Agrifirm calculates that, with its livestock farmers and suitable measures, a significant additional phosphate reduction can be achieved, while maintaining a positive result for livestock farmers.

On the basis of the overall package of measures, Agrifirm, together with its members, can achieve an additional phosphate reduction of 1.1 million kg.

“We want to do everything we can to prevent the derogation from being lost, while maintaining returns for our member dairy farmers,” said Ronald van de Ven, director of Agrifirm Feed NWE. “Agrifirm has made a comprehensive package of measures available for this purpose focused on management in the stable. Our consultants can support dairy farmers in this respect with expert advice.

This approach comprises a combination of solutions for the short and longer term; an integrated approach whereby Agrifirm combines its knowledge of arable farming, grasslands and livestock farming. A key component of the package is the reduction of the calving age by two months, extra low phosphorus feed and the additional use of roughage crops with a higher dry matter yield and better nutritional value.”

“By making this package of measures available, Agrifirm clearly puts the interests of its members first and foremost. We realize that with this package of measures and by improving the roughage, our compound feed volumes will decrease. It is an essential sacrifice to stay below the phosphate ceiling in 2017. By means of our approach, we are helping the Netherlands maintain and strengthen its position in the dairy food chain, and we are helping secure a responsible food chain for future generations,” van de Ven said.

Reducing calving age and less young livestock

In recent years, Agrifirm has successfully demonstrated that the calving age can be reduced by two months.

“If more livestock farmers were to apply this strategy, this would result in a significant phosphate reduction. We are already observing many positive results of this in actual practice,” according to van de Ven. “With a shrinking herd, dairy farmers will try to achieve better and more efficient returns by using an optimal startup strategy aimed at increasing milk production per cow. We have included the phosphate effects of this in our calculations.”

In 2015, Agrifirm already successfully reduced the phosphorus content of its compound feeds. Agrifirm recently further reduced the phosphorus content in its range of compound feeds by approximately 5 percent below the standard of 4.3 gram per kilogram. This enables Agrifirm’s dairy farmers to collectively achieve a significant phosphate reduction.

Farmers can also do more to improve and adjust roughage.

“Dairy farmers can significantly improve the quality of the roughage by cultivating more crops with higher dry matter yields and a higher nutritional value,” says John Smit, director, Agrifirm Plant. “For example, additional grass clover can be sown on suitable lands or crops to replace feed concentrates, such as fodder beet, can be cultivated. When the quality of the roughage is improved, this translates into a reduction of the required quantity of compound feed.”