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Website lets producers play ‘offense’ in nutrient management

PD Editor Walt Cooley Published on 31 December 2013

2014 World Ag Expo badge

Top new products for dairy producers
Each year, World Ag Expo names 10 new products as winners of its annual top innovations contest.

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Four of the 2014 new product winners have potential application for dairy farmers.

Progressive Dairyman editors interviewed the innovators and marketers of these new products about their history during development and their practical applications on progressive dairy farms.

CAFOweb
Farm Credit Dairy Center 6641
A new website helps producers better manage the nutrients from dairy lagoons and parlor washwater that is applied to crops. The site, known as CAFOweb, even predicts how much more “green water” a dairy could apply to a field before exceeding what the crop can possibly uptake.

“The whole idea of this website is to be proactive, manage nutrient applications at agronomic rates and track them in real-time,” says Jay Lazarus, president of Glorieta Geoscience Inc., which began developing the concept for the website years ago.

Users in four Western states are now regularly logging into the new site’s online database, manually inputting their metering data and enlisting the site’s patented algorithms for calculating expected crop nutrient uptake.

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“CAFOweb is the way for us to play offense when it comes to nutrient application and regulation,” Lazarus says.

Lazarus and his New Mexico-based company began pursuit of the website at the request of a few clients who discovered, after the fact, that they had overapplied nutrients to specific fields during the year.

“Right now, most nutrient application balances are calculated at the end of the year, after the horse is out of the barn, so to speak,” Lazarus says. “These dairymen asked us to come up with a methodology to be able to calculate nutrient application rates in real-time and predict uptake rates based on estimated yields.”

The company answered its clients’ initial requests with a complex series of spreadsheets. Once the spreadsheets proved accurate at predicting nutrient uptakes, the company filed for a patent on its mathematical formulas and began thinking about how to make the predictions more accessible to dairy farm managers. Patent 8,567,121 was issued in October.

After consulting with dairy farmers, the company developed the interface for the new site, which Lazarus says is “incredibly easy to use.” Its quick-glance dashboard shows a dairy’s “green water” generation rate, crop nutrient uptakes and freshwater usage.

The uses of the site are many, says Tara Vander Dussen, a Glorieta Geoscience employee and CAFOweb’s executive director. Current uses range from calculating and managing water rights or the amount of “green water” generated in the parlor to tracking reports for dairies under remediation for nutrient-overloaded soils or high-nitrate well water.

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“The software is a CNMP implementation tool to help dairy farmers improve best management practices. For example, one of our clients will come onto his dairy and say, ‘Open up CAFOweb and tell me how much N, P, K is in my lagoon.’ He’s interested in how his lagoon is being managed and how much of it is going onto his fields,” Lazarus says.

A dairyman would start using the site by inputting his soil tests for different fields into the database. Then he could pick the crops planted in those same fields.

By periodically sampling his lagoon and reading lagoon or irrigation meters and entering them into the system, he could determine the amount of N, P and K being applied to and used by the crop.

CAFOWeb's nutrient soil evaluation for hypotheical dairy

These meter readings can be manually entered on any smartphone, tablet or desktop computer with an Internet connection via the device’s web browser. For non-flushed manure systems, dry manure applications or commercial fertilizer applications can also be tracked and factored into the site’s applied nutrient calculations.

“We presently are the only one out there that can forecast nutrient uptakes. This site was developed by a team of geologists, hydrologists, agronomists, bioinformaticists and dairymen,” Lazarus says. “We’ve got a bigger database than really anybody in the country.”

Vander Dussen says initial users tend to be younger dairymen who are “tech-savvy.” She says they want the data available on a day-to-day basis.

The product costs $165 a month regardless of dairy size, number of fields managed or amount of data entered. A user license also includes unlimited U.S.-based technical support.

Vander Dussen can list a number of applications for the data that can save a dairy money, but she says the one that may be the most valuable is fending off excessive oversight from regulators.

“In the long run, dairies will save a lot of time and money because they will have all of their nutrient management data at their fingertips,” Vander Dussen says. “And if they are managing it right, they will save money on consultants like us because we won’t have to come in under a remediation or abatement situation.” PD

IMAGE
This screen capture shows CAFOWeb’s nutrient soil evaluation for a hypothetical dairy. The red bars show that nitrates are leaching deeper into the soil in the dairy’s flood-irrigated fields compared to the pivot-irrigated ones.

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Walt Cooley
Editor
Progressive Dairyman

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