Nitrogen and Phosphorus Use Efficiencies in Dairy Production in China

Z.H. Bai, L. Ma, O. Oenema, Q. Chen, F.S. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Milk production has greatly increased in China recently, with significant impacts on the cycling of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). However, nutrient flows within the changing dairy production system are not well quantified. The aim of this study was to increase the quantitative understanding of N and P cycling and utilization in dairy production through database development and simulation modeling. In 2010, of the entire 1987 and 346 thousand tons (Gg) of N and P input, only 188 Gg N and 31 Gg P ended up in milk. The average N and P use efficiencies were 24 and 25%, respectively, at the whole system level. Efficiencies differed significantly between the four dairy systems. Losses of N from these systems occurred via NH3 volatilization (33%), discharge (27%), denitrification (24%), NO3 leaching and runoff (16%), and N2O emission (1%). Industrial feedlots use less feed per kg milk produced than traditional systems, and rely more on high-quality feed from fertilized cropland; they have very poor recycling of manure nutrients to cropland. As industrial feedlot systems are booming, overall mean N and P use efficiencies will increase at herd level but will decrease at the whole dairy production system level unless manure N and P are used more efficiently through reconnecting China's feed and dairy production sectors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)990-1001
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • nutrient flows
  • farming system
  • food-chain
  • management
  • agriculture
  • losses
  • feed
  • performance
  • industry

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