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The Impact of Feed Management Software on Whole-Farm Nutrient Balance on Virginia Dairy Farms
Stewart, Brittany Allison
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Agricultural runoff is the largest source of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution entering the Chesapeake Bay, contributing 38% of nitrogen and 45% of phosphorus (USEPA, 2010). Since agricultural runoff is the number one contributing source of nitrogen and phosphorus entering the Chesapeake Bay, action needs to be taken to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus on agriculture production facilities, such as dairy farms. The impact of feed management software on whole-farm nutrient balance was studied on 18 dairy farms located in Virginia from 2006 to 2010. Nine farms began using the TMR Tracker feed management software in 2006 and were compared to 9 control farms not using feed management software. Each of the treatment farms were visited on a monthly basis to collect ration and feed ingredient samples and feed management data. Whole-farm nutrient balance was calculated using University of Nebraska software. Herd sizes and crop hectares averaged 314 and 366 for treatment and 298 and 261 for control farms. Milk production averaged 3,226 and 2,650 tonnes per year respectively. Measures of surplus (input-output) and use efficiency (input/output) for nitrogen and phosphorus were analyzed over a four year time span and did not differ between treatment and control farms whether expressed on a per farms, cow or hectare basis. Due to the large variation in feeding accuracy within farms, the use of feed management software did not influence whole-farm nutrient balance. Sources of variation that contributed to loading errors were investigated within the feed management data. Percent load deviation increased over time from 2007 to 2009 from 0.94 Â± 0.53 to 2.37 Â± 0.50 percent of the actual load weight. Effects of month, day of the week and time of day on percent load deviation were not significant. There was no effect of percent load deviation on milk production. No relationship was observed between percent load deviation and whole-farm nutrient balance.
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