WSU Leads National Livestock Feed Management Program

PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University Extension is leading a nationwide program to help livestock and poultry operators and others develop ways to meet stricter environmental regulations for managing nutrients and to protect water quality by managing how and what livestock eat.

Joe Harrison, an Extension specialist at the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center, is project director for the National Feed management Education Project, which is funded with a two-year $425,000 grant from the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service. The project manager is doctoral student Rebecca White of the WSU Department of Animal Sciences. The leadership for the outreach team also includes Al Sutton and Todd Applegate of Purdue University, and Galen Erikson and Rick Koelsch from the University of Nebraska.

“The goal of the education project is to help producers adopt feed management practices that keep farms from accumulating excess nutrients and losing those nutrients to the environment,” Harrison explained. “An ideal situation would be that everything a farmer imports onto his farm in the way of feed, fertilizer and other inputs balances with what he exports.”

For example, if 25 percent of the phosphorous a cow eats in the form of dairy cattle feed is exported in the form of milk products, the farmer still has 75 percent of that phosphorous to manage. If he has enough land, the phosphorus in manure could all be used to fertilize crops. If enough land is not available, then exporting nutrients from manure should be considered.

“Our primary goal is protecting water quality on and around the farm,” Harrison said.

Livestock feed represents the largest import of nutrients to the farm, followed by commercial fertilizer. “There are opportunities to reduce the amount of feed imports, particularly nitrogen and phosphorous, to most animal and livestock operations,” Harrison added, “but they vary in how economically feasible they are and in their environmental impact. It’s important that agricultural professionals understand the degree of success that can be expected both from an economic and an environmental standpoint.”

The National Feed Management Education involves a series of training workshops held across the United States aimed primarily at the staff of the NRCS, soil and water conservation districts, nutrient management consultants, nutrition management consultants and designated nutrient management specialists of large animal operations. In addition, the American Registry Professional Animal Scientists will develop and implement an exam to certify knowledge in the area of nutrient management.

Eleven other universities are involved with the project: Purdue University, Iowa State University, University of Nebraska, University of Idaho, Oregon State University, Texas A&M, University of California – Davis, Cornell University, Virginia Tech, University of Missouri and University of Georgia.

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