University of Vermont


The Vermont Dairy Farm Sustainability Project  

Hay Harvest Cows Feeding Lake Carmi
The Vermont Dairy Farm Sustainability Project:
A Collaboration to Improve Whole-Farm Nutrient Management

Dairy farms in the Northeast typically show annual accumulation of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), which may contribute to water quality degradation. The Vermont Dairy Farm Sustainability Project (VDFSP) was an innovative, collaborative effort that brought together various dairy industry representatives, along with university extension, to address water quality and economic issues through an integrated animal-crop enterprise approach. Participants, in addition to the farmers themselves, included a dairy processing company, a dairy cooperative, feed and fertilizer suppliers, crop and feed consultants, and university Extension. The project was supported by funding from Ben and Jerry's, NE-SARE (USDA), the Ben and Jerry's Foundation, and the Windham Foundation.

The project objectives were to:
1) document whole-farm N and P balances/budgets for crop and feed enterprise on eight dairy farms (7 in VT, one in NY)
2) identify and recommend economical N and P balance improvement strategies and practices
3) document impacts of strategies and practices implemented

Data were collected pre- and post-implementation to assess N and P balance and to recommend and evaluate improved nutrient management practices. University crop recommendations programs and a dairy nutrition model (Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein System) were used, in combination with manure, forage and soil analyses and measured animal feed intakes, to document baseline conditions, to recommend improvements in animal and crop nutrient management practices, and to evaluate changes post-implementation.

Implemented practices included fertilizer reduction, improved manure management, reduced feed P, and ration manipulation to improve N balance. Seven of eight farms reduced N and/or P accumulation per acre. Results demonstrate improved whole farm N and/or P balance using available feed and crop management tools.  In some cases, significant cost savings were achieved.

Project Activities

Consult with Farmer Field data collection GPS-field
Project Coordinator Greg Weber discusses plans with cooperating farmer and crop advisor Summer intern collects field information for Phosphorus Index. Project Assistant Laura Hanrahan collects GPS data for soil test variability study on project farm.

For More Detailed Information and Data

Project Summary Article

Slide Show (PowerPoint)

Soil Sampling for Soil Test Variability

P Index Results for VDFSP

Final Report (SARE)

Farm Scenes

Corn - barn

Farm - mountains

Other Related Links

Northeast SARE Program

UVM Crops and Soils: Nutrients and Manure 

This site was prepared by Dr. Bill Jokela, former Interim Project Coordinator, currently Research Soil Scientist, USDA-ARS, US Dairy Forage Research Center, Marshfield, WI.

This site is maintained by, Plant & Soil Science Department, University of Vermont.

Sponsored by:

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture. University of Vermont Extension, Burlington, Vermont.University of Vermont Extension and U.S. Department of Agriculture, cooperating, offer education and employment to everyone without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, or marital or familial status

Last modified March 04 2010 10:24 PM

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