Prospects for minimizing phosphorus excretion in ruminants by dietary manipulation

H. Valk, J.A. Metcalf, P.J.A. Withers

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    78 Citations (Scopus)


    In most intensive dairy farms, P input exceeds output, causing potential P losses to the environment, which results in leaching to ground water and eutrophication. Phosphorus in fertilizer and purchased feeds are the main contributors to P input, whereas milk P is the main output. In the Netherlands, new legislation has been introduced to substantially reduce P surpluses. However, since P is essential for maintenance and milk production, the dietary P supply must be maintained, especially for high-yielding dairy cows. This paper reviews how dairy cow diets can be manipulated to reduce potential P-loss to the environment without negative effects on animal health, feed intake, or milk production. The availability of P in forages, purchased feed, and inorganic phosphate supplements for ruminants may differ substantially and more research work is needed to elucidate the relevant factors influencing feed P availability. There is a lack of understanding of how and to what extent P is absorbed from the small intestine and the relationship to hydrolysis and microbial P utilization in the rumen. Comparing national P requirement systems indicates that the systems used in the UK and Italy should be revised to minimize unnecessary P accumulation in the soil. In addition, the impact of manipulating the dietary P supply to decrease P losses from dairy farming systems is evaluated. Whole farm system studies have illustrated the potential environmental benefits of more closely monitoring imports of purchased feeds onto the farm.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)28-36
    JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2000


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