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Integration of measures to mitigate reactive nitrogen losses to the environment from grazed pastoral dairy systems

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-03, 11:25 authored by Ross MonaghanRoss Monaghan, Cecile DeKlein
The need for nitrogen (N) efficiency measures for dairy systems is as great as ever if we are tomeet the challenge of increasing global production of animal-based protein while reducing N losses to the environment. The present paper provides an overview of current N efficiency and mitigation options for pastoral dairy farm systems and assesses the impact of integrating a range of these options on reactive N loss to the environment from dairy farms located in five regions of New Zealand with contrasting soil, climate and farm management attributes. Specific options evaluated were: (i) eliminating winter applications of fertilizer N, (ii) optimal reuse of farm dairy effluent, (iii) improving animal performance through better feeding and using cows with higher genetic merit, (iv) lowering dietary N concentration, (v) applying the nitrification inhibitor dicyandiamide (DCD) and (vi) restricting the duration of pasture grazing during autumn and winter. The Overseer® Nutrient Budgeting model was used to estimate N losses from representative farms that were characterized based on information obtained from detailed farmer surveys conducted in 2001 and 2009. The analysis suggests that (i) milk production increases of 7–30% were associated with increased N leaching and nitrous oxide (N2O) emission losses of 3–30 and 0–25%, respectively; and (ii) integrating a range of strategic and tactical management and mitigation options could offset these increased N losses. The modelling analysis also suggested that the restricted autumn and winter grazing strategy resulted in some degree of pollution swapping, with reductions in N leaching loss being associated with increases in N loss via ammonia volatilization and N2O emissions from effluents captured and stored in the confinement systems. Future research efforts need to include farm systems level experimentation to validate and assess the impacts of region-specific dairy systems redesign on productivity, profit, environmental losses, practical feasibility and un-intended consequences.


Rights statement

© Cambridge University Press 2014


  • English

Does this contain Māori information or data?

  • No


Cambridge University Press

Journal title

Journal of Agricultural Science




Monaghan, R.M., & De Klein, C.A.M. (2014). Integration of measures to mitigate reactive nitrogen losses to the environment from grazed pastoral dairy systems. Journal of Agricultural Science, 152, S45-S56

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