Emmaline A. Long, Animal Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY and Quirine M. Ketterings, 323 Morrison Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
With increasing costs of production, fluctuating milk prices and the need to feed a growing population while also reducing the environmental footprint, it has become increasingly important to gain efficiencies in nutrient use on both a whole farm and field by field basis. Work with case study farms in New York over the past five years has shown that great improvement can be made in nutrient use efficiency when detailed farm, feed, and field records are kept. To achieve the nutrient reductions and increased efficiencies, accurate farm and field yield records are essential. Experience to date has shown that accurate yield records are the major bottleneck on many farms for diagnosing causes of high nutrient balances, identifying solutions, designing rotations that feed the cows in a sustainable way, and confidently managing nutrients on a field by field basis. Because home-grown forage and grain production impact all aspects of the farm (economics, nutrient use, environmental footprint, risk management, cost of production), without accurate yield records, it is nearly impossible to systematically measure progress at the field level, much less identify where the largest nutrient use efficiency gains can be made. Thus, accurate yield records are needed. This study used a New York dairy farm as a case study to evaluate yield records over ten years and document changes made by the farm relative to nutrient management and their environmental footprint, as a result of yield record keeping and management.