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Phosphorus feeding practices, barriers to and motivators for minimising phosphorus feeding to dairy cows in diverse dairy farming systems

Harrison, B. P., Dorigo, M., Reynolds, C. K. ORCID:, Sinclair, L. A. and Ray, P. P. ORCID: (2021) Phosphorus feeding practices, barriers to and motivators for minimising phosphorus feeding to dairy cows in diverse dairy farming systems. Animal, 15 (7). 100248. ISSN 1751-7311

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.animal.2021.100248


Minimising phosphorus (P) feeding to dairy cows can reduce feed costs and minimise water pollution without impairing animal performance. This study aimed to determine current P feeding practices and identify the barriers to and motivators for minimising P feeding on dairy farms, using Great Britain (GB) dairy farming as an example of diverse systems. Farmers (n=139) and feed advisers (n=31) were involved simultaneously in independent questionnaire surveys on P feeding in dairy farms. Data on the herd size, milk yield and concentrate fed were analysed using Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) to investigate the effect of farm classification, region, and feed professional advice. Chi-square tests were used to investigate associations between farm characteristics and implemented P feeding and management practices. Most farmers (72%) did not know the P concentration in their lactating cow’s diet and did not commonly adopt precision P feeding practices, indicating that cows might have been offered dietary P in excess of recommended P requirement. Farmers’ tendency to feed P in excess of recommendations increased with herd size, but so did their awareness of P pollution issues and likeliness of testing manure P. However, 68% of farmers did not analyse manure P, indicating that mineral P fertiliser application rates were not adjusted accordingly, highlighting the risk of P being applied beyond crops’ requirement. Almost all farmers (96%) were willing to lower dietary P concentration but the uncertainty of P availability in feed ingredients (30%) and concerns over reduced cow fertility (22%) were primary barriers. The willingness to reduce dietary P concentrations was driven by the prospect of reducing environmental damage (28%) and feed costs (27%) and advice from their feed professionals (25%). Most farmers (70%) relied on a feed professional, and these farmers had a higher tendency to analyse their forage P. However, farmers of pasture-based systems relied less on feed professionals. Both farmers (73%) and feed advisers (68%) were unsatisfied with the amount of training on P management available. Therefore, the training on P management needs to be more available and the influence that feed professionals have over P feeding should be better utilized. Study findings demonstrate the importance of considering type of dairy farming systems when developing precision P feeding strategies and highlight the increasing importance of feed professionals in minimising P feeding.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of Animal Sciences > Animal, Dairy and Food Chain Sciences (ADFCS)- DO NOT USE
ID Code:97218


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