Implementation of Improved Nutrient Requirement and Supply Predictions to Reduce the Environmental Impact of Dairy Production in the Northeast US

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2023: $150,000.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2025
Grant Recipient: Cornell University
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Dr. Mike Van Amburgh
Cornell University

Information Products


  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: feed formulation, feed management, feed rations, feed/forage, manure management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, technical assistance, workshop

    Proposal abstract:

    Problem or Opportunity and Justification

    Efforts from dairy producers, due in part to improved regulations, policies, and programs, have made remarkable progress towards achieving Net Zero Emissions and moving closer to carbon neutrality, yet opportunities remain.  The excretion of excessive nitrogen from cattle manure presents challenges when trying to minimize nitrogen volatilization and runoff in cropland and should be managed by feeding diets that are more precise in their nitrogen supply, particularly in the form of protein and amino acids, relative to described cattle requirements.  Results of this precision feeding are manyfold but allow for farmers to become better environmental stewards through a reduction in nitrogen excretion and improve farmer profitability by reducing excessive nitrogen feeds, dropping purchased feed cost while at least maintaining milk production and thereby improving profitability.

    Solution and Approach

    Dietary formulation models allow nutritionists to accurately quantify the supply of various nutrients in a diet so that they appropriately reconcile with the requirements of the cattle described.  The CNCPS is a licensed invention of Cornell University and through various commercial software, it is used to formulate diets for about 70% of the dairy cattle in the Northeast US.  With recently integrated updates to the CNCPS, diets can be formulated with a dietary crude protein as low as 14.5% of dry matter through nitrogen and amino acid balancing, reducing nitrogen excretion by up to 30% and maintaining the productivity of cattle fed.  The model uses similar inputs as previous versions but makes use of more recently published data to update mathematical equations that more accurately reflect the biological processes which describe the nitrogen transactions within the animal.  With these changes, we seek to provide robust training materials, in the form of workshops, factsheets, user guides and case studies for dairy nutritionists so that they can maximize their potential to formulate diets which minimize excess nitrogen excreted, provide sustainable productivity in cattle, and improve profitability through a reduction in feed costs.  This project will be an iterative process, as we hope to provide training, seek feedback from participants and update our guidelines to reflect the updated boundaries for nitrogen and amino acid feeding.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Using participation metrics from previous training, we anticipate 65 nutritionists from the NE SARE region will take action to educate themselves and advise farmers on reducing nitrogen feeding through improved formulation techniques and the use of CNCPS model updates.  We will produce training material via workshops, user guides, and case study resources that will provide nutritionists with the knowledge of improved dietary formulation techniques on dairies and would result in a minimum of a 10% and up to 30% reduction in nitrogen (N) excretion into the environment depending on the dairy and forages available.  All resources will be publicly accessible to improve exposure and adoption of these practices.  Within the NESARE region, we expect 30 nutritionists residing in New York, 20 in Pennsylvania and 15 in Vermont will work with 1,600 farms and 260,000 cattle to adopt the updated CNCPS to formulate diets and optimize nitrogen and amino acid supply. We anticipate a reduction in N excretion between 70 and 110 grams per day. Conservatively, this is a reduction of 14,300 tons of N per year, equivalent to 182,300 tons of soybean meal worth $72M

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.