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Mexico City, Mexico

Lantinga E.A.,Wageningen University | Boele E.,Chapingo University | Rabbinge R.,Wageningen University
NJAS - Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences | Year: 2013

This paper describes the year-over-year improvement of the nitrogen (N) efficiency in a prototype mixed farm system through the implementation of a coherent set of ecotechnological adjustments. This farm, the former APMinderhoudhoeve, was located on a marine clay loam soil in Oostelijk Flevoland, the Netherlands, reclaimed from the sea in the late 1950s. The designed farm structure was representative for the Dutch soil-bound agriculture in the late 1990s in terms of food crops' choice and average level of milk production per ha of farmland. Key management strategies were the inclusion of grass-clover leys in the 7-year crop rotation, restricted grazing of the dairy herd and protein-poor and fibre-rich cattle diets including cereal straw. The farm components animal-manure-soil-crop were analysed in-depth in order to evaluate N flows and soil organic matter (SOM) dynamics at the farm system level, covering a period of six years. In its final experimental state, farm N use efficiency, expressed as the proportion of purchased crop fertilizers and cattle feed that was sold as exported products (crops, milk and cattle), was as high as 73%, Besides, total environmental losses were as low as 42 kg N ha -1 yr-1. A scenario analysis revealed that these losses could be further minimized to 30 kg N ha-1 yr-1 in the stabilization phase, of which one-third as leached nitrate and a somewhat higher fraction as volatilized ammonia. The remaining losses represented mainly denitrified harmless N2 from the stored animal slurry and farmyard manure. Soil N accumulated at an average rate of 89 kg N ha-1 yr -1, whereas SOM showed a positive trend but with fluctuations from year to year which were negatively related to the annual rainfall amount. Despite the lowered protein content in the cow diets, average annual milk production increased from 8100 tot 8700 kg cow-1. This could be mainly ascribed to a lower cow replacement rate due to less animal health problems, leading to an increased average lactation number of the dairy herd. Overall, the obtained environmental side effects on the prototype farm in its final experimental state were already below the targets set by the European Union with respect to the Nitrate Directive for the year 2020. It is concluded that when the best ecotechnological means are combined in a balanced mixed farm system a multiple win situation is attained in terms of food production capacity, cattle health and environmental quality. © 2013 Royal Netherlands Society for Agricultural Sciences. Source

Cortez-Arriola J.,Wageningen University | Groot J.C.J.,Wageningen University | Rossing W.A.H.,Wageningen University | Scholberg J.M.S.,Wageningen University | And 2 more authors.
Agricultural Systems | Year: 2016

Although Mexico aims to be self-sufficient in milk, domestic prices for milk are low due to trade liberalization, which resulted in imports of large amounts of milk powder, mainly from the United States. This situation threatens the livelihoods of smallholder dairy farmers. With varying success, farmers have tried to increase revenues by intensifying production through increased purchase of concentrates and production per cow, but this also resulted in substantial environmental problems. In this paper we combine a whole-farm model with data from representative pilot farms to explore alternative intensification options that more adequately can support the multi-objective setting of smallholders. Pilot dairy farms were defined in two categories: family-based (FB) and semi-specialized (SS), each at three levels of intensification: extensive (E, <0.8 LU ha-1), medium-intensive (M, >0.8 and <1.2 LU ha-1), and intensive (I, >1.2 LU ha-1). We aimed to explore management alternatives that enhance farm economic performance, while improving resource use efficiency and reducing negative environmental impacts. For each of the six pilot farms a large set of Pareto-optimal farm configurations was generated using the whole farm model in combination with an evolutionary algorithm. Applying a multivariate analysis, the sets of alternatives were classified in three functional groups that respectively aimed to: a) maximize profitability ('economic'), b) maximize organic matter (OM) balance ('environmental'), and c) minimize labor used, N balance and feeding costs ('integrated'). Intensive (FBI, SSI) and large (SSM) farms had the widest ranges of opportunities for change, mainly to maximize profitability and/or OM balance, and to minimize N balance. Synergies were found between maximizing profitability and minimizing feed costs, and for minimizing both feed costs and N balance; trade-offs occurred for OM balance with feed costs and N balance. When comparing the current farm performance with the sets of alternatives, farms performed already well in terms of N and labor balances, whereas the largest scope for improvement was found for increasing OM balances. The results showed that just re-allocating the current resources might by itself lead to economic, social and/or environmental improvements for smallholder dairy farms. © 2016. Source

Cortez-Arriola J.,Wageningen University | Rossing W.A.H.,Wageningen University | Massiotti R.D.A.,Chapingo University | Scholberg J.M.S.,Wageningen University | And 2 more authors.
Agricultural Systems | Year: 2015

Knowledge on farm diversity provides insight into differences among farms, enables scaling from individual farm to farm population level and vice versa, and has been used in the definition of recommendation domains for introduction of novel technologies. Farm diversity can be broadly described in terms of resource endowment and resource use strategy, or in other words, in terms of scale and intensity of production. Measuring intensity of production requires much greater monitoring effort than measuring scale of production, and often only proxies of production intensity are used. Using data from a regional farm survey and from intensive on-farm monitoring the question addressed in this paper is to which extent results of farm surveys that measure primarily scale of production can inform on-farm interventions aimed at improving farm performance. The survey included a random sample of 97 out of 664 smallholder dairy farmers in a community in north-west Michoacán, Mexico. Farm types were identified by a combination of Principal Component Analysis to reduce the dimensionality of the dataset, followed by Cluster Analysis. The survey was complemented with detailed analyses of costs, revenues and productivity on 6 farms over the course of one year. Survey results revealed considerable variation among the dairy farms in land area, livestock units, amount of hired labour, and infrastructure and equipment, which led to the distinction of 4 farm types. Indicators for animal health management and feeding strategies were uniform across the 4 types. The farm types matched the distinction of family-based and semi-intensive farm types used in Mexico. The detailed analyses of the individual farms belonging to the different types, however, revealed differences in resource use strategies reflected in differences in animal productivity, labour productivity and return to labour. Differences in animal productivity and labour productivity were explained by stocking rate, albeit in different ways. Return to labour was strongly related to cost of feed. Profitability was negative for all farms and was on most farms related to high external feedstuff costs, which constituted 59-89% of the feed cost of the animal ration. The results indicate that in addition to variables reflecting resource endowment or scale of production, typologies that aim to inform on-farm interventions need to consider farm characteristics that reflect intensity of production. Which variables should be selected will need to be determined in a preliminary assessment. To enhance internal resource use efficiency as was the purpose in the current study, candidate variables expressing intensity could include the share of external feed in the ration and proxies of internal resource use, e.g. reflected in crop and milk yields. Opportunities for on-farm innovation arising from the analyses are discussed from the perspective of labour flexibility, low costs and use of internal resources. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. Source

Cortez-Arriola J.,Wageningen University | Groot J.C.J.,Wageningen University | Amendola Massiotti R.D.,Chapingo University | Scholberg J.M.S.,Wageningen University | And 3 more authors.
Agricultural Systems | Year: 2014

Smallholder dairy farms that intensify production risk resource degradation and increased dependence on external feeds and fertilizers due to lack of knowledge and appropriate technology, which undermines farm productivity and profitability. Here we analyze underlying causes at farm level of such process through an integrated analysis at the farm scale by assessing current resource use efficiency for grazing-based dairy farming systems representative of NW Michoacán, Mexico. Whole-farm yield gaps were quantified by comparing current farms to virtual reference farms that have the same farm surface area but improved farm management. Productivity of reference farms was calculated by assuming best crop production practices (as observed within the set of case study farms) and improved herd management. Three family-based (FB) and three semi-specialized (SS) dairy systems spanning three levels of intensification in terms of density of livestock units (LU): extensive (E, <0.8LUha-1), medium-intensive (M, between 0.8 and 1.2LUha-1), and intensive (I, >1.2LUha-1) were monitored during one year (rainy and dry seasons) to assess productivity and resource use efficiencies. Milk production was generally low and variable (2.2-4.3Mgmilkcow-1lactation-1, and 0.6-5.8Mgha-1) due to high incidence of mastitis, a large fraction of non-productive animals in the herd and inefficient reproduction management. During the dry season, grazing areas provided insufficient metabolizable energy, and milk production was sustained through increased use of concentrates (from 310gkg-1DMI in rainy season to 454gkg-1DMI-1 in dry season of the herd) and conserved forage. All farms had positive nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium balances, averaging 75±16, 15±6, and 19±6kgha-1, respectively. Nutrients in animal excreta were mostly not recycled on the farms but lost to the environment, and nutrient surpluses increased with livestock density. The reference farms exhibited an attainable milk yield of 2.7Mgha-1 on the basis of full feed self-supply, and 4.2Mgha-1 when the crude protein limitation in the ration was lifted. Compared to the reference farm actual milk yields were on average 78.4% lower on FB farms and 57.9% lower on SS farms. The underlying causes of the farm yield gap differed between farms and were due to sub-optimal areas of forage maize, low forage and forage maize productivity and deficient herd management. We conclude that the farm yield gap analysis was effective in identifying the major shortcomings in management of the dairy farming systems and enabled formulation of change avenues for farm reconfiguration focusing on combined improvements in crop, feed and herd management and recycling of nutrients through manure management. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. Source

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