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Virginia Cooperative Extension - Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Precision Feeding Project

Dairy Pipeline: April 2006

Mark Hanigan
Associate Professor, Dairy Nutrition
(540) 231-0967; email:

A large Precision Feeding Project is underway in the state of Virginia. The goal of the project is to monitor phosphorus intake relative to the requirements for 300 dairies in the state over 3 years and to conduct more intensive work on phosphorus and nitrogen balance on 10 herds. All 806 Virginia permitted dairies were contacted using a survey. Of those, 521 returned completed surveys with 341 indicating they would potentially be interested in participating in the project. A partial summary of the current survey data is included in the following table:

Milk Yield, Cow/Day Average Maximum Minimum
60 94 18
  Increase Decrease No Change Discontinue
# Cows 39% 2% 53% 5%
# Acres 17% 6% 76% 1%
Years Mgmt. Experience 0-5 6-10 10-20 21+
11% 12% 19% 58%

In December, Charlie Stallings, Bob James, Mark Hanigan, Beverly Cox, Tina Horn, and Kevin Craun started visiting dairies. For now, Augusta, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Fauquier, Clarke, Culpeper and surrounding areas are keeping the group busy. So far 132 farms have been contacted, with 115 having agreed to participate in the project. The remainder will be contacted across the next six months. Currently, participation encompasses 23 counties and one city. We will continue signing up herds in these general areas—concentrating on the Chesapeake Bay watershed—until early summer. At that point, we will begin to focus on dairies in other parts of the state.

We feel this project represents an excellent opportunity to document current phosphorus feeding levels and provides an incentive to reduce those levels where appropriate. We sincerely appreciate the efforts of those participating in the project.

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