CSIRO Publishing blank image blank image blank image blank imageBooksblank image blank image blank image blank imageJournalsblank image blank image blank image blank imageAbout Usblank image blank image blank image blank imageShopping Cartblank image blank image blank image You are here: Journals > Animal Production Science   
Animal Production Science
Journal Banner
  Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals
blank image Search
blank image blank image
blank image
  Advanced Search

Journal Home
About the Journal
Editorial Structure
Online Early
Current Issue
Just Accepted
All Issues
Special Issues
Research Fronts
Virtual Issues
Sample Issue
For Authors
General Information
Submit Article
Author Instructions
Open Access
Awards and Prizes
For Referees
Referee Guidelines
Review an Article
For Subscribers
Subscription Prices
Customer Service
Print Publication Dates
Library Recommendation

blue arrow e-Alerts
blank image
Subscribe to our Email Alert or RSS feeds for the latest journal papers.

red arrow Connect with us
blank image
facebook twitter logo LinkedIn


Open Access Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 52(10)

Farm-scale nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and sulfur balances and use efficiencies on Australian dairy farms

Cameron J. P. Gourley A F, Warwick J. Dougherty B, David M. Weaver C D, Sharon R. Aarons A, Ivor M. Awty A, Donna M. Gibson A, Murray C. Hannah A, Andrew P. Smith A and Ken I. Peverill E

A Future Farming Systems Research Division, Ellinbank Centre, Department of Primary Industries, Ellinbank, Vic. 3821, Australia.
B NSW Department of Primary Industries, Richmond, NSW 2753, Australia.
C Department of Agriculture and Food, Albany, WA 6330, Australia.
D Centre of Excellence for Ecohydrology, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.
E KIP Consultancy Services Pty Ltd, 4 Collier Court, Wheelers Hill, Vic. 3150, Australia.
F Corresponding author. Email: cameron.gourley@dpi.vic.gov.au

Animal Production Science 52(10) 929-944 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AN11337
Submitted: 8 December 2011  Accepted: 13 April 2012   Published: 3 July 2012

 Full Text
 PDF (468 KB)
 Export Citation

Efficient and effective nutrient management decisions are critical to profitable and sustainable milk production on modern Australian dairy farms. Whole-farm nutrient balances are commonly used as nutrient management tools and also for regulatory assessment on dairy farms internationally, but are rarely used in Australia. In this study, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), and sulfur (S) imports and exports were measured during a standardised production year on 41 contrasting Australian dairy farms, representing a broad range of geographic locations, milk production, herd and farm size, reliance on irrigation, and soil types. The quantity of nutrients imported varied markedly – with feed and fertiliser generally the most substantial imports – and were principally determined by stocking rate and type of imported feed. Milk exports were the largest source of nutrient exports. Nitrogen balance ranged from 47 to 601 kg N/ha.year. Nitrogen-use efficiency ranged from 14 to 50%, with a median value of 26%. Phosphorus balance ranged from –7 to 133 kg P/ha.year, with a median value of 28 kg P/ha. Phosphorus-use efficiencies ranged from 6 to 158%, with a median value of 35%. Potassium balances ranged from 13 to 452 kg K/ha, with a median value of 74 kg K/ha; K-use efficiency ranged from 9 to 48%, with a median value of 20%. Sulfur balances ranged from –1 to 184 kg S/ha, with a median value of 27 kg S/ha; S-use efficiency ranged from 6 to 110%, with a median value of 21%. Nitrogen, P, K and S balances were all positively correlated (P < 0.001) with stocking rate and milk production per ha. Poor relationship between P, K and S fertiliser inputs and milk production from home-grown pasture reflected the already high soil fertility levels measured on many of these farms. The results from this study demonstrate that increasing milk production per ha will be associated with greater nutrient surpluses at the farm scale, with the potential for greater environmental impacts. We suggest that simplified and standardised nutrient balance methodologies should be used on dairy farms in Australia to help identify opportunities for improvements in nutrient management decisions and to develop appropriate industry benchmarks and targets.


APHA-AWWA-WEF (2005) ‘Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater.’ 21st edn. (American Public Health Association: Washington DC)

ARC (1994) ‘The nutrient requirements of ruminant livestock.’ Technical review by an Agricultural Research Council Working Party. (CAB International: Oxon, UK)

AOAC (2000) ‘Official methods of analysis, vol. II.’ 17th edn. (AOAC: Arlington, VA)

Blackburn G, McLeod S (1983) Salinity of atmospheric precipitation in the Murray-Darling drainage division, Australia. Australian Journal of Soil Research 21, 411–434.
CrossRef | CAS |

Caple IW (1989) Nutritional problems affecting calcium and magnesium metabolism in grazing ruminants. In ‘Recent advances in animal nutrition in Australia’. (Ed. DJ Farrell) pp. 37–46. (University of New England: Armidale)

Chataway RG, Walker RG, Callow MN (2010) Development of profitable milk production systems for northern Australia: a field assessment of the productivity of five potential farming systems using farmlets. Animal Production Science 50, 246–264.
CrossRef |

Cherry K, Mooney SJ, Ramsden S, Shepherd MA (2012) Using field and farm nitrogen budgets to assess the effectiveness of actions mitigating N loss to water. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 147, 82–88.
CrossRef | CAS |

Dairy Australia (2010) Dairy feeding update. Available at http://www.dairyaustralia.com.au/Standard-Items/News/Dairy-News/Dairy-feeding-2010-update.aspx [verified 4 November 2011]

Dairy Australia (2011) The Australian dairy industry in focus. Available at http://www.dairyaustralia.com.au/Statistics-and-markets/Dairy-Situation-and-Outlook-September-2011.aspx [verified 4 November 2011]

de Klein CAM, Eckard RJ (2008) Targeted technologies for nitrous oxide abatement from animal agriculture. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 48, 14–20.
CrossRef | CAS |

Eckard RJ, Chapman DF, White RE, Chen D (2004) The environmental impact of nitrogen fertilizer use on dairy pastures. Australian Journal of Dairy Technology 59, 145–148.

Eckard RJ, Chapman DF, White RE (2007) Nitrogen balances in temperate perennial grass and clover dairy pastures in south-eastern Australia. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 58, 1167–1173.
CrossRef | CAS |

Fangueiro D, Pereira J, Coutinho J, Moreira N, Trindade H (2008) NPK farm-gate nutrient balances in dairy farms from Northwest Portugal. European Journal of Agronomy 28, 625–634.
CrossRef | CAS |

Fortune S, Lu J, Addiscott TM, Brookes PC (2005) Assessment of phosphorus leaching losses from arable land. Plant and Soil 269, 99–108.
CrossRef | CAS |

Glendinning JS (1999) ‘Australian soil fertility manual.’ (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne)

Goodlass G, Halberg N, Verschuur G (2003) Input output accounting systems in the European community – an appraisal of their usefulness in raising awareness of environmental problems. European Journal of Agronomy 20, 17–24.
CrossRef |

Gourley CJP, Melland AM, Waller RA, Awty IM, Smith AP, Peverill KI, Hannah MC (2006) Making better fertiliser decisions for grazed pastures in Australia. Available at http://www.asris.csiro.au/themes/nutrients [verified 4 November 2011]

Gourley CJP, Powell JM, Dougherty WJ, Weaver DM (2007) Nutrient budgeting as an approach for improving nutrient management on Australian dairy farms. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 47, 1064–1074.
CrossRef |

Gourley CJP, Aarons SR, Hannah MD, Dougherty WJ (2010) Soil nutrient concentrations and variations on dairy farms in Australia. In ‘Proceedings of the 19th World Congress of Soil Science, Soil Solutions for a Changing World. 1–6 August 2010, Brisbane, Australia’. (Eds RJ Gilkes, N Prakongkep) (DVD) (IUSS: Brisbane)

Gourley CJP, Aarons SR, Powell JM (2012) Nitrogen use efficiency and manure management in contrasting dairy production systems. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 147, 73–81.
CrossRef |

Groot JC, Rossing WAH, Lantinga EA (2006) Evolution of farm management, nitrogen efficiency and economic performance on Dutch dairy farms reducing external inputs. Livestock Science 100, 99–110.
CrossRef |

Halberg N, Verschuur G, Goodlass G (2005) Farm level environmental indicators; are they useful? An overview of green accounting systems for European farms. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 105, 195–212.
CrossRef |

Heard JW, Doyle PT, Francis SA, Staines MVH, Wales WJ (2011) Calculating dry matter consumption of dairy herds in Australia: the need to fully account for energy requirements and issues with estimating energy supply. Animal Production Science 51, 605–614.
CrossRef |

Hingston FJ, Gailitis V (1976) The geographic variation of salt precipitated over Western Australia. Australian Journal of Soil Research 14, 319–335.
CrossRef | CAS |

Hristov AN, Hazen W, Ellsworth JW (2006) Efficiency of use of imported nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and potential for reducing phosphorus imports on Idaho dairy farms. Journal of Dairy Science 89, 3702–3712.
CrossRef | CAS |

Hristov AN, Hanigan M, Cole A, Todd R, McAllister TA, Ndegwa PM, Rotz A (2011) Review: ammonia emissions from dairy farms and beef feedlots. Canadian Journal of Animal Science 91, 1–35.
CrossRef | CAS |

Hutton JT, Leslie TI (1958) Accession of non-nitrogenous ions dissolved in rainwater to soils in Victoria. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 9, 492–507.
CrossRef | CAS |

Jacobs JL, Rigby SE (1999) ‘Minerals in dairy pastures in Victoria.’ (Department of Natural Resources and Environment: Melbourne)

Jarvis S, Hutchings N, Brentrup F, Olesen JE, van der Hoek KW (2011) Nitrogen flows in farming systems across Europe. In ‘The European nitrogen assessment: sources, effects and policy perspectives’. (Eds MA Sutton, CA Howard, JW Erisman, A Bleeker, P Greennfelt, H van Grinsven, B Grizzetti) pp. 211–228. (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge)

Jonker JS, Kohn RA, High J (2002) Dairy herd management practices that impact nitrogen utilization efficiency. Journal of Dairy Science 85, 1218–1226.
CrossRef | CAS |

King KR, Stockdale CR (1980) The effects of stocking rate and nitrogen-fertiliser on the productivity of irrigated perennial pasture grazed by dairy-cows. 2. Animal production. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 20, 537–542.
CrossRef |

Koelsch R (2005) Evaluating livestock system environmental performance with whole-farm nutrient balance. Journal of Environmental Quality 34, 149–155.

Kohn RA, Dou Z, Ferguson JD, Boston RC (1997) A sensitivity analysis of nitrogen losses from dairy farms. Journal of Environmental Management 50, 417–428.
CrossRef |

Lawrie RA, Havilah EJ, Eldridge SM, Dougherty WJ (2004) Phosphorus budgeting and distribution on dairy farms in coastal New South Wales. In ‘Supersoil 2004. Program and Abstracts for the 3rd Australian New Zealand Soils Conference’. (Ed. B Singh). Available at http://www.regional.org.au/au/asssi/supersoil2004/s13/oral/1619_lawrier.htm#TopOfPage [verified 19 June 2012]

Ledgard SF, Penno JW, Sprosen MS (1999) Nitrogen inputs and losses from clover/grass pastures grazed by dairy cows, as affected by nitrogen fertiliser application. The Journal of Agricultural Science 132, 215–225.
CrossRef |

Ledgard SF, Sprosen MS, Penno JW, Rajendram GS (2001) Nitrogen fixation by white clover in pastures grazed by dairy cows: temporal variation and effects of nitrogen fertilization. Plant and Soil 229, 177–187.
CrossRef | CAS |

Ledgard SF, Journeaux PR, Furness H, Petch RA, Wheeler DM (2004) Use of nutrient budgeting and management options for increasing nutrient use efficiency and reducing environmental emissions from New Zealand farms. In ‘OECD expert meeting on farm management indicators and the environment. Session 5, Palmerston North, New Zealand’. pp. 8–12.

McKenzie FR, Jacobs JL, Riffkin P, Kearney G, McCaskill M (2003a) Long-term effects of multiple applications of nitrogen fertiliser on grazed dryland perennial ryegrass/white clover dairy pastures in south-west Victoria. 1. Nitrogen fixation by white clover. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 54, 461–469.
CrossRef |

McKenzie FR, Jacobs JL, Kearney G (2003b) Long-term effects of multiple applications of nitrogen fertiliser on grazed dryland perennial ryegrass/white clover dairy pastures in south-west Victoria. 2. Growth rates, dry matter consumed, and nitrogen response efficiencies. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 54, 471–476.
CrossRef |

McKenzie FR, Jacobs JL, Kearney G (2003c) Long-term effects of multiple applications of nitrogen fertiliser on grazed dryland perennial ryegrass/white clover dairy pastures in south-west Victoria. 3. Botanical composition, nutritive characteristics, mineral content, and nutrient selection. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 54, 477–485.
CrossRef |

Mekken JC, Swink SN, Ketterings QM (2006) ‘Statewide and county-based phosphorus balances for New York State. First Release. Department of Crop and Soil Sciences Extension Series E06–3.’ (Cornell University: Ithaca, NY) Available at http://nmsp.cals.cornell.edu/publications/extension.html [verified 19 June 2012]

Mulier A, Hofman G, Baecke E, Carlier L, De Brabander D, De Groote G, De Wilde R, Fiems L, Janssen G, Van Cleemput O, Van Herck A, Van Huylenbroeck G, Verbruggen I (2003) A methodology for the calculation of farm level nitrogen and phosphorus balances in Flemish agriculture. European Journal of Agronomy 20, 45–51.
CrossRef | CAS |

Nevens F, Verbruggen I, Reheul D, Hofman G (2006) Farm gate nitrogen surpluses and nitrogen use efficiency of specialized dairy farms in Flanders: evolution and future goals. Agricultural Systems 88, 142–155.
CrossRef |

NRC (2001) ‘Nutrient requirements of dairy cattle.’ 7th edn. (National Academy Press: Washington, DC)

OECD (2008) Environmental performance of agriculture in OECD countries since 1990, Paris, France. Available at www.oecd.org/tad/env/indicators [verified 25 November 2011]

Oenema O, Kros H, de Vries W (2003) Approaches and uncertainties in nutrient budgets: implications for nutrient management and environmental policies. European Journal of Agronomy 20, 3–16.
CrossRef |

Oenema O, Witzke HP, Klimont Z, Lesschen JP, Velthof GL (2009) Integrated assessment of promising measures to decrease nitrogen losses from agriculture in EU-27. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 133, 280–288.
CrossRef | CAS |

Oenema J, van Keulen H, Schils RLM, Aarts HFM (2011) Participatory farm management adaptations to reduce environmental impact on commercial pilot dairy farms in the Netherlands. NJAS Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences 58, 39–48.
CrossRef |

Ovens R, Weaver DM, Keipert N, Neville SN, Summers RN, Clarke MF (2008) Farm gate nutrient balances in south-west Western Australia – an overview. In ‘12th International Conference on Integrated Diffuse Pollution Management (IWA DIPCON 2008). Research Center for Environmental and Hazardous Substance Management (EHSM), Khon Kaen University, Thailand; 25–29 August 2008’. Available at http://www.ecohydrology.uwa.edu.au/__data/page/149281/Farm_gate_nutrient_balances_in_south_west_Western_Australia.pdf [verified 19 June 2012]

Powell JM, Gourley CJP, Rotz CA, Weaver DM (2010) Nitrogen use efficiency: a measurable performance indicator for dairy farms. Environmental Science & Policy 13, 217–228.
CrossRef | CAS |

Probert ME (1976) The composition of rainwater at two sites near Townsville, Qld. Australian Journal of Soil Research 14, 397–402.
CrossRef | CAS |

Raison C, Pflimlin A, Le Gall A (2006) ‘Optimisation of environmental practices in a network of dairy farms of the Atlantic area.’ (Institut de l’Elevage: Paris, France)

Rotz CA, Taube F, Russelle MP, Oenema J, Sanderson MA, Wachendorf M (2005) Whole-farm perspectives of nutrient flows in grassland agriculture. Crop Science 45, 2139–2159.
CrossRef | CAS |

Satter L (2001) Nutrient management in dairy production systems. In ‘Nutrient management challenge in livestock and poultry operations: international and national perspectives’. (Eds K Kanwar, R Baggett) pp. 38–53. (Babcock Institute for International Dairy Research and Development Publisher, Babcock Institute, University of Wisconsin: Madison, WI)

Schröder JJ, Aarts HFM, ten Berge HFM, van Keulen H, Neeteson JJ (2003) An evaluation of whole-farm nitrogen balances and related indices for efficient nitrogen use. European Journal of Agronomy 20, 33–44.
CrossRef |

Sharpley AN (1995) Dependency of runoff phosphorus on extractable soil phosphorus. Journal of Environmental Quality 24, 920–926.
CrossRef | CAS |

Simpson RJ, Oberson A, Culvenor RA, Ryan MH, Veneklaas EJ, Lambers H, Lynch JP, Ryan PR, Delhaize E, Smith A, Smith SE, Harvey PR, Richardson AE (2011) Strategies and agronomic interventions to improve the phosphorus-use efficiency of farming systems. Plant and Soil 349, 89–120.
CrossRef | CAS |

Sneath G, Furness H (2006) Progress in developing and implementing nutrient management tools and systems for New Zealand agriculture. Implementing sustainable nutrient management strategies in agriculture. In ‘Proceedings of the Fertilizer and Lime Workshop’. (Eds LD Currie, JA Hanly) (Massey University: Palmerston North, New Zealand).

Staines M, Morris R, Bolland M, Bennett D, Casson T, Fillery I, Lucey J, Russell B (2011) Greener pastures: profitable and sustainable use of nitrogen in dairy grazing systems. Final Report to Dairy Australia, Project DAW12101. Department of Agriculture and Food WA, South Perth.

Standards Australia (2009) ‘Organic and biodynamic products AS 6000.’ (Council of Standards Australia: Sydney)

Stevens CJ, Quinton JN (2008) Policy implications of pollution swapping. Journal Physical Chemistry of the Earth 34, 589–594.

t Mannetje L, Haydock KP (1963) The dry weight rank method for botanical analysis of pasture. Journal of British Grassland Society 18, 268–275.
CrossRef |

Thorrold B, Doyle P (2007) Nature or nurture – forces shaping the current and future state of dairy farming in New Zealand and Australia. In ‘Meeting the challenges for pasture-based dairying’. (Eds DF Chapman, DA Clark, KL Macmillan, DP Nation) pp. 450–460. (National Dairy Alliance: Melbourne)

Treacy M, Humphreys J, McNamara K, Browne R, Watson CJ (2008) Farm-gate nitrogen balances on intensive dairy farms in the south west of Ireland. Irish Journal of Agricultural and Food Research 47, 105–117.

Van der Meer HG (2001) Reduction of nitrogen losses in dairy production systems: the Dutch experience. In ‘Nutrient management challenge in livestock and poultry operations: international and national perspectives’. (Eds K Kanwar, R Baggett) pp. 82–97. (Babcock Institute for International Dairy Research and Development Publisher, Babcock Institute, University of Wisconsin: Madison, WI)

VandeHaar MJ, St-Pierre N (2006) Major advances in nutrition: relevance to the sustainability of the dairy industry. Journal of Dairy Science 89, 1280–1291.
CrossRef | CAS |

Weaver DM, Reed AEG (1998) Patterns of nutrient status and fertiliser practice on soils of the south coast of Western Australia. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 67, 37–53.
CrossRef |

Weaver DM, Wong MF (2011) Scope to improve phosphorus (P) management and balance efficiency of crop and pasture soils with contrasting P status and buffering indices. Plant and Soil 349, 37–54.
CrossRef | CAS |


Legal & Privacy | Contact Us | Help


© CSIRO 1996-2016