QUIRINE KETTERINGS: Thank you. So I hope that at the end of my talk here this afternoon I have you all convinced that nutrient mass balances are not only fairly straightforward and easy to do, but also very useful to do for two main purposes. One, to identify where we have opportunities for improvement in nutrient management on an individual farm, and secondly, to document the tremendous progress that farms already have made and future progress that they're still capable of making as we move forward, as we communicate with nondairy audiences around us that impact our industry.
So I'm going to get started. Let's see right with a really brief introduction to our program. I have been here at Cornell for almost 18 years now. I run the Nutrient Management Spear Program out of the Animal Science department in the College of Ag and Life Sciences, which is a collaboration between me and Karl Czymmek and the PRO-DAIRY program, other PRO-DAIRY colleagues, colleagues in a cooperative extension, and lots of stakeholders in the state of New York as well.
In our program we try to integrate our extension, our research, and our teaching missions all together. And the biggest reason why we do that all together is because we think that we can get the greatest impact if we integrate those missions and work with the industry rather than in a silo in a big building on campus.
So our ultimate goal is impact. We publish. We actually had a record year last year with 20 journal articles that were published out of our program. But that's not the ultimate goal, and I tell everybody in our team that that's the case. We do need to contribute to science. We do need to understand things better. We need to work on that.
But if we want to have impact, it does not stay in the scientific literature. We have to interpret what we are finding and we have to put an extension program together that involves our stakeholders, and that results in changes at the farm level.
So to do that we need to work and integrate those three missions. We need to work with lots of stakeholders in the state of New York. That includes the farmers, that includes the farm advisors, crop advisors, nutritionists. That includes the regulatory agencies and the government agencies in our state as well. And we also have some responsibility towards communicating towards our neighbors, and our general public as well.
We work on scaling issues. We do field work. We do whole farm assessments. We work on watershed levels. All of that is important as well. And of course, we write grants day after day to try to get money to do this.
Dairy industry is important for the state of New York. Everybody knows that in this room. We also have our farms in New York scattered throughout the state. And if you look at where the dots are here, this is the CAFO farms in the state of New York.
And you look at where the water is in the state of New York, you will also realize how important it is to keep our water resources clean. A lot of this water is underground. So some of it is above ground in lakes. These are the reservoirs that supply drinking water, and that we as an industry really need to address and keep as clean as we can keep it.
We also have responsibilities beyond our boundaries. And we are part of the Chesapeake Bay. The top part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed is the bottom part of the state of New York. The Upper Susquehanna Watershed is important. Our contributions need to be taken into account, and we have the responsibility to address some of that for watershed levels. And I'm showing here the Chesapeake Bay, but you can think of the Champlain Valley Watershed, or whatever else that we are part of that we impact with our industry and that we need to work on with our neighbors.
So when we look at improving our environmental footprint, we're looking at some things that we think are really necessary. And one of those things is a focus on management at all system levels and the use of technology to move us forward. It's a big one for us, technology use in agriculture. We want to establish feasible benchmarks that help us make a decision about whether we are in the ballpark or if we have opportunities to make improvements.
And we want to be able to integrate tools that address the whole farm functioning. Not just the individual cow, not just the individual herd group, not just the individual cornfield or alfalfa field, but it cuts across. And it allows us to assess progress, current status as well as progress, and where we can go in the future. So what if scenarios.
We want to create practical solutions. And thankfully, if I talk with some colleagues in other areas, I'm really fortunate to be in New York because we typically have a very progressive farming audience, people that want to think about solutions. We have farm advisors and farm agencies that are progressive, that want to collaborate and be part of this. And of course, it's not everybody, but at least we have, we have those audiences in front of us that we can build those partnerships with. And we have a Land Grant University here at Cornell that supports a position like mine, 70% extension, that allows us to delegate resources towards our land grant mission and address ag and environmental management.
Now we've had indicators on individual aspects of the farm. We had MUNs to assess nitrogen management in the cow ration. We have a cornstalk nitrate test to assess nitrogen levels in a corn plant at the end of the season. Individual indicators, fuel balances, stuff like that.
But what was missing was an integrated that cuts across this, a whole farm integrated system. And lots of organizations were trying to address this in terms of modeling and building models together, which is great. But what we started to look at was something that was really simplistic, and yet very meaningful.
We squeezed the entire dairy farm in a box. That's the black box behind me. And we are looking at nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in this case. We want to build in sulfur and carbon as well, but the starting point was N, P, and K.
And we wanted a tool that could be implemented at the farm level and could tell us something in management aspect. So we're looking at the imports in this farm, and we recognize four imports in the dairy operation is feed, there's fertilizer, and then there might be some animals that are brought onto the farm, or some extraneous materials, for example, bedding material, that are brought across the farm boundary into the farm.
On the other side, we have exports. And since we're talking about dairies, most of the export is milk. There might be some animals leaving the farm, or some crops being sold, or some manure being exported. And if you do a simple calculation between what you import minus what you export, then you get a balance.
And a balance can be shown in two ways. One way is on a per tillable acre basis, which gets us at the environmental footprint per unit land base. The other indicator-- sorry-- that's on here is the per hundredweight of milk indicator, and that is more of an efficiency indicator, so how much nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium do I use to create a certain amount of milk. So two balances.
What we are looking for is a balance that is positive, and positive means simply greater than zero. We are not looking for negative balances because that means we're mining our soil resources over time. Really not desirable for the long term. Maybe for the short term if we start out with incredibly high phosphorus levels, mining is fine for a while, but in the longer term, we can't do that forever.
We are also not looking for extremely positive balances, extremely excessive balances where you export a lot less than you import in terms of N, P, and K. The excess, the extreme excesses that have very high excesses are the ones that lead to annual losses in terms of nitrogen and for phosphorus and potassium to annual buildup in soil test. And for phosphorous we know we can't keep building toward those P levels and expect to stay out of trouble. So we're shooting for a balance that is between zero and some upper level. A positive surplus balance, but not an excessive balance.
First data sets that we had looked something like this. And here we showed a milk production, in this case, kilogram per cow per year. So the 10,000 is roughly around 20,000, 22,000 pounds of milk, and the nitrogen imports and exports. And if you look at the blue, you see the exports of nitrogen per hundredweight of milk.
If you look at the red, you see the imports. And what you will realize right away is that the exports are very stable, but the imports are all over the place. Some farms need one pound to produce 100 pounds of milk extra nitrogen, or import, other farms need three to four pounds of nitrogen for the same amount of milk.
The picture for phosphorous is even larger, or bigger ranges. Here we go from 0.2 all the way up to 1.5 pounds of P per 100 pounds of milk produced. Now if you are one of those farms that is totally at the top in this chart, and you see that your counterparts are producing the same amount of milk with a lot less phosphorus imported, you might start wondering why that is and what you need to do to get there, because most likely, you paid for that difference. So economic sentence, as well as-- incentive, as well as an environmental one.
We worked with a whole bunch of farms and back using a database of 2006, a little over 100 farms, we set feasible balances for N, P, and K for farms in New York based on what the farms were showing us. So farm data from actual dairies in the state of New York. And for nitrogen, the balance we came up with nitrogen per acre was between zero and 105 pounds of N per acre. Phosphorus between zero and 12, and potassium between zero and 37.
Three out of four farms in that database were able to farm below those limits in those regions. If three out of four can do it, the fourth one can probably do it, too. We did some other reasoning behind this as a feasible benchmark, but that's basically what we ended up concluding for this database based on real farming operations in the state of New York. And then we have the balance per hundredweight as well.
Now we put that together in a chart. And in this chart, we show the milk production per acre on the y-axis, and on the-- on the x-axis. On the y-axis, we have the nitrogen balance in this example. So the nitrogen balance between zero and 105. That's the blue box here. That's between zero and 105. Every farm that's on here, every dot that's on here is a farm. All the farms that are in the blue box are meeting the feasible balances for nitrogen per acre.
Now if you look at the two farms that are identified here, you see a red square and a blue dot. The farm in the red square and the blue dot are having the same balance per acre, exact same balance per acre. But the one in the red square is producing a lot less milk per acre than the one in blue.
So if you talk about producing food to sustain a world population, you want to emphasize the direction of the blue farm. It's making better use of their resources. So we look at the pounds per hundredweight balance because of that. And all the farms that are among the 50% most efficient producers in terms of nitrogen use for hundredweight are in the yellow triangle in this figure. The ones in the yellow triangle are the most efficient with their nutrient resources on a per hundredweight basis.
Now if you combine the blue box and the yellow triangle, you get the green box. The green box are the farms that are meeting the feasible balances per acre and per hundredweight. So they are among the most efficient producers, and they have the land base to recycle their nutrients.
Now when we started this, we called this the optimum operational zone. And I still can't-- I've done this for years now-- I still can't pronounce that twice without stumbling over it. So it's really just the green box. We tell people to strive for being in the green box. And we're showing through all the dots on this map that it is feasible. And it's not because I say so. It's because the farms are showing it to each other.
So farms that participate gets report back that shows where they are at for N, P, and K in terms of the green box. And if they participate for multiple years, they are shown the trends over time. So every dot on this chart is a year of participation by this farm in this annual assessment. It's an annual calendar year assessment after the fact.
They also get their trend analysis in terms of the blue rectangle and then the yellow, in this case, rectangle, too. But the balances per acre and the balances per hundredweight. So they can see where they're at. And we will always see does this number go up and down over time because it reflects what happened that year.
It reflects the milk price. That reflects the fertilizer prices. It reflects the weather. So the trends up and down, trends will always be there. But if you look at the longer term trend, you can see where these farms end up with, and they can see what some of their management decisions mean for their ability to cycle nutrients on the farm.
They also get a report with some indicators, efficiency indicators that allows for the farm and the farm advisors to look at these balances and say, OK, if I'm outside of the green box, where are my opportunities for improvement? So things like feed use efficiencies, animal densities, and a whole bunch of indicators. And this list can probably be a lot bigger as we learn more about these balances over time. That's what it is right now.
We want to make sure that these feasible balances are really feasible. Not just one year, but over the longer term. So we've tracked a number of farms for much longer than a couple of years. And they're basically showing us it can be done, they can be balancing in there, and they don't have to give up milk production to do so.
Many of the farms with a longer term track records of keeping those balances are showing that their milk production either stays the same or increases over time. That's under the concept of you measure something, you start managing it better. So they're showing that they can do it.
And there's always, again, the up and downs. Some of you might immediately zoom in on the farm in green that showed a drop in milk production in the last year that's portrayed here. That was the shift away from BST. It had nothing to do with anything else in terms of production efficiency but that.
So if we look for drivers in the mass balances, we have the imports, the exports. Out of the imports and the exports, what is really driving the balances is the imports. So the more you import in terms of feed, the fertilizer, the higher your balances tend to be in a pretty straightforward correlation.
It's specifically the feed out of the imports that's driving things. And you can imagine that that is logic. If you increase your homegrown foragers, you have less feed to import. That will reduce your balance.
If you do precision feeding and you figure out how to reduce crude protein levels or phosphorus levels in what you purchase because you might not need it, that immediately reflects itself in the balance. All right? So feed, import of feed was a big driver.
And some of the case study examples we have right now are showing that the decisions made about ingredients on the feeding side are really important. Opportunities to lower crude protein levels were-- there's still space for doing that.
So in general, farms started selecting some other ingredients, started importing blends with lower crude protein or phosphorus levels where it was feasible. Not everybody can do this. This is obviously not something you do without working with a nutritionist. And then they evaluated how they grow their homegrown forages. And that is a big one on the agronomy side as well. So anything that helped them reduce losses on the field side of things, increase productivity on the field side of things-- fertilizer decisions, manure allocation decisions, all of that was a part of this.
Now I mentioned before it could be useful for an individual farm, but it's also useful for us communicating the progress we're making towards a non-farming audience. So we were able to follow a lot of farms for a period of nine, 10 years and document that progress. This is the upper Susquehanna portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the part that's in New York, as well as the state as a whole.
If you look at the reduction numbers in imports of nitrogen and phosphorus between 2004 and 2013, we see 20% to 30% reductions in imports. That means 20% to 30% of nitrogen and phosphorous that was used in 2004 is no longer being imported. That is a huge change. 66 million pounds of nitrogen at a statewide level, 6.6 million pounds of phosphorus no longer being imported in 2014-- 2013 that were imported in 2003. If we can show these type of numbers as an industry and we can communicate that back to the regulators, we can also tell them what the industry looks like right now, and where the opportunities are, and where they are not in some cases.
So whole farm mass balances, my view, it can be done. It should be done. I'm hoping the entire industry starts jumping in this and help us make that case and help us find where we can gain some efficiencies. So whole farm sustainability stamp, it's the only one we have right now. And it is simplistic because we only want it to have things in there that we could actually measure that were still meaningful. Not in full detail, but measurable and documentable.
The industry is catching up. And one of the front runners here is the Caring Daring Program of Ben and Jerry's. They have now incorporated mass balances in their incentive program in the St. Albans Co-op. So the farms that want to tap into their incentive program are being helped to do these mass balance assessments right now.
And I asked the group there why they considered a mass balance for doing this, and this is what I was told. So it's just a literal quote I was given. "We included the whole farm nutrient mass balance in the Caring Dairy Program so farmers can take a look at their current management. With the results, farmers are more able to determine if they can and should reduce their nutrient balance for improved profitability and stewardship."
So the incentive is to do it. It's not to reach a certain balance. the incentive is to do it, because when you start measuring things, you have much likely-- much more likely to make a change.
So back to the slide I showed you before. That last sentence here, tools to evaluate, monitor, and communicate progress. In my view, that is as important as it is to develop tools in the first place. You got to be able to monitor this over time. We've got to be able to identify where we have the opportunities to make improvements.
And this is one of the last quotes that I wanted to show here. Speaker this morning talked about the importance for integration, the importance for communication and telling stories. We have a whole bunch of impact statements on our website with people talking about their experiences with mass balances.
And this was one of the quotes from a consultant who is actually in the audience. "A tool like this that gives a big picture snapshot can be used to monitor specific extreme areas on the farm-- to monitor specific areas of the farm and tie everything together is extremely valuable. It's great because trends can be seen that are the outcome of particular management decisions, and I see a bright future for the NMB to have positive impact on farms as the industry expenses its use."
My hope is with that type of feedback and that type of assessment by the farms that are actually participating in this type of assessments now, we can create that sustainability stamp for the entire industry. Not just the crops, not just the animals, but both. And let's throw in the engineering part, too, and every aspect of farming, animal health-- everything fits in this loop.
Mass balances are fairly practical. Of course, you need some records to do it. Maybe in some cases we need to adjust our record keeping to make it much easier to do. But it's effective in obtaining some information about whether or not we can keep farming the way we do with current management or if we need to make changes over time.
Last slide here is the web link for our program, specifically, the mass balance web link that has the software that farmers can use to derive their own mass balance, has fact sheets explaining what this is all about, it has the input sheets-- if people, if they want to participate, fill in, send to us, and we send them the mass balance back. Extension articles, journal articles, anything you might want to know about mass balances are on this website. So with that, I will maybe have a time for a question.
We've received your request
You will be notified by email when the transcript and captions are available. The process may take up to 5 business days. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about this request.
Dr. Quirine Ketterings, professor of animal science and director of the Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program, gives a talk at the 3rd Annual Dairy Center of Excellence Symposium, Feb. 22, 2018. The Dairy Center of Excellence partnered with the Atkinson Center for this Dairy Symposium.