Efficiency of use of imported nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium and potential for reducing phosphorus imports on Idaho dairy farms

A. N. Hristov, W. Hazen, J. W. Ellsworth

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64 Scopus citations


Eight commercial dairies from south central Idaho were surveyed to estimate the whole-farm surpluses of N, P, and K and to investigate the possibility of reducing P excretions through dietary manipulation. Nitrogen, P, and K imports and exports were monitored in a 12-mo period, and samples from the diets, feeds, feces, urine, and manure were collected at regular farm visits. Soils from manure-amended fields were sampled in the spring and fall. In all cases, the largest import of N, P, and K to the dairy was with purchased feeds. Major nutrient export items were milk and manure and forages, in the case of a dairy with a large land base (dairy F). Whole-farm N surplus varied from 90 to 599 t/yr (91 to 222 kg/yr per cow). The efficiency of use of imported N varied from 25 to 64%, with dairy F having the greatest efficiency of imported N use. Phosphorus and K surpluses were also significant (average of 29 and 182 t/yr and 12 and 76 kg per cow per year, respectively). During the study period, dairy F was a net exporter of K. The average efficiency of use of imported P and K was 66 and 58%, respectively. Soil P levels in the 30-cm layer were above state threshold standards, most likely from overapplication of manure. Soil nitrate-N concentrations were also high, but K concentrations were within the accepted range. Average P content of the lactating cow diets at the start of the study was 0.49% and was reduced to 0.38%. The estimated reduction in imported P due to the reduced dietary P levels was from 5.7 to 61.4 t/yr per farm, or on average 12 kg per cow per year. This study demonstrated that in addition to exports with milk and manure, export of nutrients with forages produced on the farm (dairy F) is a major factor in reducing whole-farm N, P, and K surpluses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3702-3712
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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