The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, is conducting a unique and interesting program, the Precision Feed Management Program. Helping N.Y. dairy farms implement cow feeding methods that will keep the state’s watersheds free of pollution and improve the quality of the farm’s milk is the goal of the program.
In Delaware County, New York the program is led by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County along with a multi-agency team that includes the Corps’ New York District, Delaware County, the New York City Watershed Agricultural Council and the Delaware County Soil and Water Conservation District.
The program is showing dairy farms ways they can reduce the amount of phosphorous and nitrogen in their cow’s feed. Phosphorous and nitrogen can runoff into the water sources from cow excrement in the farm’s soil. So far the program has reduced phosphorous and nitrogen levels in the watersheds on
participating farms by over fifty percent.
To reduce phosphorous and nitrogen in the cow feed, the program is encouraging dairy farms to create better feed mixes for their dairy cows. The program is showing dairy farmers how to create more balanced blends that contain less phosphorous. One way they are doing this is by encouraging the farmers to purchase less commercial feed, which can be expensive, and grow more of their own home grown crop to feed their cows.
To grow their own feed, the program works with farms to adopt crop production methods that are beneficial to the farms in many ways, including no-till crop planting. This method eliminates the need to use gas guzzling machinery that requires expensive fuel. Doing less soil tillage also reduces soil erosion from the watershed. This is soil that may contain phosphorous and nitrogen.
“The real strength of the Precision Feed Management Program is that by working with farmers this closely we’re achieving quantified benefits for the environment and the farms – it’s a win-win situation.”