the costs associated with feed changes.


  1. Characterize and develop management practices to reduce GHG emissions and transport of nutrients, pathogens, pharmaceuticals, and VOCs from livestock production systems.
  2. Enhance productivity and optimize nutrient use efficiency by dairy and beef cattle.
  3. Evaluate the comparative attributes of grazing, organic and conventional management systems, focusing on profitability and stewardship.
  4. Develop science-based tools and educational materials to promote environmental stewardship on US dairy and beef industries.


General Approach - Data from field and university studies (project collaborators will conduct lactation and growth trials, on farm research, field plot work, and laboratory experiments in major dairy regions of the US) will provide the basis for site-specific (state) recommendations. Results of the research from individual states become critical input to the development of dairy system models. The models are valuable to understand and apply information and technology that will enhance the productivity, economic viability, and environmental performance of the US dairy and beef industries. Objective 1. Characterize and develop management practices to reduce GHG emissions and transport of nutrients, pathogens, pharmaceuticals, and VOCs from livestock production systems. (Capper, Dou, Harrison, Herbert, Moriera, Miller, Muck, Powell, Rotz, Wattiaux) A whole farm simulation model (Integrated Farm System Model or IFSM), developed and applied in previous work of the previous project, will be expanded and refined as needed to address emerging issues related to gaseous emissions and nutrient management. Research data from participating research locations will be integrated and relationships will be developed and incorporated into the farm model to refine existing components for predicting ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions and to add new components for hydrogen sulfide and VOC emissions and carbon sequestration. Relationships will be developed for VOC losses from silage storage, and existing components of IFSM for predicting phosphorus and nitrogen losses will also be refined as new information becomes available. Current plans include 1) quantifying the carbon footprint of beef production systems; 2) evaluating mitigation techniques for reducing air emissions, such as the use of manure digesters; 3) evaluating improved pasture quality through forage species diversity; 4) enhancing carbon sequestration through the use of managed rotational grazing systems; 5) improving nutrient use and reducing loss to the environment through alternative manure application technologies; and 6) incorporating bioenergy crops and other renewable energy systems in existing or novel farming systems. A second deterministic model described in Capper et al (2008; 2009) based on the NRC (2001) nutrient requirements for dairy cows will be further developed and expanded. This expansion will allow the effects of differing management practices and production system characteristics to be quantified and will provide solid data as to the areas where producers can make the greatest improvement in their environmental impact. The model will also be expanded and revised to be applicable to the beef production system used within the US. The system boundaries for this model will encompass the entire animal component (cow-calf, stocker and feedlot) as well as the production and transport of feed, and the transport of animals between system components. The beef model will be founded upon NRC (2000) and will be used to evaluate the environmental impact of removing growth-enhancing technologies that are currently used to improve productivity from the US beef industry. Livestock and manure from animal feeding operations are important sources of undesirable gaseous emissions including ammonia (NH3), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). So far, these airborne gas species have been quantified individually, but there is a need to study them simultaneously. Several states will be conducting studies related to the volatilization of these gaseous emissions from manure. This includes experiments to examine 15N (i.e., the change in natural abundance of 14N and 15N) as a quantitative tool to predict volatilization of NH3 from stored manure; nutrient transfer and loss from animal holding areas; alternative strategies for NH3 conservation with manure application in the fall; the transformation of nutrients and fate of pathogens in manure as affected by anaerobic digestion and anaerobic-aerobic lagoon treatment of dairy manure; and experiments to simultaneously measure the impact of diet formulation on the emission of - and trade-offs between - NH3, CH4 and N2O. One alternative strategies for nutrient conservation with fall applied dairy manure is to delay manure application until fall temperatures have dropped when ammonia volatilization may be reduced. This option needs testing and could led to conservation of nitrogen over winter by involving it with an earlier fall planted cover crop. Ammonia loss also needs evaluating when manure application is combined with the new method of partial incorporation using the Aerway tillage tool. In a another experiment, conventional tillage and minimum tillage will be evaluated as to their effect on mineralization of nitrogen and its contribution to shallow ground water nitrate. Ammonia emissions from manure treatment facilities may represent a major fraction of nitrogen losses. Nitrogen removal rates in a three-stage wastewater treatment system (anaerobic lagoon-aerobic lagoon-constructed wetland) ranged between 80 and 90%, and phosphorus removal reached 50 to 60% of the inflow concentration. However, significant amounts of organic nitrogen and phosphorus still reach the systems effluent. We propose to determine the forms of nitrogen that are lost to the atmosphere and the forms of nitrogen and phosphorus that are reaching the effluent. We intend to develop procedures to further enhance nutrient removal in a wastewater treatment system. A method to intensify anaerobic treatment is to partially cover anaerobic lagoons with floating islands of plants. The floating islands will be used to grow plants species selected to maximize nutrient extraction from wastewater. Nutrient transformation and fate of pathogens in manure will be further evaluated with anaerobic digestion and method of application of dairy manure. Grass uptake of nitrogen will be characterized in replicated field plots as affected by source of dairy manure (anaerobically digested (AD) or non-AD manure) and type of application (broadcast or subsurface deposition). In addition, emission of nitrous oxide will be determined as affected by manure source (AD or non-AD manure). Pathogen fate and transport will be characterized as affected by manure type (AD or non-AD manure) in replicated plots where runoff from natural rain events will be monitored and sampled. It has been known that E. coli O157:H7 and multidrug resistant Salmonella Newport have established reservoirs in dairy cattle. We will study the survival and transport behavior of these pathogens under various conditions and to understand how environmental parameters may affect, and subsequently be manipulated to alter their fate in the post-shed environment. Specifically, we will investigate the survival kinetics of the organisms in manure and manured soils under different treatment conditions. On both confinement and grazing dairy farms manure buildup in outside cattle holding areas can greatly increase manure nutrient loss and therefore reduce the amount of manure nutrients available for recycling (Powell et al., 2005; Gourley et al., 2007). Also, condensed tannins in birdsfoot trefoil (BFT) and sainfoin have a demonstrated ability to increase whole farm nitrogen use efficiency. For nutrient transfer in barnyards we will use 6 x 6-m holding areas of 3 surface types (soil, sand, and bark mulch) to quantify nutrient movement in runoff, leachate, and gas emissions. For the effect of condensed tannins on nutrient cycling in grazing systems as in the Intermountain West, tall fescue, tall fescue with sainfoin, and tall fescue with BFT plots will be established and grazed using management intensive rotational grazing. Nutrients in the soil, leachate, and air will be monitored. Objective 2. Enhance productivity and optimize nutrient use efficiency by dairy and beef cattle. (Dou, Ferguson, Knowlton, Muck, Westendorf) The model described by Hill et al. (2008) will be fully parameterized and further tested with data derived from the experimental work. Observed intakes of the P fractions and fluxes of ruminal, ileal, and fecal P fractions and ruminal P fraction pool sizes from experimental work will be used to derive a complete set of parameter estimates for the model. In another study we will work with 10-15 dairy producers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and provide an integrated management program (IMP). IMP consists of three management components that interactively contribute to farm economics, improved farm productivity and reduced N and P losses for a cleaner Bay: (i) Herd Management; (ii) Feeding Management; and (iii) Crop and Manure Management. IMP involves coordinated teamwork of veterinarians, nutritionists, crop and nutrient management specialists, farm economists, and producers themselves. Some of this activity will involve Okara and other byproduct feeds to determine feeding value in livestock diets. This will include determination of digestibility and feeding value, and producer recommendations on proper feeding methods. Nitrogen utilization in dairy cattle can be improved by reducing the amount of soluble non-protein N (NPN) in rations. A principal source is silage. The polyphenol oxidase system in red clover, for example, results in better protein preservation. This system was transferred to genetically modified alfalfa in the previous project. Production of this alfalfa will be increased in order to carry out sheep and then lactating cow trials to confirm improvements in N utilization. Some silage inoculants have improved rumen microbial biomass production in in-vitro analyses, suggesting that increased milk production from inoculated silage is due to increased N efficiency. These results will be confirmed in lactating dairy cow trials comparing inoculated alfalfa silage with untreated and formic acid-treated silages. Results from the genetically modified alfalfa and inoculant studies will be used to improve IFSM's ability to predict N utilization of silages by cattle. Objective 3. Evaluate the comparative attributes of grazing, organic and conventional management systems, focusing on profitability and stewardship. (Combs, Gamroth, Herbert, Powell, Rotz) The Integrated Farm System Model will be refined to include new information for predicting the effect of atmospheric CO2 level on crop productivity. Weather data for climate scenarios projected for the end of the century will be obtained from climate models and formatted for use in IFSM. Various production systems will be simulated using projected future climate and atmospheric scenarios. Three universities have launched a four-year study that will examine the impact that organic and conventional management practices have on the health of cows on 300 dairy farms in New York, Oregon and Wisconsin. Researchers aim to find correlations between management practices, incidences of diseases and the amount of milk produced. They will then use the data to develop recommendations for keeping dairy cows healthy while optimizing income and the quality of the milk. The production of high-quality grass forages for dairy cattle is essential for the profitability of beef ranches and dairies. The evaluation of 25-28 pasture blends under intense rotational grazing with beef cattle will be continued in three states (MA, PA, VT). Further objectives of future research in other states are: 1) Identify differences in milk production between a high TNC and an average TNC grass ingested by grazing; 2) Identify differences in rumen pH, ammonia, volatile fatty acid profiles and intake and milk production between a high TNC and an average TNC grass; and 3) Measure nitrogen removal prior to winter. For dairy farms high quality grass silages could be a good fit in diets formulated with high quality corn silage and alfalfa because grasses are high yielding forages that contain moderate concentrations of fiber (NDF) and low concentrations of non fiber carbohydrate (NFC). Addition of grasses to diets containing high quality corn silage/alfalfa will increase intake of digestible fiber and reduce consumption of NFC. The inclusion of grass into traditional corn silage/alfalfa forage systems also increases annual forage yields and provides flexibility in cropping and manure management systems. Organic farms may have additional economic, production and environmental challenges when growing or purchasing supplemental feeds for grazing dairy herds. We will investigate the impacts of pasture supplementation decisions made on organic and conventional grazing dairies. We will (1) Identify farm level factors contributing to pasture supplementation decisions on organic and comparable conventional dairy grazing farms; (2) Evaluate economic, production, and environmental outcomes of pasture supplementation strategies; and (3) Create decision support aids and consult one-to-one with participating farms on research results to assess long-term production, economic, and environmental sustainability. Objective 4. Develop science-based tools and educational materials to promote environmental stewardship on US dairy and beef industries. (Capper, Ferguson, Harrison, Herbert, Murphy, Powell, Randhir, Rotz, Westendorf, Westra) Nutrient use efficiency can be broadly defined as the relative amount of feed, fertilizer and/or manure nutrient inputs that are incorporated into milk, crops/pasture or other outputs. In this regional project we will continue to develop tools that can be used to provide snap-shot assessments of feed, fertilizer, and manure use on dairy farms in various settings. At present there are few software models available to the producer that quantify the relative environmental impacts of making changes in management practices or system characteristics. The deterministic model used to quantify the environmental impact of dairy production as described in Capper et al (2008; 2009) is currently based in Microsoft Excel and used as a research tool. At present the model is capable of determining the environmental impact of a single production system at each model run, but will be further developed and expanded to allow the comparison of multiple systems/management changes at one time and to be easily used by dairy producers. To this end, the model will be revised to include more data relating to cropping/agronomy practices, to integrate with ration formulation programs that will allow transfer of data without relying on manual input, and multiple investigators will work with programmers to begin the transformation of the current model from an excel-based research tool into a simple software program. The Feed Nutrient Management Planning Economics Tool (FNMP$) will be refined to include the following: a) addition of dairy manure handling systems that include liquid-solids separation, sand bedding and sand separation; b) more accurate estimates of nutrient and solids flows and transformations in beef feedlot systems; c) feed management factors into tool function that can affect nutrient losses; d) adding additional crops, nutrients, and revised nutrient estimates; e) adding micronutrients such as magnesium, sulfur, and others that create added value for off farm transport; f) effect of rainfall and on-farm water management on manure volume; g) multiple cropping systems on a given field within a year ; h) varied Field by field management with respect to P or N nutrient management planning; i) an irrigation option; j) updated equipment prices; k) providing a version of the tool on-line for remote use, l) adding file sharing and storage options, and m) modifying options for off farm transport, haul only cost versus haul and spread. Also, a Cover Crops Planting Date Web-Tool for Fall growth of rye cover crops will be developed based on Fall growing degree day (GDD) accumulations. In the previous project GDD accumulation for cover crops was directly correlated with nitrate loss over winter. This model will then be used to develop regional GDD maps as a tool for farmers to estimate the ideal time for seeding cover crops. For the decision support tools (FNMP$ and Cover Crops Planting Date Web-Tool), a Multi-Criteria Decision Support Tool framework (Alary et al., 2008) will be developed, in combination with IFSM simulations, to help tool users understand trade-offs associated with achieving more than one farming objective simultaneously. Results from analyses will provide a relevant basis for discussions between producers and regulators about the best ways to mitigate environmental impacts without jeopardizing the economic viability of dairy and beef farming systems. Details from these models and farm tools will be used in further development of nutrient management planning for use on livestock farms. Such programs will be adapted to other states and other uses planned. Also, an existing software tool (Dairy Greenhouse Gas Model or DairyGHG) will be expanded to include the prediction of other important emissions from dairy farms. Refinements may also be made to the existing GHG components as new data and information become available. This will lead to the creation of a new software tool (Dairy Gas Emissions Model or DairyGEM). The goal in this development is to have a relatively simple tool for estimating dairy farm emissions and the effect of implementing emission reduction strategies. In a survey of nutritionists attending a conference the following questions were asked: 1) Does the 2001 NRC list degradable and undegradable proteins for feedstuffs as it did in its previous publication? 2) Can a user calculate these protein fractions for a feed source? 3) How different is the utilization of undegradable protein digestibility between the new and the previous NRC? 4) What is metabolizable protein? 5) How does the new NRC address amino acids? Only 5% of the respondents provided all correct answers. Until the demonstration of actions associated with the new information is observed, the individual cannot be said to have learned or adopted the new knowledge. Adoption of knowledge progresses through stages: 1) intelligibility, clear perception of new information; 2) credibility, new information "defeats the defeators", i.e. perceived knowledge which opposes the new information (e.g. low P causes cystic ovaries); 3) plausibility, the user can contextualize the new information, i.e. they see how to use it; 4) acceptance, new information is adopted and applied. Workshops need to ensure attendees understand the science, but most importantly, workshops need to be designed to "defeat the defeators" in order to progress to plausibility and adoption. Plausibility can be achieved through use of ration formulation software and approaches to feed testing. However, this cannot be accomplished until the defeators are dealt with. We feel significant "defeators" are concepts associated with P availability in forages, P effects on reproduction, N digestion and MCP synthesis, and the need for safety margins in diets.

Measurement of Progress and Results


  • Systems models, IFSM, Capper Model, publications (peer reviewed, fact sheets, case studies, newsletters, field days), feeding and management recommendations
  • Refined methods to estimate P availability on dairy farms, techniques to improve nitrogen utilization from silages, standardized approach to assess dietary N & P use efficiencies, publications
  • Comparison of profitability and environmental sustainability of conventional, organic, and grazing based systems, publications
  • Education programs/models, tools, promoting environmental stewardship on farms, publications, webcasts

Outcomes or Projected Impacts

  • Reduce gaseous emissions and transport of nutrients, pathogens, pharmaceuticals
  • More effective N & P use as determined by nutritionists, reduced environmental loss of N & P
  • Improved animal care and health, improved profitability through strategic use of forages and supplements
  • Informed management decisions, Informed policy decisions, more economically viable and sustainable operations


(2011): Complete P availability work

(2012): Complete initial research for gaseous model development

(2013): Complete model development

(2014): Complete animal feeding trials on N use efficiency

(2015): Model validation and refinement, Conduct workshops, field demonstrations, and web casts

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Outreach Plan

The proposed research will help integrate current research in agricultural science so that farms can be managed in a cost effective way to reduce negative environmental effects. Software will be developed from this research allowing widespread and rapid use of findings in the field. The software developed in one or more states could also be refined for use in other states. In addition, the research will assist with development of technology transfer and incentive programs that target the most effective programs. It potentially will be used by agricultural scientists to focus their research efforts on priority areas. In essence, the proposed research will identify low cost and effective methods for reducing nutrient losses from farms in addition to current management strategies. The software and other publications generated in the proposed work will be useful to farmers, educators, policy makers, regulators, commodity groups, politicians, and other researchers. The information will aid farmers as they make strategic plans for crop production and manure management. Extension specialists will obtain useful information for extension workshops and other forms of teaching or consulting with farmers on issues related to grazing, manure management and cropping systems. The results will provide a better understanding of the costs, benefits and potential impact of legislation on the dairy and beef industries. The process of developing these tools will also help direct other research by pointing out information gaps and critical areas of need for further research. The completed software tools may also provide an aid for teaching the principles of crop and manure management and their interaction with crop harvest, storage and use on dairy farms.


The voting membership of the technical committee consists of a technical representative from each participating USDA lab or state agricultural experiment station (SAES) as designated by the SAES director. Non-voting members include the regional administrative adviser, the NIFA representative, and additional representatives from participating SAES and USDA labs. All voting members are eligible to hold an office on the technical committee. These officers are the chair and the secretary. The chair, in consultation with the administrative advisor, notifies the technical committee members of the time and place of meetings, prepares the agenda, and presides at the annual meeting of the technical committee. The chair also prepares the annual report of the regional project. The secretary records and distributes the minutes of the technical committee meeting. A new secretary is elected at the annual meeting of the technical committee and succeeds the chair at the time the annual report is filed with the administrative advisor.

Literature Cited

Alary, V., M. Gousseff, and U. B. Nidumolu. 2008. Comparison of multi-criteria decision models to approach the trade-off between environmental sustainability and economic viability - a case of nitrogen balance in dairy farming systems in Reunion Island. J. Agric. Sci. 146:389-402.

Capper, J. L., E. Castañeda-Gutiérrez, R. A. Cady, and D. E. Bauman. 2008. The environmental impact of recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST) use in dairy production. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105: 9668-9673.

Capper, J. L., E. Castañeda-Gutiérrez, R. A. Cady, and D. E. Bauman. 2008. The environmental impact of recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST) use in dairy production. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105: 9668-9673.

Capper, J. L., R. A. Cady, and D. E. Bauman. 2009. The environmental impact of dairy production: 1944 compared with 2007. Journal of Animal Science 87: 2160-2167.

Capper, J. L., R. A. Cady, and D. E. Bauman. 2009. The environmental impact of dairy production: 1944 compared with 2007. Journal of Animal Science 87: 2160-2167.

Dou, Z., C. F. Ramberg, L. Chapuis-Lardy, J. Fiorini, J.D. Toth, J.D. Ferguson. A novel spproach for measuring and managing potential phosphorus loss from dairy cattle feces. Environ Sci. Tech. 41:4361-4366, 2007.

Dou, Z., C. Ramberg, J.D. Toth, J. Ferguson, R. Kohn, K. Knowlton, L. Chase, Z. Wu. A fecal test for assessing P overfeeding: Evaluation using extensive farm dataset. J. Dairy Sci. (in press).

Dou, Z., C.R. Chen, C. F. Ramberg, J.D. Toth, Y. Wang, A.N. Sharpley, S.E. Boyd, D. Williams, and Z.H. Hu. Phosphorus speciation and sorption-desorption characterisitcs in heavily manured soils. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 73:93-101, 2009.

He, Z., C.W. Honeycutt, T.S. Griffin, B.J. Cade-Menun, P.J. Pellechia, and Z. Dou. Phosphorus forms in conventional and organic dairy manure identified by solution and solid state P-31 NMR spectroscopy. J. Environ. Qual. 38:1909-1918. 2009.

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