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Virginia Cooperative Extension - Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Reducing phosphorus in dairy rations

Dairy Pipeline: March 2006

Charles C. Stallings
Extension Dairy Scientist,
Nutrition & Forage Quality
(540) 231-3066 email:

We now have over 100 herds enrolled in our "Precision Phosphorus Feeding Incentive Program". This is a program from the Dairy Science Department at Virginia Tech along with Virginia Cooperative Extension. Funding comes from USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

Testing of feeds for a group of 56 herds began in January. Results are just now becoming available and questions are being raised on how to reduce phosphorus levels in rations. If levels are excessive there are three basic ways to reduce amounts in rations. 1) Remove any inorganic supplemental sources including any phosphorus in a free choice mineral. 2) Feed more forage and less feeds such as whole cottonseeds, brewers grains, and distillers grains. 3) Use alternative feeds that are low in phosphorus. Feeds that have low levels of phosphorus include apple pomace (.17%), citrus pulp (.12%), cottonseed hulls (.12%), molasses (.10%), soybean hulls (.17%), and sugar beet pulp (.09%).

We recommend that you consult with your nutritionist before making changes and calculate the relative cost of changing a practice. Feeding more forage is an option only if you have adequate amounts and quality to support your level of milk production. Future considerations should be given to cropping and feed storage to ensure excellent quality forages. Timing of harvest, speed of ensiling, and proper storage conditions are all important considerations. In addition, feed bunk management is important to ensure fresh feed is presented to cows on a regular basis and feeds do not heat before consumption. Virginia Cooperative Extension Dairy Agents and Specialists will be glad to visit with any farm needing consultation.

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