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Crop management effects on supplementary feed quality and crop options for dairy feeding to reduce nitrate leaching

de Ruiter, John M., Malcolm, Brendon J., Chakwizira, Emmanuel, Johnstone, Paul R., Maley, Shane, Arnold, Nathan P., Dalley, Dawn E.
New Zealand journal of agricultural research 2019 v.62 no.3 pp. 369-398
Helianthus annuus, beans, cows, crop management, crude protein, excretion, farms, feed supplements, kale, lactating females, lactation, leaching, milk production, monitoring, nitrates, nitrogen content, nitrogen fertilizers, nutritive value, pastures, risk, silage, soil, starch, sugars, New Zealand
Nitrate leaching from soil is a major problem in New Zealand pastoral systems, requiring development of practical methods to manage accumulation of nitrates. Nine feed trials were carried out in the Waikato (n = 3) and in Canterbury (n = 6) between 2013 and 2016; from which 424 samples were selected for forage quality testing. Only tick beans and forage rape met the lactating feed criteria for adequate crude protein (CP; > 16% DM) and soluble sugars and starch (SSS; > 25% DM). When an ‘environmental’ criterion was added to a feed value for lactating cows this reduced the options to fodder beet only. However, the CP measurements for fodder beet were suboptimal for milk production, requiring the fodder beet to be mixed with high protein feeds such as pasture or pasture silage. The lower protein requirements for non-lactating cows, including an additive environmental criterion enabled a wider range of feeds to be considered e.g. kale, sunflowers and swedes in Canterbury (12 entries) and fodder beet and rape in the Waikato (21 entries). Addition or restriction of nitrogen fertiliser was the only agronomic management intervention that consistently altered animal feed quality and potentially changed N excretion. Crop choice was likely to have the greatest impact at the farm level. By limiting feed quality assessment to CP, SSS and their ratio (SSS:CP) we were able to define a selection/feed monitoring method to minimise N content of feed, maximise SSS feed value and limit excess N intake to reduce the nitrate leaching risk.