Comparative Analysis of Unpasteurized Organic Milk vs. Organic Fish Emulsion and Kelp as an Organic Fertilizer for Livestock Forages

Final Report for FNC12-852

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2012: $14,980.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Tom Colonna
Organian Farms LLC
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Project Information

Summary:

[Editor’s Note: To see this report with the tables properly formatted, open the PDF version.]

PROJECT BACKGROUND

Thomas E. Colonna and Desencia E. Thomas (husband and wife) own and operate Organian Farms LLC, a 115-acre farm located at 9754 Highway Y in Bowling Green, Missouri. This 115-acre farm is currently in transition for organic certification and has approximately 102 acres in hay production (fescue/red clover mixture). They currently have 30 Angus heifers rotationally grazed on approximately 80 acres of pasture. They also grow a few acres of fruits and vegetables.

 

Certified organic fertilizer in Missouri is neither readily available nor inexpensive. As part of our organic transition plan we needed to haul thousands of gallons of certified organic fertilizer over 100 miles from the source to our farms in Bowling Green, MO. However, certified organic unpasteurized milk is available from several certified organic dairy farms and the milk is currently for sale at a fraction of the price paid for certified organic fish emulsion and kelp (Neptune’s Harvest). We analyzed the use of unpasteurized milk as an organic fertilizer for growing livestock forages to provide useful information for organic farmers and establish the potential use of certified organic unpasteurized milk as an alternative fertilizer for organic.

 

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

GOALS

We planned to analyze and compare unpasteurized organic milk and organic fish emulsion with kelp as an organic fertilizer for livestock forages.

 

PROCESS

We roto-tilled and drilled seed into 16 half-acre size test plots as follows:

 

Plot #

Forage

1

Certified Organic 4241 Creeping Alfalfa is pre-inoculated with OMRI approved INTX Pre-Vail inoculation

2

Certified Organic Red Star Red Clover

3

Certified Organic Kentaur 4N Perennial Ryegrass

4

Certified Organic Climax Timothy

5

Certified Organic Hairy Vetch

6

Certified Organic Pea-Outlage Mix

7

Certified Organic Kora Tall Fescue

8

Organic 4241 Creeping Alfalfa is pre-inoculated with OMRI approved INTX Pre-Vail inoculation and Certified Organic Red Star Red Clover MIXTURE

9

Certified Organic 4241 Creeping Alfalfa is pre-inoculated with OMRI approved INTX Pre-Vail inoculation

10

Certified Organic Red Star Red Clover

11

Certified Organic Kentaur 4N Perennial Ryegrass

12

Certified Organic Climax Timothy

13

Certified Organic Hairy Vetch

14

Certified Organic Pea-Oatlage Mix

15

Certified Organic Kora Tall Fescue

16

Organic 4241 Creeping Alfalfa is pre-inoculated with OMRI approved INTX Pre-Vail inoculation and Certified Organic Red Star Red Clover MIXTURE

 

Plots 1-8 were sprayed with unpasteurized organic milk diluted 3 parts milk with 17 parts water at an application rate of 20 gallons per acre. Plots 9-16 were sprayed with organic fish emulsion plus kelp (Neptune’s Harvest) diluted 1:10 at an application rate of 20 gallons per acre.

 

Ten soil core samples were taken in a random fashion to a depth of 12 inches on each test plot and combined into single samples for each test plot to be analyzed by Perry Agricultural Lab (PO Box 418, State Hwy. 54 East, Bowling Green, MO) at times: just before initial fertilizer application; 12 months, 18 months, and 24 months after initial fertilizer application. We cut and baled the 16 half-acre size test plots – weighing the bales to determine total pounds of forage per acre. Plant tissue samples were taken at the vegetative stage for each forage test plot just before the first cutting each year. Feed analysis was performed by Perry Agricultural Labs in Bowling Green, MO on samples from each test plot after harvesting and baling. Milk fertilized, and fish emulsion fertilized soil samples were analyzed as set forth in the table below.

 

Plot #

Forage

1

Certified Organic 4241 Creeping Alfalfa is pre-inoculated with OMRI approved INTX Pre-Vail inoculation fertilized with unpasteurized organic milk

2

Certified Organic Red Star Red Clover fertilized with unpasteurized organic milk

3

Certified Organic Kentaur 4N Perennial Ryegrass fertilized with unpasteurized organic milk

4

Certified Organic Climax Timothy fertilized with unpasteurized organic milk

5

Certified Organic Hairy Vetch fertilized with unpasteurized organic milk

6

Certified Organic Pea-Outlage Mix fertilized with unpasteurized organic milk

7

Certified Organic Kora Tall Fescue fertilized with unpasteurized organic milk

8

Organic 4241 Creeping Alfalfa is pre-inoculated with OMRI approved INTX Pre-Vail inoculation and Certified Organic Red Star Red Clover MIXTURE fertilized with unpasteurized organic milk

9

Certified Organic 4241 Creeping Alfalfa is pre-inoculated with OMRI approved INTX Pre-Vail inoculation fertilized with organic fish emulsion plus kelp (Neptune’s Harvest)

10

Certified Organic Red Star Red Clover fertilized with organic fish emulsion plus kelp (Neptune’s Harvest)

11

Certified Organic Kentaur 4N Perennial Ryegrass fertilized with organic fish emulsion plus kelp (Neptune’s Harvest)

12

Certified Organic Climax Timothy fertilized with organic fish emulsion plus kelp (Neptune’s Harvest)

13

Certified Organic Hairy Vetch fertilized with organic fish emulsion plus kelp (Neptune’s Harvest)

14

Certified Organic Pea-Oatlage Mix fertilized with organic fish emulsion plus kelp (Neptune’s Harvest)

15

Certified Organic Kora Tall Fescue fertilized with organic fish emulsion plus kelp (Neptune’s Harvest)

16

Organic 4241 Creeping Alfalfa is pre-inoculated with OMRI approved INTX Pre-Vail inoculation and Certified Organic Red Star Red Clover MIXTURE fertilized with organic fish emulsion plus kelp (Neptune’s Harvest)

 

PEOPLE

  • Thomas E. Colonna (Member/Manager, Organian Farms LLC)
  • Desencia E. Thomas (Member/Manager, Organian Farms LLC)
  • Gary Noel (USDA/NRCS Bowling Green, MO office)
  • Keith Jackson (USDA/NRCS Bowling Green, MO office)
  • Mike L. Adams (Farmer)
  • Mike L. Adams II (Farmer)
  • Stephen Jennings (Member/Manager, Jennings Agricultural Services LLC)

 

 

RESULTS

It should be noted that the 115-acre farm purchased in the fall of 2009 was conventionally farmed for approximately 50 years – resulting in soils that were severely nutrient depleted with average organic matter levels below one percent. After an extended drought in 2011 and 2012 (which caused us to delay planting the test plots until 2013) we had cool and wet summers in 2013 and 2014, which provided ideal conditions for the growth of cool season grasses. Overall, we saw little statistically significant difference between the unpasteurized organic milk vs. organic fish emulsion and kelp (Neptune’s Harvest) as a fertilizer for livestock forage. The cooler and wetter conditions of the summers of 2013 and 2014 led to far fewer crickets and more earthworms in the pastures and test plots than the drought plagued summers of 2011 and 2012. There was a higher level of soil calcium present in plots treated with unpasteurized organic milk. This is expected given the high level of calcium in milk. Forage protein levels were consistently higher in forage treated with unpasteurized organic milk. There is a trend toward higher soil potassium (K) levels in plots treated with unpasteurized organic milk and a trend toward higher soil phosphorous (P) levels in plots treated with Neptune’s Harvest. We look forward to collecting more data in 2015 to see if we can identify any other trends and test the reproducibility of our initial test results.    

 

 

Plot

Avg. Forage Yield lbs/acre

Avg. Forage Protein (%)

Avg. Soil Organic Matter (%)

Avg. Soil Total Nitrogen (ppm)

Avg. Soil (P) lbs/acre

Avg. Soil (K) lbs/acre

Avg. Soil pH

Avg. Soil CEC

(me)

Avg. Soil Calcium

lbs/acre

1 (Alfalfa – Milk)

2,272

20.12

1.10

14.83

9

72

6.3

11.44

3,375

2 (Clover – Milk)

1,128

18.90

1.90

16.40

9

133

6.5

14.63

4,673

3 (Ryegrass – Milk)

2,376

9.93

2.00

10.07

6

112

6.7

12.47

4,413

4 (Timothy – Milk)

2,918

8.76

1.70

14.23

12

112

6.5

13.10

4,251

5 (Vetch – Milk)

1,222

19.86

1.60

16.23

9

114

6.6

11.51

3,960

6 (Pea/Oat – Milk)

1,240

20.18

1.90

14.10

9

119

6.4

14.72

4,436

7 (Fescue – Milk)

1,594

7.73

1.70

14.11

15

132

6.3

14.91

4,467

8 (Alfalfa/Clover – Milk)

2,750

18.25

1.40

13.47

9

92

6.7

10.67

3,809

9 (Alfalfa – N.H.)

864

15.54

1.80

16.00

19

127

6.2

14.36

4,234

10 (Clover – N.H.)

1,686

22.14

2.10

13.38

6

105

6.8

11.96

4,296

11 (Ryegrass – N.H.)

2,432

11.08

2.00

12.19

12

102

6.7

11.20

3,935

12 (Timothy – N.H.)

2,588

5.06

1.20

15.13

9

59

6.7

8.62

3,091

13 (Vetch – N.H.)

1,882

18.00

1.60

14.33

19

99

6.2

11.94

3,459

14 (Pea/Oat – N.H.)

2,352

12.10

1.60

11.12

19

95

7.1

11.26

4,017

15 (Fescue – N.H.)

2,504

6.34

1.20

10.30

15

89

6.2

11.98

3,288

16 (Alfalfa/Clover – N.H.)

3,516

15.62

1.10

10.81

38

84

6.7

10.52

3,666

 

DISCUSSION

We plan to collect more data and look for statistically significant trends in our comparison between Unpasteurized Organic Milk vs. Organic Fish Emulsion and Kelp (Neptune’s Harvest) as an Organic Fertilizer for Livestock Forages. We plan to continue the test plots for at least five years to generate sufficient data to support long term conclusions and see how reproducible results are under a variety of growing conditions (our preliminary results in 2011 and 2012 suggested some benefits of unpasteurized organic milk during drought conditions that were not seen under ideal cool season grass growing conditions in 2013 and 2014).

 

PROJECT IMPACTS

If we can demonstrate long term similar results between the unpasteurized organic milk vs. organic fish emulsion and kelp (Neptune’s Harvest) as a fertilizer for livestock forage there could be substantial savings for organic farmers located long distances from the coastlines of the U.S.

 

OUTREACH

We spoke on several occasions with Gary Noel and Keith Jackson (both at USDA/NRCS Bowling Green, MO office) about this project. We eventually plan to post results on our website (www.OrganianFarms.com) and to submit articles for publication, as well as, to present results at future Organian Farm Field Days.

Research

Participation Summary
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.