Roughage management in a circular dairy system: reducing nutrient losses

The dairy sector in The Netherlands is under pressure to increase its sustainability. After the progress made inthe past 30 years regarding nutrient efficiency, further efforts are required to comply with new issues, raisedby societal concern: nitrogen emissions (ammonia), greenhouse gas emissions (methane) and closing regionalnutrient cycles (circularity). Dairy processors are working on this market shift by incorporating thesesustainability goals in their milk sourcing and quality strategy, both in their processing as well as in the primaryproduction phase. Dairy farmers therefore need to be supported to be able to make their operational andstrategic management more sustainable within their possibilities.

Ensiling of roughages is the most important method of feed conservation. During the process of ensiling and feed out, losses will occur resulting in the release of greenhouse gases and ammonia and the loss of feed material. Exact measurements of gas emissions are unavailable and this information will help to find management interventions to promote farm sustainability and profitability.
In the present proposal the ensiling and feed out processes will be fundamentally examined in fully controlled climate respiration chambers, measuring the exact losses of dry matter and protein and the emissions of greenhouse gases and ammonia. Potential options for management interventions reducing feed losses will be investigated and the impact of feed losses and reduction options are demonstrated on a farm level. The results will help farmers to improve farm self-sufficiency, reduce the environmental impact and improve farm economy.