May 25, 2011

Got beef cattle? Pennsylvania beef producers will soon be asked to do their part in reducing nutrients finding their way to the Chesapeake Bay. Feed management practices can effectively reduce manure volume and nutrient content – and related costs.

Precision feeding is a significant factor of growing importance in the Bay clean up, says Virginia Ishler, Penn State Extension dairy nutrient management specialist. The Chesapeake Bay Commission estimates that nitrogen and phosphorus losses in manure can be reduced up to 50%.

Ration changes developed for the precision dairy feed management program seem to confirm it. That's why Penn State Extension educators are taking the next step – to help beef nutritionists and producers refine the art of feed management for feedlot and pasture operations.

Preparations are already ramping up, beginning with a June 21 workshop. Eight to 10 beef farms in the state already are developing feed management plans, notes Ishler.

At this point, plan development under the Natural Resources Conservation Service is voluntary. Poultry and swine programs are under consideration. Sooner or later, more than CAFO-sized operations will be affected.

"A lot depends on the watershed implementation plans that get finalized," explains Ishler. "Eventually [no one knows when], feed management will be a mandatory part of a certified nutrient management plan."

Due to rising feed costs, producer interest has exploded this year. "Certified nutritionists are bringing ration protein and phosphorus closer to requirements," points out the nutritionist. "That has to help on feed costs.

"We still have to wait to see how it affects performance. But we know many people are already doing this with positive results."
Details on the feed management workshop

The first Beef Feed Management Certification Workshop to certify animal nutritionists is set for June 21. The Keystone State will be the first in the country to have certified beef feed management plans, notes Ishler.

Incentive payments for developing beef feed management plans are available through NRCS's Environmental Quality Incentive Payment (EQIP) or Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI) programs. Local NRCS offices have the details.

"With the explosion of feed-management contracts this year, a number of beef operations have already signed up," she adds. "We worked with the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists to complete the exam questions."

The workshop, to be held at the Masonic Village Farm, 1 Masonic Drive, Elizabethtown, Pa., runs from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. It's open to beef producers and ag professionals, including NRCS plan writers and anyone who has taken the ARPAS exam.

The program leads off with important ration formulation information aimed at feed analysis and reducing N and P content in manure. Then attendees will tour the Masonic Village's beef farm and Nissley Brothers' beef operation. The beef ARPAS exam will close out the session after lunch.

Interested attendees are urged to register before June 14. There's a $30 registration fee. For details and registration info, go to Contact Ishler at (814) 863-3912 or email her at

Source: American Agriculturalist