Organic Dairy Training Conferences and Educational Materials for Professionals

Final Report for ES08-091

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2008: $97,456.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Southern
State: Arkansas
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Wayne Kellogg
University of Arkansas
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Project Information

Abstract:

Information exchange tours for groups of professionals, including extension personnel, NRCS personnel, dairy farmers, and organic dairy industry representatives met in North Carolina and in Arkansas to share information on organic dairy farming from each State. Thus the participants were able to determine the problems and begin achieving possible solutions to enhance the efficiency and profitability of organic dairy farming in the Southern region. The emphasis of the exchange tours was to identify the information needs of dairy farmers for organic dairy production, especially during the transition year, and to establish the characteristics of the more successful producers. Information collected on the exchange trips, especially from the dairy farmers, was used to plan conferences. Additionally, a list of vendors and products used by the organic dairies visited will be made available to other professionals and dairy farmers. The specific topics covered were based on the input from farmers and others on the information exchange tours. Other speakers as deemed appropriate from discussions of the groups on the exchange tours were contacted to arrange for the conferences. A web site was constructed with the agenda for the conferences.

Project Objectives:

1. Conduct information exchange tours for eight people (2-3 dairy farmers, 2-3 extension personnel, 1 NRCS or FSA agent, and 1 organic dairy industry representative) related to organic dairy production in Arkansas and eight in North Carolina so that they can share problems and successes associated with organic dairy production. The information from the exchange trips and conferences should enhance the sustainability of the farmers and educators by making them more knowledgeable of proper and efficient use of resources on the dairies, especially feeding and pasture management, fertilizers for sound environmental management, organic treatment of diseases, and control of external and internal parasites.
2. Conduct organic dairy conferences in both Arkansas and North Carolina for a total of 80 students (40 at each site), e.g. extension specialists and agents, personnel from NRCS and FSA, veterinarians, and other organic industry contacts. Additionally, 12-15 speakers/helpers will attend each conference.
3. Of the 80 attending one of the two regional organic livestock workshops, 60 will become more knowledgeable of organic farming production methods and proven therapies and treatments. Additionally, 25 will reconvene by teleconference in January, 2010, to discuss case studies, on-farm experiences, and build on the new resources and information that was learned at the organic livestock health workshop, and 20 will actively engage in using at least 2 new management practices or complementary treatments with their clients.
4. Professional educators (Extension, NRCS, FSA, etc.) and farmers will be more knowledgeable of organic dairy farming in the South through (a) the distribution of 100 CDs of materials from the project and (b) the web site established to publicize the conferences and also make organic dairy information available to individuals throughout the southern region. The web site will be monitored for numbers of hits.

Introduction:

The organic dairy farm (pasture-based) tour to North Carolina was hosted by Dr. Steve Washburn who served as training host. He was ably assisted by Dr. Goeff Benson and by Dr. Jodie Pennington. Those attending from Arkansas were Mr. David Goodson (USDA) Dr. Karl VanDevender (UA Extension), Mr. Keith Perkins (UA Extension), Dr. Kelly Loftin (UA Extension), Len Blaylock (USDA), Rod Luther (USDA), and Mr. Ricky Strain (owner, Rose-Ark Dairy Farm). The tour group from North Carolina included two professionals from NRCS, the Organic Valley pool coordinator, and four faculty members from NCSU. The group put together 2-page summaries of each of our six organic dairy farms plus another pasture-based dairy farm.
The grant supported travel for 13 professionals from North Carolina in June, 2010 to participate in the American Forage and Grassland Conference in Springfield, Missouri along with visits to nine dairy grazing farms in Arkansas and Missouri including the School of the Ozarks and the Southwest Missouri Research and Education Center. Eight pasture-based North Carolina dairy farms were represented during that tour including three farmers who had transitioned to organic and one who was currently transitioning to organic along with two NCSU faculty members, two graduate students working with organic-related dairy research projects, and the Organic Valley Pool Coordinator for North Carolina. The group was hosted by Dr. Wayne Kellogg, Professor at University of Arkansas.

Cooperators

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  • Dr. Steve Washburn

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

We will conduct meetings with extensive minutes after the information exchange tours for organic groups in Arkansas and North Carolina to share information on organic dairy farming from each state. At the beginning of the meetings, personnel on the trip will be surveyed to see if they learned a new practice that they plan to adopt, if they thought the trips were beneficial, and what they thought were beneficial management practices learned from the trips. The discussion later will emphasize the problems and possible solutions to enhance the efficiency of organic dairy farming in the southern region. The group will be surveyed to establish the characteristics of the more successful producers. A composite report will
be made of recommendations for the transition to organic dairy production, the characteristics of successful producers, and a list of products and vendors. The report will be reviewed by the participants of the tour.
Additionally, the information exchange groups will be surveyed by email six months and 1 1/2 years later to determine what changes have taken place as a result of the project in management by farmers and in recommendations by educators. A phone survey will follow for all that do not respond to the email survey.
Both the personnel from the exchange trips and attendees of the conferences will be surveyed in January, 2010 to determine who has used the list of vendors and products on the conference web site. Number of hits on the web site will be monitored.
A pre-test and post-test of basic organic principles will be conducted at the organic dairy conferences. The test will be by the computerized Audience Response System which allows immediate feedback on responses from the audience.
A brief evaluation will be conducted daily at the conferences to rate speakers and topics on a scale from
1 to 5 (5=most beneficial). Additionally, space at the bottom of the form will be available for comments.
The conferences will qualify for continued education or in-service credits for veterinary professionals and extension agents. Evaluate by yes or no.
A follow-up survey of attendees of the conferences will be conducted by email or mail to determine if objectives of the grant were achieved. Of the 80 attending one of the two regional organic dairy workshops, 60 will become more knowledgeable of organic farming production methods and proven therapies and treatments. Additionally, 25 will reconvene by teleconference within a year to discuss case studies, on farm trials and build on the new resources and information that was learned at the organic livestock health workshop, and 20 of the 25 will actively engage in using at least 2 new management practices or complementary treatments with their clients.
An information exchange tour for organic groups in Arkansas and North Carolina (2-3 dairy farmers, 2-3 extension personnel, 1 NRCS or FSA agent, and 1 organic dairy industry representative from each state) will be conducted to share information on organic dairy farming from each state to determine the problems and possible solutions to enhance the efficiency of organic dairy farming in the southern region. The emphasis of the exchange tours will be to find needs of dairy farmers for organic dairy production, especially during the transition year, and to establish the characteristics of the more successful producers.
The information exchange groups in each state will meet within one month after the tours. Information collected on the exchange trips, especially from the dairy farmers, will be used to plan the conferences in year 2. Selected additional organic dairy farms from the southern region also will be contacted to see if they have information to add to the conferences. A follow-up conference call will share information between the two states and a consensus on topics to be covered in the training conference for educators will be determined. A report of the tours will be prepared and reviewed by participants on the tours.
Several extension speakers, two veterinarians who have extensive experience with organic production, one milk procurement officer, and one dairy farmer who practices homeopathy have already committed to the conferences. However, the specific topics covered will be based on the input from farmers and others on the exchange trips. Other speakers as deemed appropriate from discussions of the groups on
the exchange tours will be contacted by the collaborators during the fall of 2008 to arrange for the conferences in year 2.
Additionally, a list of vendors and products used by the organic dairies visited will be assimilated and made available to other professionals and dairy producers in the south before the conferences. A web site will be available to all states with the information. A web site will be set up for the conferences by January, 2009.
Two in-service conferences will be conducted in the eastern and western areas of the southern US, tentatively scheduled for Arkansas and North Carolina. Representatives from all states and territories in the southern region will be invited and three from each state/territory will be provided travel scholarships. The workshops will be formatted in a way to provide classroom style learning, round table discussions, reading materials, interactive problem solving exercises, and on-farm experiential learning with an organic dairy farm.
General practices and concepts at the conferences will include: an overview of the National Organic Program, managing the transition period to certification, economics, preventive management for optimum livestock health, pasture management, soil fertility, weed control, possible cropping rotation to enhance efficiency and minimize run-off, complementary therapies approved for use on organic farms, reproductive management, continued learning resources, and animal welfare. Emphasis of the presentations will be on utilization of on-farm sources for feed, mastitis prevention and treatment, and control of parasites. Specific topics will be based on needs as determined by the information exchange tour of dairy producers and industry personnel. One of our organic dairy producers practices homeopathy and we hope to have enough information by the conferences to report how those treatments are working. At a minimum, producers and educators need to be aware that such treatments with homeopathy exist since most commercial drugs are not allowed in organic production.
These workshops will qualify for continued education/in-service credit for veterinary professionals, NRCS, ARPAS members, and extension agents. All of these organizations will also be consulted in the planning of the conferences, including being invited speakers. Emphasis in the talks will be on sustainability of economic production, including the environmental and social impacts of the various methods of production.
The 3-day in-service conferences will be in a workshop format and will include a visit to an excellent organic dairy farm. The conferences and the travel scholarships for each state/territory will be publicized through state extension services, NRCS, FSA, and the web (dairy south, national dairy extension, and Odairy listservs).
In order to disseminate the information throughout the southern region, each state can send up to three representatives with up to $500 reimbursement of travel expenses per representative paid from the grant. North Carolina State University and the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service will each host a conference in their area. The participants in the workshops will be provided with a) a training manual to run educational programs and b) an outline to work one-on-one with interested producers. Later, a CD of speakers at the conferences, additional resource materials, and general organic recommendations will be provided to all attendees. Surveys to obtain feedback from participants and to evaluate the exchange trips and conferences will be conducted.

Outreach and Publications

1) “Hybrid Systems—How to Bring Pasture into your High Production System”, by Dr. Rickard is available on line at: http://agebb.missouri.edu/dairy/grazing/conference/2011/TonyRickard.pdf.
2) Proceedings of the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Grazing Conference and Organic Dairy Field Days in Wytheville, VA in October, 2010 and in Chestertown, MD in July, 2012 are available on-line at: http://www.cefs.ncsu.edu/whatwedo/researchunits/2012madgcproceedings.pdf.
3) Also, copies of Proceedings of the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Grazing Conference are available on the CEFS web site (www.cefs.ncsu.edu)and those Proceedings have been made available through the S-PAC system of the Federation of Animal Sciences Societies (FASS).
4) Proceedings of the American Forage and Grassland Council meetings in French Lick (IN) in June 2011 and Louisville (KY) in January, 2012 contain reports on organic and other pasture-based dairy research work.
5) Support was also used for some publications based on a Nutrition Session for Dairy Producers and for a nutrition session for organic and other pasture-based dairy producers (total = 15) in North Carolina during February, 2010. An organic dairy producer and nutritionist from Wisconsin were the featured speakers.
6) Though funded separately, Proceedings of the Pasture-Based Dairy Summit in Aiken, South Carolina are available at the University of Georgia website: http://www.caes.uga.edu/commodities/fieldcrops/forages/events/PBDSummit/notebook%20v3.pdf.

Outcomes and impacts:

North Carolina Tour
The organic dairy farm (pasture-based) tour to North Carolina was hosted by Dr. Steve Washburn who served as training host. He was ably assisted by Dr. Goeff Benson and by Dr. Jodie Pennington. Those attending from Arkansas were Mr. David Goodson (USDA) Dr. Karl VanDevender (UA Extension), Mr. Keith Perkins (UA Extension), Dr. Kelly Loftin (UA Extension), Len Blaylock (USDA), Rod Luther (USDA), and Mr. Ricky Strain (owner, Rose-Ark Dairy Farm). The tour group from North Carolina included two professionals from NRCS, the Organic Valley pool coordinator, and four faculty members from NCSU. The group put together 2-page summaries of each of our six organic dairy farms plus another pasture-based dairy farm.

The group gathered in Raleigh and toured CEFS Dairy, the pasture-based dairy unit near Goldsboro. The potential of fitting crossbred Holsteins and Jerseys in a pasture-based system was studied. The Farm unit is designed to examine grazing strategies and other herd management techniques that provide environmentally sound and economical milk production, and to disseminate practical results among farmers, farm advisors, and other interested groups. The farm has about 170 cows and replacement animals with a swing-type milking system. Several ongoing projects were helpful for understanding the methods needed in an organic dairy farm.

The group toured Lindale Farms near Snow Camp that is owned by Neill Lindley. Farm Profile: Mr. Lindley began managing the family dairy farm in 1982 with about 90 cows. Herd size peaked at 275 cows by the late 1980s. By 2005 the herd had 225 cows that were in confined housing, but numbers were reduced during the transition to organic farming. The motivation for changing to organic production was partly philosophical, partly financial (based on the cost of production by the conventionally managed herd), and partly because organic production was seen as a less stressful method for producing milk. The current herd size is approximately 120 Holstein cows and 75 replacements. Transition Issues: Of the total 500 acres, only 60 acres of pasture were certifiable initially. Another 50 acres of pasture at the home farm were certified in April, 2007, 200 additional acres were certified in April, 2008 and by April 2009 the full 500 acres were certified. This includes 40 acres of rented land. The small land base available for the first two years aggravated the problems caused by the 2007 drought. Approximately 100 of the milking cows and a corn silage harvester were sold at the start of the transition period to help finance the transition. A line of credit of $200,000 was obtained for the same purpose. A new central cow lane, 33,000 feet of fencing and 9,000 feet of water pipe were constructed using cost-share funding. The farm currently is oversupplied with tractors and has all necessary field and harvesting equipment. The herd was impacted by a severe drought in 2007 and by extremely high prices for purchased feeds in 2008. During 2007 (drought) and 2008, Neill spent about $250,000 on purchased hay. With the current relatively low stocking rate, pasture was plentiful during spring 2009. The milking herd is fed 5 pounds of a 67% ground corn and 33% wheat grain mix plus minerals and kelp per head one time per day. Grass silage is fed when pasture is limited or not available. Milk is marketed though membership in Organic Valley Cooperative. Current Outlook: Longer term, Mr. Lindley plans to increase the size of the herd to around 200 cows. In spite of the challenges the farm has faced, Mr. Lindley is excited to be an organic producer, and he sees many opportunities ahead.

The tour included Lucky-L Jerseys near Statesville that is owned and operated by Dennis and Mary Beth Leamon. This served as an example of a successful, pasture-based dairy that is not an organic-certified farm. Farm Profile: They purchased 40 Jersey cows and started dairying on a leased farm in 1974. Sixty cows were moved to the current farm that was leased in 1979 with an option to purchase. By 1988 the purchase of the farm was completed. Currently cow numbers average about 185 with a 18,500-pound rolling herd average. Cows are milked only twice daily. Replacements are raised on the farm and both maintain the herd and allow for some sales of breeding stock. The cow turnover rate, excluding dairy sales is usually at—or under—20% annually. They grazed from the start but have gradually increased the intensity of the grazing management. There are 203 acres in the farm; 145 in pasture with the rest in woods, buildings, etc. 70 more acres are rented, of which 40 acres are in fescue pasture for heifers. The double-8-herringbone milking parlor was built in 2000. Lactating cows are typically managed as one group on pasture. There are about 123 acres of pasture for lactating cows, and 78 acres are intensively managed. Lactating cows are usually moved twice daily within 10 major paddocks that include various species of forages. Additionally, cows are fed a corn silage-based ‘partial mixed ration’ once daily and are fed grain twice daily in the parlor. Approximately 1,450 tons of corn silage is purchased each year. Typically cows get 15 pounds of grain per day, and the protein content varies from a low of about 10% when high quality pasture is available up to 24% in winter when more silage is being fed. Bale feeders are in the extended “holding area” for feeding round bale haylage. A feed company representative evaluates the herd about twice each month to adjust rations as needed when pasture availability or quality changes. Current Outlook: The mission of Lucky-L Jerseys is to have financial success through the marketing of high-quality milk while providing an attractive, well-maintained living environment which allows time for family, church, and recreation. The farm has been very profitable at times, but that depends on economic conditions.

The group toured Pleasant View Farm near Union Grove that is owned by Noah Hostetler as another example of a farm that had transitioned from conventional management to organic farming. Farm Profile: Mr. Hostetler began farming at this location in the spring of 2002 with a 7-year lease on 85 acres that included a milking parlor. The owner constructed a new free-stall barn and stable. Initially, the herd was managed as a confinement herd. In 2004 it was switched to a pasture-based system; then changed to organic. The home farm is double-cropped with annuals. Winter annuals comprise a mix of crimson clover, annual ryegrass and triticale or oats. Seasonal surpluses are made into wrapped bale haylage. Summer crops are sorghum for grazing or corn for silage. Under normal weather conditions grazing does not occur from mid-January until early March. A small gap may occur in late spring also. The milking herd receives a partial mixed ration year-round. This typically consists of about 30 pounds of corn silage and 9 pounds of a grain mix plus minerals per head per day when pasture is abundant. More silage and haylage is fed in winter or during droughts. Transition Issues: There was a 36-month transition period for the land beginning in the spring of 2005. The first organic milk shipment to the Organic Valley Cooperative was in March, 2008. The motivation for changing to organic production was partly philosophical and partly financial, based on the performance of the conventional system. The main cow lane has been improved and new fencing has been constructed, both with cost-share funding support. Both the number of cows and milk per cow have both decreased (from 54 cows with 13,100 pounds per year to 42 cows with 8,850 pounds per year) since the transition process began. The herd was impacted by a severe drought in 2007 and needed 140 tons purchased alfalfa hay at a cost of about $300 per ton. Current outlook: The financial burdens of the normal transition costs plus the added and unanticipated costs for purchased hay have not been resolved completely. Herd health has improved compared to conventional management with veterinary advice provided through the Organic Valley veterinarians, Dr. Jodarski and Dr. Detloff, and services provided by a local veterinary practice.

The group toured the Hoffner Organic Dairy Farm near Mt. Ulla that is owned by Chris and Tara Hoffner. Farm Profile: Mr. Hoffner bought the dairy cows from his father in 2003, and he rents part of the farm and facilities. One incentive for organic production had been an incident several years before in which some cows were poisoned with an insecticide. Milk is marketed though Organic Valley Cooperative. Cow numbers have remained fairly stable at approximately 155 cows and an equal number of replacements. Cows are milked three times daily during the winter months when production is greater than during the hotter months. Mr. Hoffner’s father produces organic crops and supplies some feed to the dairy. Together they farm 650 acres, including 350 acres that are rented from relatives. The rented acreage has some irrigation capability. A custom operator is used for silage (1,200 tons of corn silage) and grain harvesting. The milk cows grazed 100 acres of a ryegrass/rye pasture during the cool season months. Excess forage is baled and stored dry or as haylage. In spring and summer, while the milking herd was on pasture, the milking cows were fed a ‘partial mixed ration’ containing approximately 15 pounds of a grain mix with 30 pounds of corn silage per head per day. When pasture was not available, grain feeding was increased to as much as 24 pounds (mixed with 60 to 70 pounds of silage) per head per day. Nutritional advice is provided by a local dairy nutritionist. Transition Issues: The pastures used by the dairy animals had been managed such that they were certifiable immediately. The transition began in June, 2006 and the first organic milk was shipped in February, 2007, starting with a few certifiable heifers. For the transition, Chris installed a second milk tank and managed the cows as a split herd; part organic (starting with a group of first lactation cows) and part conventional, to help reduce transition costs. The herd finally reached 100% organic early in 2009. Annual milk production has decreased (since the transition process began) from about 20,000 pounds to 16,000 pounds per cow. Some grazing infrastructure existed at the start of the transition because the farm was already grazing prior to the transition. Most of the fencing is electrified, temporary poly-wire which is inexpensive and provides flexibility. There is no piped water to the pastures, and cattle are watered by truck. Some additional feed purchases were required because of a severe drought in 2007. Current Outlook: The farm finances have yet to recover fully from the financial burdens carried over from the initial start-up plus the transition. Thirty dairy steers are being raised for direct sale as organic beef.

The tour also included the Mary L Farm near Mt. Ulla that is owned by Rick and Dorcas Parker. Farm Profile: This organic dairy operation was a conventional confinement operation for many years. A major upgrade was made in 2001 with the building of a new free-stall barn and a double 10 milking parlor. Cow numbers averaged about 330 between 2000 and 2004. The transition to organic began in June, 2006, and almost all of the farmland became certified in October, 2006. The existing cows were sold in November, 2006. Heifers were retained and transitioned to organic under the 80:20 rule. The first organic milk shipment occurred in December, 2007. Mr. Parker is an Organic Valley Coop member. Organic milk production began with a group of 65 heifers. The current herd size is approximately 150 Holsteins. The farm comprises 209 acres and 183 acres of rented land. Winter annuals are a mixture of annual ryegrass, peas and cereal rye. Summer annual crops are either brown-midrib sorghum-sudangrass hybrid or a millet and legume mixture. Both types are grazed and any seasonal surplus is harvested as baled and wrapped haylage. The rented farm is mostly perennial pasture for grazing heifers or for harvested forage. A small acreage is planted to annual crops, including wheat or sorghum-sudangrass. Crop nutrients are provided by dairy manure and legumes. Cows are allocated 1 acre of annual pasture twice-daily and fed 10 pounds per head per day of a grain mixture. No vitamin or mineral supplementation is provided. The feeding program is similar when the cows graze summer annuals. Cows are fed ryegrass mix and/or sorghum-sudangrass mix baled haylage when pasture was not available and two pounds per head per day of soybean meal is fed in addition to the 10 pounds of grain. Transition Issues: Because of the farms conventional dairying history, facilities and equipment were largely adequate. A single-bale wrapper and a tube wrapper were purchased for haylage storage. Income from the sale of the mature cows helped provide needed cash flow to ease the transition. Some additional fencing and lane improvements were required. A well-used road grader was purchased for lane maintenance. Piped water is not available in the paddocks grazed by the milking cows. Cow numbers and milk per cow have both decreased since the transition process began. Part of the reason was the transition strategy and part was the result of external factors that occurred during the transition period. Mr. Parker had no experience with grazing milking cows prior to the transition to organic. Current Outlook: There are financial challenges because the drought of 2007 and 2008 severely affected pasture production. The extremely high prices for purchased feeds and fuel in 2008 added to the challenges. Alfalfa hay and silage were purchased from another organic farmer.

Another example of an organic farm on the tour was Payne’s Dairy Farm near Harmony that is owned by Wesley and Charlie Payne. Farm Profile: The dairy operation is a partnership of father and son. They started a grazing herd in 1992 and have 90 acres coupled with 200 acres that are rented. The transition to organic began in June, 2006, and the farm first shipped organic milk on June 1, 2007 to Organic Valley Cooperative. There is a double-4 herringbone milking parlor, last remodeled in 1980. There are 200 acres in a double-cropped system using annuals for the production of stored forages. The winter crops are ryegrass and crimson clover or triticale and peas. Sorghum-sudangrass hybrid, or sorghum and soybeans, are planted as summer crops. These crops are harvested as round bale haylage, either as individually wrapped bales or using a leased in-line wrapper, depending on the quantity to be harvested. There is one 10-acre field of perennial forages, a mix of Matua, alfalfa, and clover. In the spring of 2009, while the milking herd was on pasture, cows got 12 pounds per day of a grain mixture plus some stored forage. Transition issues: Because the farm was pasture-based at the start of the transition, the farm already had some grazing infrastructure. But, more permanent fencing, a watering system, and some lane improvements were needed. Some tillage equipment had to be purchased. When pasture was not available and purchased forages were being fed, grain feeding was increased to as much as 18 pounds/day per cow. Current outlook: The anticipated increase in the availability of homegrown forages likely will mean changes in the cow’s rations later this year.

The group toured Reedy Fork Farm near Elon that is owned by George Teague. It was another example of a conventional confinement operation for many years. Farm profile: Mr. Teague took primary responsibility for the management of the farm in 1990. The most recent upgrades to the free stall barn and milking parlor (16-stall rotary) were made in 1987 and a calf barn was built in 1995. Average cow numbers were about 140 head prior to the transition and were reduced to 125 during the transition and remain at that level. The farm has 644 acres of owned land, of which 444 acres are tillable and 200 are pastureland. Reasons for changing to organic farming include a previous accident involving pesticides, the organic philosophy, and perceived improvements in profitability, viability and quality of life. The transition to organic began in April, 2006, and 291 acres were certified at the end of May, 2007. (All the farmland was certified by February, 2009.) The first organic milk shipment occurred in June, 2007 to Organic Valley Cooperative. Transition issues: Because the farm had been conventional, facilities and equipment were largely adequate but old. A silage chopper was sold. An irrigation pump and reel were purchased for manure handling and to provide irrigation on a limited acreage. A single-bale wrapper was purchased for haylage storage. There was no experience with grazing milking cows prior to the transition. A large investment in grazing infrastructure was required, adding to the cash flow challenges. Fences were needed, and they have added 20,000 feet of perimeter fencing, 14,000 feet of internal fencing, and 7,000 feet of new lanes. Piped water was installed on 140 acres grazed by the milking cows. Cow numbers decreased from 140 to 125, and the rolling herd average declined approximately 22,000 pounds per cow to 12,000 pounds per year. The use of Al has decreased, and bulls were needed to get cows bred back more quickly. Herd health is better now than under conventional management, and lameness has virtually disappeared. Current outlook: Additional infrastructure development is needed. The plan is to increase cow numbers to 160. Cross-breeding with Jersey semen is under way, and the plan is to return to mostly Al breeding in future. Calving is year-round but the plan is to move to a more seasonal calving pattern with more calving in fall and winter. The herd on DHI records and PCDART is used as a herd management tool.

Arkansas/Missouri Tour
The grant supported travel for 13 professionals from North Carolina in June, 2010 to participate in the American Forage and Grassland Conference in Springfield, Missouri along with visits to nine dairy grazing farms in Arkansas and Missouri including the School of the Ozarks and the Southwest Missouri Research and Education Center. Eight pasture-based North Carolina dairy farms were represented during that tour including three farmers who had transitioned to organic and one who was currently transitioning to organic along with two NCSU faculty members, two graduate students working with organic-related dairy research projects, and the Organic Valley Pool Coordinator for North Carolina. The group was hosted by Dr. Wayne Kellogg, Professor at University of Arkansas.

The tour included the Moore Dairy Farm near Beebe, AR, owned by George E. Moore. It served as an example of a successful grass-based dairy herd in the Mid-South. Farm profile: The farm consists of about 240 acres of pasture and forage crops. Warm-season forages are grown and serve as the basis for over-seeding with winter annuals. The goal is to provide 300 days of grazing. Summer annuals are used for silage that supplements cows during times of reduced pasture availability. Jersey cows predominate, although a few Holstein cows are in the herd. Production averages about 55 pounds per day. Current outlook: Farm income suffered during the period of low milk prices and some unusually variable weather conditions. For example, too much rain in October flooded the fall pasture on the flat land. The pastures survive better during dry periods, but yield decreases. Hot weather affects lactating cows and reduces milk production. The Holstein heifers were purchased at very reasonable prices.

A second farm near Beebe, Fisher Dairy Farm, is owned by Susan and Mike Fisher. They agreed to the tour, and it served as an example of an organic farm that had to transition back after losing their specialty market. Farm profile: The farm has about 140 acres of land that has better drainage than the Moore Farm that was visited previously. They have Holstein cows and supplement forages well enough to average 60 pounds of milk daily. The herd remains pasture-based with planned supplementation during dry periods and during winter months. Transition issues: Mr. Fisher explained the frustration of spending considerable resources to gain organic status and then losing the ability to market milk at the higher dollar value. The change was sudden with only a two-day notice, but the regular dairy cooperative accepted their milk on short notice. However, the price paid for milk was much less. Eleven organic dairy farms began the transition in 2007, and ten finished certification. Then in June, 2009, they were told that they had no market for the organic milk, so the cooperative dissolved. Future outlook: Mr. Fisher does not plan to return to organic status, even if a market became available. The herd is stable, although low milk prices and high feed costs are a major issue. Some farmers kept organic status for their heifers with the plan to sell some breeding stock. One farm remains organic and sells cheese that they produce on the farm. This limited the number of farms available for the tour.

A tour was conducted at Rose-Ark Dairy near Quitman that is owned by Mr. Ricky Strain. It served as an example of a farm that was transitioning to greater use of pasture. Farm profile: The farm has been owned by four generations of the same family. It began as a pasture dairy and increased size to 300 milking cows. An up-scale milking parlor with a 40-cow rotary parlor was constructed with 1200 cows in six free-stall barns. Both Holstein and Jersey cows were milked. However, banking issues led to the sale of many cows. The smaller 400-cow herd is grazing pasture when it is available. Mr. Strain has experience with pasture, but the size of herd has made it difficult to manage. Additionally, the variable weather conditions have reduced pasture availability at times. Current outlook: Milk production is lower than was anticipated, and financial resources were stretched during the period of low milk prices. The pasture system is the best current approach, but the free-stall barns are convenient when feeding becomes necessary.

A tour was conducted at College of the Ozarks near Branson, Missouri. It served as an example of an institutional dairy farm that is pasture-based. Farm profile: About 60 registered Holstein and Guernsey cows are maintained at the College and serve as a training site for students. The College does not charge tuition, but students must work. The goal is relatively high milk yield with an intensive pasture system and supplemental feeds. Milk is processed for use on campus. Additional income is realized by selling breeding stock from the herd.

A New Zealand style dairy farm near Sarcoxie Missouri was toured. It provided an example of a farm using New Zealand management principles. Farm profile: The large farm milks 600 cows with seasonal production. All cows calve in late winter and are dry during winter months. The lactation period is timed to coincide with pasture availability. A series of years with favorable weather have been beneficial to the establishment of the pastures. An efficient milking parlor reduces labor requirement. Limited grain mixture is fed during milking.

Fletcher Dairy Farm near Purdy (MO) owned by Charles Fletcher provided a tour of successful pasture-based dairy farm. Farm profile: The farm has been successful by using a variety of forages to produce pasture for the 200-cow herd. Supplementation is provided by silage and other purchased feeds, reducing the need for equipment and labor on the farm. Future outlook: Mr. Fletcher has been an innovator and has served as a role model for farms in the region. He remains enthusiastic about the farming system in place at his dairy farm.
The North Carolina group also toured Carter Farm, a seasonal-calving, pasture-based dairy herd near Mountain Grove, MO. It is owned by Dale Carter, and he was experimenting with grazing pastures at more mature stages. In a follow-up trip in 2011 Steve Washburn and two dairy leaders from North Carolina Farm Bureau (Chester Lowder) and the Southern Dairy Marketing Association (James Howie) participated in the Missouri Dairy Grazing Conference and visited the Carter Farm again, plus two farms owned by Clay McQuiddy near Mountain Grove and two pasture-based dairy farms and a heifer ranch between Joplin and Springfield.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

A Regional Dairy Conference was held in Beebe, AR. The grant supported travel for Dr. Tony Rickard, Dairy Specialist at the University of Missouri. He addressed about 15 dairy farmers and Cooperative Extension professionals. His topic was “Hybrid Systems—How to Bring Pasture into your High Production System”. Mid-Atlantic
Dairy Grazing Conference and Organic Dairy Field Days were held.
Support was provided from the grant for the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Grazing Conference and Organic Dairy Field Days in Wytheville, VA in October, 2010 and in Chestertown, MD in July, 2012. Both of those events, including these Proceedings, were supported by the grant.
Proceedings from various dairy Mid-Atlantic dairy grazing conferences and other resources have been made available at the CEFS web site (www.cefs.ncsu.edu). Also, copies of Mid-Atlantic Dairy Grazing Conference those Proceedings have been made available through the S-PAC system of the Federation of Animal Sciences Societies (FASS).
The PDP grant also supported travel for two faculty members, one dairy grazier, and one graduate student to participate and speak at the American Forage and Grassland Council in French Lick (IN) in June 2011 and for one faculty member’s travel to Louisville (KY) for the Council meeting in January 2012 to report on organic and other pasture-based dairy research work.
A Nutrition Session for Dairy Producers was conducted and support was also used for some publications and for a nutrition session for organic and other pasture-based dairy producers (total = 15) in North Carolina during February, 2010. An organic dairy producer and nutritionist from Wisconsin was the featured speaker and a pasture walk was conducted at Lane Karriker’s Jersey dairy as part of the program.
A few pasture walks for producers and other dairy professionals were supported in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia during 2009, 2011, and 2012. Host farms included Sam Dobson, currently transitioning to organic in NC, Reedy Fork Organic Farm in NC, CEFS Dairy Research site in NC, Rem Perkins of Perk Farm Organic Jersey Dairy in West Virginia, and Richardson’s Organic Dairy Farm in Virginia.
An Organic Dairy Management Practices Seminar was hosted at North Carolina State University for a group of three faculty members and one graduate student from the University of Minnesota in August, 2011. The group was interested in organic dairy management practices including alternative strategies for controlling horn flies on cattle. That group toured the CEFS facility as well as two of the organic dairy farms in North Carolina.
The grant provided travel support for Dr. Kellogg and four County Extension Faculty members from Arkansas. The group attended the “Pasture-Based Dairy Summit” in Aiken, South Carolina. A group of eight professionals including four extension faculty and agents, two graduate students and two dairy producers attended the program for North Carolina. That program included a tour of two pasture-based farms near Waynesboro, Georgia. One was the Pineland Dairy Farm owned by Beryl Landis which featured a pivot irrigation system both for cooling cows and irrigating pastures.

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

Awareness has been raised among professionals about the opportunities for dairy farmers to participate in organic dairying. Many appear to have successfully made the transition. In North Carolina farmers can still market their milk via a cooperative. However, in Arkansas the cooperative lost its market and ceased to exist. This leaves the farmer alone in developing a market for products. On the positive side, that loss in Arkansas provided a warning to the farmers in North Carolina that their market is of supreme importance. It became obvious to participating professionals that the organic farmer must have expertise in grazing lactating dairy cows. Thus, the farm must be capable of producing excellent quality pasture and forages. The infrastucture of fencing and lanes must be in place or must be developed. The time required to transition expands the financial risk. Thus, for the farmer with a conventional dairy farm who is interested in transitioning to oganic, pasture-based dairy farming there is more financial risk.
This information was disseminated widely by invited talks on organic and pasture-based dairying and via proceedings that have been provided. These include conferences and seminars that we developed and at the Pasture-based Dairy Summit in Aiken, SC/Waynesboro, GA in May 2011, an “Amazing Grazing” session for about 25 large animal veterinarians in September, 2011 in St. Louis; at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, WI in October, 2011; and at the Southeast Louisiana Research and Education Center in Franklinton (LA) in December, 2011.

Future Recommendations

There are ample opportunities for continuing education among dairy farmers in North Carolina and other regions that have a functioning marketing cooperative. If the farmer is adept at grazing lactating dairy cows and the farm has the infrastucture in place, the time of transition and the financial risk are not that great. The farmer is already aware of the risks of variable weather and the forages that are adapted to the region. However, the risks of transitioning from a conventional dairy farm to oganic, pasture-based dairy farming require considerably more external expertise to minimize the financial risk. In other regions, such as Arkansas, additional expertise is required to process milk on-farm and a marketing plan must be developed for the organic dairy to be successful. At least two such farms exist in the area of Arkansas and southern Missouri, so the enterprise is not impossible.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.