Precision feed management for improved profitability and environmental stewardship in Yates County NY

2011 Annual Report for LNE11-308

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2011: $69,672.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Dr. Gerald Bertoldo
Cornell University Extension

Precision feed management for improved profitability and environmental stewardship in Yates County NY


This project, commonly referred to as Precision Feeding Management or simply PFM, targets non-Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) designated, small dairy farms ( technically less than 200 adult cows) in Yates County, NY. This represents 258 of 262 of dairy operations in the county. With 200,000 individuals relying on the three local lake-based watersheds to provide drinking water, nutrient management on these small, generally 30-60 milking cow operations is an important presently unregulated opportunity. By working with dairy farms, their nutritionists and veterinarians it has been shown that significant levels of nitrogen and phosphorus can be prevented from entering the environment through animal waste. This is coincidental with greater efficiency of nutrient intake leading to equal or better production and improved profitability.

A combination of local extension, regional dairy specialists and PFM experienced Cornell extension personnel are collaboratively engaged in this work. Preliminary work began in July 2011. After mailings, informational meetings and individual contact, twenty interested producers will have an assessment of their present status using a PFM Benchmark Calculator already developed. Ration formulations, forage analysis, milk indices of intake nitrogen efficiency via milk urea nitrogen, milk production and cow culling will be initially and periodically evaluated as an indicator of progress. Management practices such as forage quality, storage and dry matter, feed bunk management, cow comfort, disease management not directly related to ration formulation will be important discussions brought to the table in the context of the project.

Local forage management field days, pasture management tours and nutrient management workshops will augment value to participating farms. Discussion groups based on PFM experiences will be investigated. Local veterinary practices are interested in including PFM in their newsletters and client meeting agendas. Four workshops are planned in the county at the completion of the project which will report on environmental, economic and livestock impacts.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Performance target:
Twenty dairy farmers in Yates County, NY will successfully adopt precision feed management practices impacting feeding practices on 1,200 mature dairy cattle and increasing milk income over all grain cost, a measure of profitability, by 5 percent or $7,600, while contributing approximately 443,250 pounds less nitrogen and 42,750 pounds less phosphorus to the environment (per CNCPS Model estimates).

Milestones to date:
1. One hundred seventy dairy farmers from Yates County, NY become aware of the Precision Feed Management (PFM) Project via announcements, newsletter articles, press releases, and other audience specific approaches and learn about the purposes, benefits, and next steps of the project. Since Mennonite families operate many dairy farm businesses in Yates County, audience specific approaches will include posters in community specific locations such as farm stores, hardware stores and others, and individual contact with key leaders in the communities to initiate neighbor to neighbor communication about the project (November 2011 originally September 2011).

Many key influencers of these farms were personally contacted via individual meetings and phone conferences prior to a general mailing and posting of project flyers to facilitate the endorsement of the project. Nine nutritionist and seven practitioners from two veterinary clinics were presented with PFM project details and material to be distributed to producers. These individuals represented the majority of their respective industry services in the county (August 2011).

An article in the Yates County Cooperative Extension October newsletter outlined the project. Distribution is to most dairy producers in the county.

A two sided mailer describing the project was mailed to 232 Yates County Mennonite producers. The same flyer was made available to feed representatives and veterinarians and was posted in two well patronized farm supply stores. A reminder postcard was sent three week later. Individual farm visits to 10 farms were made for promotion and suggested strategies for participation (November 2011)

2.Eighty dairy farmers attend one of four, day long, initial PFM meetings. Farmers
•learn that PFM is an approach for using resources more wisely on dairy farms
•learn more about specific PFM practices and tasks
•learn about project expectations. Farmers develop attitudes that PFM is an approach that would lead to wiser uses of resources on their farms, and is worthy of their consideration. Farmers state their intentions to be one of twenty farmers that will continue on with the next steps of the project (December 2011).


Two identical meetings of 2.5 hours each featured cropping strategies, ration component selection in an unusual cropping year and an explanation of PFM with examples of successful applications. We were advised by community leaders that day long meetings would be very difficult for the horse and buggy crowd to attend late in the year. Two of the presenters who have thorough knowledge of
PFM traveled significant distance to attend. A second day of meetings would have been difficult to arrange. There were only 25 attendees comprising 20 producers and 5 feed company representatives. Two producers have committed with others wanting visits to look into their situations (December 2011).


Three of the key project individuals attended a Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein System (CNCPS) seminar. One completed a fall semester course at Cornell with intensive training on CNCPS. This tool will be used for nutrient balance assessment. Updated spreadsheets for the PFM benchmarks were obtained. A one page information synopsis was sent to influencers.
Key nutritionists not involved in the original preproposal development, as well as those that had, were contacted earlier than anticipated. This was a means of not alienating them from the process as word of about the project spread. It appears that a couple of these individuals feel uncomfortable possibly threatened by how they might be judged if significant opportunities for their clients are identified by the project.

The late shelled corn harvest in the region pushed the informational meetings back further than anticipated and the follow up into 2012.
Farm visits prior to the informational meetings were revealing and may explain the turnout. The most talkative and curious individuals are ones that attended the meetings. Many of these may be less distant from project goals than the ones who are most skeptical and shying from attending. It is obvious that an increased focus through Mennonite community leaders and door to door promotion is needed to achieve the participation numbers objective.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

There has been an increased dialogue with some of the PFM meeting attendees when visiting for other reasons. This generally leads to positive conversations about programs or persons working in the community amongst Mennonites at building projects, weddings and church gatherings. It is too early in the process to expect results as detailed assessments and benchmarking have not begun.


Nancy Glazier
Small Farm Specialist
Cornell Cooperative Extension
417 Liberty St.
Penn Yan, NY 14527
Office Phone: 3155365123
Elizabeth Newbold
Sustainable Agriculture Educator
Yates County Cooperative Extension
417 Liberty St.
Penn Yan, NY 14527
Office Phone: 3155365123
Nicole Landers
Executive Director
Yates County Cornell Cooperative Extension
417 Liberty St.
Penn Yan, NY 14527
Office Phone: 3155365123
Bill Verbeten
Field Crops Specialist
NWNY Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops Team
4487 Lake Ave.
Lockport, NY 14094
Office Phone: 7164338839
Dr. Gerald Bertoldo
Senior Extension Associate
Cornell University/Pro-Dairy
420 East Main St.
Batavia, NY 14020-2599
Office Phone: 5853433040