Integrating Record Keeping with Whole Farm Nutrient Mass Balance: A Case Study

  •  Jack van Almelo    
  •  Quirine Ketterings    
  •  Sebastian Cela    


A whole farm nutrient mass balance (NMB) assessment gathers information on farm characteristics, nutrient imports and exports; provides indicators of farm production efficiency, potential environmental footprint; and helps identify opportunities for management improvements. Simplifying the data collection process facilitates wider NMB adoption. Our objectives were to: (1) integrate the NMB assessment into “Fields and Crops Manager”, an on-farm crop management program; (2) evaluate existing, on-farm, software packages for their ability to supply data for the assessment; and (3) document farmer response prior to and after conducting an NMB with the integrated record system. Software evaluated included the DRMS DHI-202 Herd Summary report, Centerpoint Accounting, PCDART and Quickbooks Accounting software, FeedWatch and TMR Tracker feeding systems, and Dairy Comp 305 herd management software. Six dairy farmers participated in the evaluation. The NMB results were presented and discussed in group meetings with each farmer. The records in the Fields and Crops Manager program and other software packages were not complete enough to allow for automated transfer of data into the NMB tool. Instead, the new NMB function within Fields and Crops Manager was used as a platform to enter, calculate, and store the NMB. Despite initial hesitation about participating, all six farmers concluded that (1) the NMB assessment was worth the data collection effort; and (2) meetings with farm advisors (crop planner, nutritionist) greatly improved the value of the NMB. The biggest obstacle to calculating NMBs can be overcome if purchases are recorded in the farm’s accounting software as invoices are entered.

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