Taranaki Daily News - 'Environmentally friendly' bulls could reduce farming's footprint

Written by Esther Taunton

Reducing farming's environmental impact will be a hot topic at Fieldays and two Taranaki bulls are leading the charge towards lower nitrogen output.

Diary herd improvement company CRV Ambreed's latest team of proven sires includes four new "environmentally friendly" bulls which pass lower nitrate levels through their urine onto soils

Among the new recruits are Hawera-bred friesian Cortex and jersey bull Omnibus, bred in Okato. Daughters from both are expected to produce less nitrogen, potentially helping farmers reduce their environmental footprint.

The company announced its plans to market bulls that were genetically superior for a trait related to the amount of urea nitrogen in milk in March last year.

Oceania product manager Peter van Elzakker said the LowN Sires bull team had proven popular and there were indications more farmers would consider using genetics strategically to lower nitrogen output.

"Environment Minister David Parker has generated discussion with his comments around the importance of managing nutrient runoff. Most farmers are already doing this, and many CRV clients are focused on what genetics can do to help," van Elzakker said.

Nitrogen excretion could be mitigated and influenced through feeding and breeding, and bulk milk urea could be used as an indicator of where the herd was at, he said.

"Farmers are beginning the journey to greener cows now."

The company had designed an assessment tool for farmers to calculate how much nitrogen their cows are excreting in urine, which would be demonstrated at this year's National Agricultural Fieldays.

The online assessment tool uses data including the milk urea concentration (MU) value from daily bulk milk reports to calculate the amount of nitrogen a herd is excreting in urine.

The tool, referred to as the MU Impact Calculator, could also overlay a genetics aspect to the results to show how using low nitrogen sires could reduce a herd's nitrogen output over time.

"We understand that genetics can potentially play a significant part and we also know that understanding specific situations is important to being able to take action," managing director Angus Haslett said.

"If we are serious about our environment, we need to more accurately understand what's being put onto the land."