Sebastian Arriola Apelo, a UW-Madison assistant professor of metabolism, wants to help the environment and dairy producers by improving how cows use nitrogen.

The utilization of dietary nitrogen by dairy cows is quite low — about 25 percent, Apelo says. The remaining nitrogen is excreted in urine and feces, essentially wasted.

This means dairy producers and water systems surrounding the farm are being harmed.

“Organic forms of nitrogen are very harmful for the environment,” Apelo told “It can leak to undersurface water or coastal waters and increase bacterial populations, and decrease oxygen content in those ecosystems.”

That process leads to reduced biodiversity, he says, as elevated nitrogen levels can cause some organisms to overgrow and crowd out others.

“It’s also harmful for air quality,” he said. “So it’s a general concern.”

He says dairy producers are among the main sources of harmful environmental nitrogen, and as environmental concerns increase, “we have to try to play ahead.”  Read the full story here.