A nutrient balance model for typical Irish farming systems
The twin objectives of the work described were to construct nutrient balance models (NBM) for a range of Irish animal production systems and to evaluate their potential as a means of estimating the nutrient composition of farm wastes. The NBM has three components. The first is the intake of nutrients in the animal's diet. The second is retention or the nutrients the animal retains for the production of milk, meat or eggs. The third is the balance or the difference between the nutrient intake and retention. Data on the intake levels and their nutrient value for dairy cows, beef cattle, pigs and poultry systems were assembled. Literature searches and interviews with National experts were the primary sources of information. NBMs were then constructed for each production system. Summary tables of the nutrient values for the common diet constituents used in Irish animal production systems, the nutrient composition of the animal products and the NBMs (nutrient intake, retention and excretion) for a range of production systems were assembled. These represent the first comprehensive data set of this type for Irish animal production systems. There was generally good agreement between the derived NBMs values and those published in the literature. The NBMs were validated on a number of farms. Data on animal numbers, fertiliser use, concentrates inputs and production output were recorded on seven farms. Using the data a nutrient input/output balance was constructed for each farm. This was compared with the NBM estimate of the farm nutrient balance. The results showed good agreement between the measured balance and the NBM estimate particularly for the pig and poultry farms. However, the validation emphasised the inherent risks associated with NBMs. The average values used for feed intake and production parameters in the NEMs may result in the under or over estimate of actual nutrient balances on individual farms where these variables are substantially different. On the grassland farms there was a poor correlation between the input/output estimate and the NBM. This possibly results from the omission of the soil's contribution to the nutrient balance. However, the results indicate that the NBMs developed are a potentially useful tool for estimating nutrient balances. They also will serve to highlight the significant fraction of the nutrient inputs into farming systems that are retained on the farm. The potential of the NBM as a means of estimating the nutrient composition of farm wastes was evaluated on two farms. Feed intake and composition, animal production, slurry production was monitored during the indoor winter feeding period. Slurry samples were taken for analysis. The appropriates NBMs were used to estimate the nutrient balance for each farm. The nutrient content of the slurry produced was calculated. There was a good agreement between the NBM estimate and the measured values. This preliminary evaluation suggests that the NBM has a potential to provide the farmer with a simple means of estimating the nutrient value of his slurry.
- Theses - Science ITS 
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