Improvement of Dairy Forage and Manure Management to Reduce Environmental Risk
Project Number: 3655-12630-003-00
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.
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.