Evolution of farm management, nitrogen efficiency and economic performance on Dutch dairy farms reducing external inputs

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Abstract

The implementation of the statutory Mineral Accounting System (MINAS) in the Netherlands in the period 1998¿2003 required large reductions in nutrient inputs of dairy farms. Patterns in farm management adjustments throughout 6 years and their effectiveness in terms of nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) and economic performance were evaluated for 45 commercial farms participating in a regional nutrient management project. Six groups of farms were identified that differed in initial NUE and the change therein. Three groups of farms that were able to rapidly reduce fertilizer N input and establish a consistent farm management strategy were most successful in improving NUE. These farms had a higher gross margin per 100 kg milk than farms without a consistent strategy. The three effective strategies were primarily characterized by (i) continuous, gradual adjustment of the integrated farm management combined with a slight reduction in milk production per ha (re-balancing) versus increasing productivity per animal, thereby reducing maintenance N requirements, while (ii) maintaining or (iii) increasing the production intensity per ha. It was concluded that different approaches to improve NUE can be successful, also in economic terms, although a direct relationship between NUE and gross margin was not observed. The probably implicit choice for adoption of a strategy may be governed by farm endowment and the farmer's skills and objectives
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-110
JournalLivestock Science
Volume100
Issue number2-3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Keywords

  • environmental-impact
  • nutrient management
  • element balances
  • netherlands
  • system
  • opportunities
  • agriculture
  • strategies
  • behavior
  • protein

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