An essential nutrient, a finite resource, an environmental contaminant
“Over 60% of the phosphorus that is consumed by dairy cows is excreted,“ said Professor Ermias Kebreab. This is a serious problem that must be addressed as soon as possible. Inorganic phosphorus is mined for use in fertilizer, mineral supplements and industrial uses and it is a finite resource. Kebreab said, “In the next 50 to 100 years it is estimated that we won’t have any more inorganic phosphorus.”
Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plants and animals but it can cause environmental problems when excreted by livestock. Phosphorus runoff from farms can increase algae growth in lakes and rivers. When that algae begins to decompose oxygen levels in the water plummet and fish and other aquatic species are threatened.
More precise usage of phosphorus in feed is one part of the solution. Phosphorus needs vary at different stages in the lactation cycle. In this brief interview Dr. Kebreab describes this approach and other methods for conserving phosphorus and minimizing phosphorus contamination in surface water.