Less nitrogen, phosphate in manure due to fewer cattle

In 2019, nitrogen excretion in animal manure decreased by 2.6 percent on the previous year, to 490 million kilograms (kg). This is below the nitrogen oxides emission ceiling that has been imposed on Dutch livestock farmers by the European Union. At the same time, phosphate excretion amounted to 156 million kg, 3.7 percent less than in 2018. This level is well below the phosphate ceiling. The decline is mainly due to lower numbers of cattle, pigs and chickens. This is reported by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) based on provisional figures.

Nitrogen excretion in animal manure
JaartalCattle (million kg)Pigs (million kg)Poultry (million kg)Other livestock (million kg)
*Provisional figures

In 2019, nitrogen excretion in animal manure was down by more than 13 million kg year-on-year. This is 14 million kg below the nitrogen oxides emission ceiling of 504.4 million kg. It is the second consecutive year Dutch nitrogen levels fall below the emission ceiling.

Last year, the Dutch dairy farming sector produced 280.6 million kg of nitrogen excretions, i.e. 9.3 million kg or 3.2 percent less than in 2018. Dairy livestock excretions of nitrogen have decreased and now fall below the ceiling (of 281.8 million kg) for this sector.

Phosphate excretion in animal manure further down and below ceiling

In 2019, phosphate excretion decreased by 6.0 million kg, i.e. a 3.7-percent drop on the previous year. The amount of phosphate in animal manure has dropped for the third consecutive year and currently lies 17 million kg (10 percent) below the phosphate ceiling of 172.9 million kg set by the European Union.

Last year, the dairy farming sector produced 75.1 million kg of phosphate, 3.6 million kg less than in 2018. This means that production levels are nearly 12 percent below the phosphate ceiling for this sector (84.9 million kg). Beef cattle produced 11.8 million kg of phosphate, over 2 percent down on the previous year.

Phosphate excretion in animal manure
JaartalCattle (million kg)Pigs (million kg)Poultry (million kg)Other livestock (million kg)
*Provisional figures

Fewer cows and young cattle

In 2019, there were fewer dairy cows (-0.9 percent) and young cattle (-8.4 percent) on average relative to the previous year. However, the dairy herd increased in the final quarter of 2019 and was up by almost 30 thousand at the end of that year relative to 1 January. The number of calves, yearlings and heifers did remain stable.

Less nitrogen and phosphorus in dairy cattle feed

Compared to 2015 - the year in which the milk quota system was abolished - the nitrogen content in compound feed declined by over 7 percent to 28.4 grams of nitrogen per kg. In the same period, the nitrogen content in silage grass increased by 7 percent to 29.1 grams per kg of dry matter.

The phosphorus content in compound feed decreased from 4.5 to 4.0 grams per kg, while that in grass silage went down from 4.0 to 3.6 grams per kg of dry matter between 2015 and 2019.

Milk production similar to 2018

Last year, milk production per dairy cow amounted to 8,870 kg, virtually the same as in 2018. Total feed consumption per dairy cow is therefore similar to 2018. Due to the decline in dairy cattle and the net lower nitrogen content in feed materials, nitrogen excretions in the dairy farming sector dropped.

Nitrogen and phosphate in pig manure also declining

In 2019, nitrogen and phosphate levels in pig manure declined by 2.7 and 2.9 percent respectively relative to 2018. This is related to the fact that the number of fattening pigs dropped by 1.1 percent and the number of breeding pigs by 6.6 percent. The effect of changes in feed composition has not yet been incorporated in the figures.

Nitrogen excretions in pig farming amounted to 94.2 million kg, while phosphate excretion levels stood at 36.6 million kg in 2019. Since 2016, nitrogen and phosphate production from pigs has remained below the production ceilings of 99.1 million kg of nitrogen and 39.7 million kg of phosphate.

Less nitrogen and phosphate excretion by poultry

In 2019, nitrogen and phosphate excretion by poultry for laying declined by nearly 6 percent year-on-year. Manure production in the broiler farming sector hardly changed. Last year, the Dutch poultry sector produced a total of 54.5 million kg of nitrogen excretions, well below the production ceiling of 60.3 million kg.

At 24.7 million kg, phosphate production from poultry was far below the ceiling of 27.4 million kg as well.

Other livestock

In 2019, manure production from other livestock increased by 1.3 to 24.0 million kg of nitrogen on balance due to an increase in the sheep and goat population and a decrease in the number of minks. Phosphate production remained unchanged at just under 8 million kg.