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J Dairy Sci. 2002 May;85(5):1218-26.

Dairy herd management practices that impact nitrogen utilization efficiency.

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Department of Animal and Avian Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park 20742, USA.


Improving the efficiency of feed N utilization by dairy cattle is the most effective means to reduce nutrient losses from dairy farms. The objectives of this study were to quantify the impact of different management strategies on the efficiency of feed N utilization for dairy farms in the Chesapeake Bay Drainage Basin. A confidential mail survey was completed in December 1998 by 454 dairy farmers in PA, MD, VA, WV, and DE. Nitrogen intake, urinary and fecal N, and efficiency of feed N utilization was estimated from survey data and milk analysis for each herd. Average efficiency of feed N utilization for milk production by lactating dairy cows (N in milk/N in feed x 100) was 28.4% (SD = 3.9). On average, farmers fed 6.6% more N than recommended by the National Research Council, resulting in a 16% increase in urinary N and a 2.7% increase in fecal N. Use of monthly milk yield and component testing, administration of bovine somatotropin (bST), and extending photoperiod with artificial light each increased efficiency of feed N utilization by 4.2 to 6.9%, while use of a complete feed decreased efficiency by 5.6%. Increased frequency of ration balancing and more frequent forage nutrient testing were associated with higher milk production, but not increased N utilization efficiency. Feeding protein closer to recommendations and increasing production per cow both contributed to improving efficiency of feed N utilization.

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