Reducing nitrogen excretion on Dutch dairy farms
In February 2019, the minister for agriculture in the Netherlands, Carola Schouten, called for the country’s dairy industry to come up with measures to enable lower nitrogen excretion and to avoid surpassing the upper limits imposed by the EU Commission.
She said the dairy farming sector is underperforming.
Nitrogen is more difficult to control than phosphorus levels, due to the gaseous losses and external influences, factors such as weather conditions, the type and quality of forage used on the individual farms, the soil on that farm, and how a dairy holding is run, Henk Flipsen, director of the Dutch feed trade group, Nevedi, told us.
Recent culling helped the dairy sector in the Netherlands to meet the phosphate reduction targets, but a decrease in nitrogen output will require another line of attack: “The nitrogen issue is not just about how many cows a farm has. It has much more to do with farm management, so it is more complicated [than phosphate reduction]," continued Flipsen.
A Dutch dairy industry collaborative approach is favoring knowledge dissemination so the dairy farmer is clear about what is going on and what possibilities they have to reduce nitrogen excretion at the individual farm level.
It involves letting farmers know of the existence of a sectoral ceiling and explaining the consequences of exceeding it. The stakeholders want to instigate a total approach to feed and management that will lead, ultimately, to an optimal ratio of protein and energy at the ration level.