The University of Arizona

Economic and environmental impacts of pasture nutrient management.

E. Osei, P.W. Gassman, L.M. Hauck, S. Neitsch, R.D. Jones, J. McNitt, H. Jones


Highly intensive stocking of dairy cattle on continuously grazed pasture coupled with liberal applications of commercial fertilizer can lead to increased losses of agricultural nutrients, which is a concern for water quality of receiving lakes and surface water resources. Integrated economic-environmental model simulations performed for the Lake Fork Reservoir Watershed in northeast Texas indicate that appropriate pasture nutrient management including stocking density adjustments and more efficient commercial fertilizer use could lead to significant reductions in nutrient losses. Soluble and organic P losses were predicted to decline by 54 and 13% relative to baseline conditions when manure P was assumed totally plant available (Low P scenario). The soluble and organic P loss reductions declined to 33 and 7% when only inorganic P was assumed plant available (High P scenario). Simulation of an N-based manure management plan resulted in the smallest predicted soluble and organic P loss reductions of 18 and 3%. Nitrogen loss predictions ranged from a 7% decline to a 1% increase for the 3 scenarios as compared to the baseline. The High P and Low P scenarios resulted in estimated aggregate profit reductions of 6 and 18% relative to the baseline. These profit declines occurred because the dairies had to acquire additional pasture land to accommodate the expanded area required for the P-based scenarios. In contrast, the N-based stocking density and nutrient management scenario resulted in an aggregate profit increase of 3% across all dairies. Variations in economic impacts were also predicted across farm sizes.



farm size;dairy cows;soil nutrient balance;nutrient management;dairy farm management;agricultural runoff;pollution control;simulation models;costs and returns;production costs;fertilizer application;stocking rate;nitrogen;phosphorus;application rate;Texas;grazing

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