Dairy Nutrition and Water Quality

How can nutrient levels in the manure and urine of dairy cows be reduced?

Nutritional and feed-management strategies called precision feeding are the best and most efficient solutions to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous excreted.

What is precision feeding?

Precision feeding is formulating the ration to meet the nutritional requirements of dairy cows, especially for protein and phosphorus, and to properly implement the ration to the cows. This can be accomplished by:

  • Analyzing forages and grains for their nutrient content
  • Balancing rations at 100 to 110 percent of requirement when possible
  • When feasible, grouping cows and formulating diets for their specific nutritional requirements

What are the benefits of precision feeding?

  • Precision feeding can significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus released into the environment.
  • Precision feeding can reduce feed costs, improve feed efficiency and animal performance.

What tools are available for monitoring the effectiveness of precision feeding?

Milk Urea-Nitrogen (MUN) is a good indicator of nitrogen utilization and excretion. Most dairy co-ops as well as the Dairy Herd Information Association (DHIA) conduct MUN analysis.

Feed Management Program

Feed management plans are written and monitored by certified feed management specialists. In the plan, whole-farm nutrient imbalances, nutrient buildup, and feed efficiency can be addressed. This is particularly important for producers who do not have enough land to apply manure. Ask your feed company for more information on using precision feeding. This practice qualifies for EQIP.