Enhancing Dairy Profitability and Reducing Potential Water Pollution Through Lower Dairy Ration Phosphorus Levels

2004 Annual Report for ONE04-029

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2004: $9,633.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Eugene Schurman
Penn State Cooperative Extension

Enhancing Dairy Profitability and Reducing Potential Water Pollution Through Lower Dairy Ration Phosphorus Levels


Recent research has determined that dietary phosphorus levels for lactating dairy cows can be significantly reduced without negatively impacting milk production or reproductive performance. Presently, most dairy rations are being formulated with phosphorus levels higher than recommended by the National Research Council (NRC 2001). Reducing phosphorus levels in Pennsylvania dairy rations to NRC recommendations can provide two benefits: reducing manure phosphorus excretion, thus reducing environmental concerns; and, most importantly, reducing dairy ration costs by $15.00 per cow per with potential saving to Pennsylvania dairy producers of $9 million annually.

While some producers are aware that manure phosphorus levels will decline when feed phosphorus levels are reduced, many are reluctant to reduce their phosphorus feeding for fear of reduced milk production and/or reproductive performance. Change in producer attitudes and practices are often more widely and rapidly accomplished when some from within their group adopt the change and document the desired outcome(s). Fourteen dairy producers from Southwestern Pennsylvania have agreed to cooperate in this project that will show that reducing phosphorus in the dairy ration to revised NRC recommendations will decrease manure excretion and not adversely affect dairy cow performance. This project seeks to accomplish reductions in manure phosphorus levels and improvements in farm income through a well-monitored multi-farm research/demonstration project of the new phosphorus feeding recommendations.

Environmental sustainability will be enhanced when bringing these farms into compliance for the phosphorus-based nutrient management plans. Of even greater interest to the producers involved and to the dairy community at large will be the improvement in the economic sustainability of their individual farms through a reduction in the cost of feeding their cows without a reduction in gross income.

During the two year study, seven of the operations will continue to supplement phosphorus at levels similar to the previous two years (same P) while the other seven will reduce ration phosphorus to NRC recommended levels (reduced P).

Objectives/Performance Targets

Reduce ration phosphorus levels on seven of the fourteen study herds to NRC recommended level.
Milk and component production will be monitored and measured to see if there is significant change with the reduced ration phosphorus level.

Reproductive performance will be monitored to see if there is significant change with the reduced ration phosphorus level.

An economic analysis will be conducted to see if the reduced phosphorus significantly affected feed costs and profitability.


Preliminary sampling of the ration and manure from the 14 farms both confirmed that ration phosphorus levels were .42%, which is .04% above NRC 2001 recommendations.

Average milk production per cow per day was 66.8 Lbs.

Average calving interval was 14.2 months.

This project will continue into 2005 and 2006.


Tom Wallace

Pleasant View Dairy Farm
791 Wrigden Run Road
Marion Center, PA 15759
Office Phone: 7243979117
Brad Neal

Neal Dairy Farm
289 Neal Road
Homer City, PA 15748
Office Phone: 7244793672
Leroy Bergbigler

Bergbigler Dairy Farm
263 Game Reserve Road
Butler, PA 16001
Office Phone: 7242828782
Richard Hartman

Hartman Dairy Farm
2360 Dogwwod Road
Cherry Tree, PA 15724
Office Phone: 8147436254
Bob Graham

Graham Dairy Farm
1695 Rt 259 Hwy
Bolivar, PA 15923
Office Phone: 7242380193
Wayne Frye

Frye Dairy Farm
RR 9 Box 264
Greensburg, PA 15601
Office Phone: 7246682833
Tom McNutt

McNutt Dairy Farm
300 Ross Road
Homer City, PA 15748
Office Phone: 7244793898
George Hartzell

Hartzell Dairy Farm
111 Hartzell Road
Slippery Rock, PA 16057
Office Phone: 7247944743
Kevin George

Dairy Producer
Brookside Dairy Farm
2677 Old Rt. 56 Highway West
Homer City, PA 15748
Office Phone: 7244792822
Rodney Bloom

Oakhill Dairy Farm
2512 Grange Hall Road
Seward, PA 15954
Office Phone: 8144466160
Ronald Learn

Blossom Hollow Farm
353 Blossom Hollow Road
Commodore, PA 15729
Office Phone: 7242549726