Quality of Life Study: Comparing Conventional and Rotational Grazing Dairy Systems

Final Report for FNC93-044

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 1993: $3,600.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1994
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $2,650.00
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Expand All

Project Information


[Editor’s note: There are a number of tables, graphs and Appendixes that could not be posted online. If you would like to see any of these please email us at ncrsare@umn.edu or call us at 800-529-1342. Thanks]

Name ,Ed Jeanquart ,Kevin Kiehnau ,Mark Gilbert
Years farming, 18, 15 ,18
Education, 14+ years, 12 years, 12 years
Type of business, Family ,Family ,Family
Acres owned ,210, 100 ,190
Acres rented ,100, 142 ,0
Dairy herd size ,60, 60, 60
Crops: Corn ,125 acres ,17 acres, 0
Small grain, 50 acres, 55 acres, 8 acres
Hay ,100 acres, 130 acres, 105 acres
Pasture, 12 acres, 73 acres, 80 acres

Family members and hired help:
Jeanquart family: Ed, Kay, four children ranging in age from 9 to 20 years old. Hired help included one college student, Darrin who was employed for the month of May in the study until graduation. Kay work off the farm part-time during the study.

Kiehnau family: Kevin, Sue, two small children under the age of four and a teenage nephew. Hired help includes one full time hired employee, Steve with small amounts of additional labor from Kevin’s father and some part-time seasonal hired help for haying. Sue worked part-time off the farm during the study.

Gilbert Family: Mark, Laura and three children, ages twelve, nine and four. There is no hired help on the farm. Laura does not work off the farm.

Sustainable practices used before the grant:
Ed Jeanquart
– transition to four year crop rotation, 1 year corn, 1 year small grains, 2 year alfalfa – 6 years
– manure crediting – 6 years
– legume plow down credits for corn – 6 years
– corn with reduced/no herbicides and mechanical weed control – 6 years
– band spraying and liquid fertilizer application in corn – 4 years
– minimum tillage in corn – 3 years
– barley seed-down to legume with reduced/no herbicides – 6 years
– deep nitrate soil testing for corn – 1year
– transition to intensive rotational grazing – 1 year

Kevin Kiehnau
– pasture establishment – 4 years
– intensive rotational grazing – 3 years
– corn with reduced/no herbicides and mechanical weed control – 6 years
– manure sampling and nutrient crediting – 6 years
– legume plow down credits for corn – 5 years
– frost seeding of pastures and hay stands – 3 years

Mark Gilbert
– intensive rotational grazing – 4 years
– frost seeding – 4 years
– oats with reduced herbicides – 4 years
– transition to seasonal dairying – 3 years

Consultants retained for the project include:
Dr. George Stevenson, Assistant Director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. Dr. Stevenson’s background is in rural sociology. His expertise was used in helping to develop the methodology to collect the data and analyze it.

John Bobbe, Coordinator of the Northeast Wisconsin Sustainable Farmers Network, has a Masters Degree in Agricultural Economics, with undergraduate work in agricultural business and farm management. In addition, he has an extensive background in human resource management having done graduate work in this area. He helped designed the on-farm data collection format, compiled the data, developed the data analysis techniques and helped write the final report.

The focus of the proposal was to continue to study how sustainable farming techniques and methods impact on time and labor management in conventional sized dairy operations. The 1993 data collected helped to identify for a 5 month period (May1 – September 30, 1993) how the available labor pool (family and hired) were used on the Kiehnau and Jeanquart farms to accomplish various tasks and time spent on the farm for work and family. The 1994 study collected time study data for the same period (May- September, 1994) on week per month. The purpose was to see if the data gathered in 1993 had any impact on labor use from what was learned.

In addition, a daily log for five months (February 13 – July 16, 1994) was kept on the Gilbert farm to look at the amount of labor required at peak times on a farm with an established intensive rotational grazing system that was moving towards seasonal dairying. The study started two weeks before the beginning of peak calving when a majority of the cows were dry and continued until July. The study looked at the total labor pool available on the farm and how it was used.

Daily logs were kept for each family member on all three farms and hired labor on the Jeanquart and Kiehnau farms. Data recorded included the time spent on each task and who was involved. The daily logged hours were then transferred to weekly time sheets. The weekly data was then entered into a computer spreadsheet for analysis.

The methodology was adapted from a study done at the University Of Wisconsin Department Of Agricultural Economics on the Krusenbaum Farm, East Troy, Wisconsin. A similar methodology was used in that study. The 1994 study was based on that study plus our experience with collecting data for 1993 for this grant. A copy of the weekly log sheet used for compilation of the data is included in Appendix A.

In the Jeanquart family, Ed kept a log of his time, for the hired help and for his oldest son. Kay logged her hours and the children’s.

In the Kiehnau family, Kevin logged the hours of his time, the hired help and for his nephew. Sue logged her hours.

In the Gilbert family, Mark logged his hours and Laura logged hers and the children’s.

The method that seemed to work best was simply using a pocket notepad and recording the time of day, task and who was involved. Appendix A contains a copy of the logged data from the Gilbert farm for May 1, 1994 and a further illustration of the methodology. In addition, family members were asked to write journal entries beside the log entries where appropriate.

Data was then transferred by John Bobbe, project consultant, to the data sheets and compiled by months. It was then entered into a computer spreadsheet for printout, analysis and graphical presentation. Data by weeks is contained in Appendixes B, C and D for the Gilbert, Jeanquart and Kiehnau farm respectively.

Additional methodology employed: on the Gilbert farm, the logs were recorded each day for five months, February 13 to July 16.

On the Jeanquart and Kiehnau farms, logs were kept for one week each month. The logs were kept for one week in the first half of each month from May through September.

**Labor task categorization: Based on the log sheet used in the Krusenbaum Study at the University of Wisconsin, tasks were divided up into four main categories with subcategories in each. The hours devoted to each task based on log entries were than allocated to each category.

1) Dairy Enterprise Tasks – specific tasks included:
a. Barn chores – tasks included such things as milking preparation, some feeding, scraping and liming barn allies, clean up, and letting cows in and out of the barn.
b. Cow care – working with veterinarians, routine health and medical care tasks for animals.
c. Dairy management – herd records analysis, DHIA
d. Manure management – barn cleaning, cleaning calf pens, hauling manure out of storage
e. Machinery repair (Barn) – any repairs related to activities in the barn such as mangers, drinking cups, milking systems, barn cleaner, silo unloaders.
f. Feeding – calves and young stock and in the case of the Jeanquart farm, tasks involved with the TMR mixer and feeding the dairy herd. On all three farms, it also included some, but not all the tasks for intensive rotational grazing.
g. Miscellaneous – tasks that were not routine and didn’t readily fit the other categories.
2) Cropping Enterprise Tasks – subcategories and associated tasks that specifically supported the diary enterprise included:
a. Corn – tasks associated with corn from tillage and planting to harvest
b. Small grains – tasks from tillage and planting through harvest
c. Hay – harvesting and ensiling or mowing
d. Machinery repair – all machine repair tasks that supported the cropping enterprise
e. Crop management – crop records, field scouting
f. Miscellaneous – tasks that were not routine in nature and could not be specifically assigned to one of the cropping categories such as hay or corn.
3) Household Tasks – tasks directly or indirectly related to family life on the farm:
a. Personal time – personal discretionary time
b. Family time – time spent with other family members
c. Recreation
d. Kid support – tasks related to supporting the kids in the family such as helping with homework, 4-H projects, errands such as the doctor and school functions
e. House support – this category was not on the original sheet, but was added to include tasks that support family living such as laundry, meal preparation, minor repairs, etc.
f. Miscellaneous – tasks that did not occur routinely or fit any of the other categories
4) General Tasks – specific tasks included:
a. Errands – any trip that supported the farm such as getting repair parts, feed mill, etc.
b. General farm management – farm records, attendance at some farm meetings and functions that supported the farm generally
c. Permanent fence and/or building repair – tasks did not include moving the paddock fence on a daily basis for intensive rotational grazing (IRG), but did include any type of permanent fencing to contain livestock and building repairs. Fence building related to IRG was included in the Dairy Enterprise tasks.
d. Project – a time factor was allotted for keeping the logs. The amount of time recorded probably underestimates the actual time in keeping the logs. It generally involved 15-30 minutes per day.

The actual data for each family is included in Appendixes B, C and D.

For graphical and timeline analysis purposes, each month was divided into four 7 day weeks for Gilbert data. The short week of the month was deleted. Doing this simplified the analysis process and does not appear to have affected the time series analysis.

The analysis is in three parts. Section A deals with the Gilbert Farm and the daily data collected for the five month period from February 13 to July 16. Specific tasks areas were analyzed in relationship to seasonal calving and intensive rotational grazing used on the farm.

Section B is an analysis of the Jeanquart and Kiehnau farms and the data collected in 1994 for one week each month from May through September. The data is compared to one week in the same month of 1993.

Section C is an analysis of all three farms for one week of data during the months of May, June, and July. The total labor hours to perform various tasks from the available labor pool on each farm are compared and then the labor and time involved by the principal farm operator on each farm.

Section A: The Gilbert Farm-Seasonal Calving and Intensive Rotational Grazing
The Gilberts are milking 60 cows in a 30 cow stachion barn. Five milking units are used. The cattle are switched. Cows are fed outside and fed as a group.

The total hours including time spent on household tasks ranges between 175 hours and 235+ hours per week on average. As the number of cows freshening goes up, the amount of labor goes up as well.

Dairy Tasks
Dairy tasks are analyzed in Table 2 and Graphs 2-5. Table 2 shows the average time per day devoted to Dairy Tasks. The total hours per week increases as the number of cows milking increases.

Over 60% of the Dairy Task hours are spent doing barn chores such as milking. An additional 27.7% is spent feeding the livestock on the farm. This compares with the 1993 data on the Kiehnau and Jeanquart farms where 84.4% and 82.2% of the time spent on tasks in this category is for milking and feeding.

Section B
This section gives a brief analysis of data collected on labor tasks on the Jeanquart and Kiehnau farms for 1994. Data was collected for one week each month from May through September. It is compared with 1993 data for a similar week in the corresponding month.

On both farms, with the exception of a couple of weeks, the hours spent doing Dairy Tasks ranges from about 70 to 100 hours per week. The other major category is Household tasks which includes such things as meals, personal and family time. The variation from year to year may be due to differences in weather and cropping operations as well as the number of cows milked.

1) The study of how time is spent on these three farms was beneficial for the families. It makes them realize how labor intensive their farming operations are and how much time various tasks take.
2) Keeping the logs was time consuming and the hours logged for this task are probably underestimated in the actual data in Appendix B where it is listed in a separate task category “Project”. The positive benefits of doing the study outweigh the time spent on keeping the logs.
3) The families feel it would be beneficial for other farm families to keep track of how they spend their time in order to be able to look at how they run their farming operations and the time available for families, etc.
4) With the farm residence and the farming operation itself a part of the same complex, the tendency is to get into routines. With the large amount of hours involved it is easy to end up in the “same old rut”, continuing to do things the same “old way”. This is shown by the fact that on the Kiehnau and Jeanquart farms with the comparison of five weeks of data for 1993 and 1994, nothing has changed much in tasks or amount of time spent doing them.
5) All three farms are in some stage of using intensive rotational grazing. This transition process is time and labor intensive. In the two years of the study, labor saving was not evident. This could possibly be because the transition process means having to run two systems, conventional and IRG or IRG and seasonal calving at the same time.
6) The types of tasks performed with intensive rotational grazing are different than with conventional farming. Examples are: machinery repair versus fencing, tillage and planting versus using a practice like frost seeding.
7) All three families like the idea of IRG and most of the tasks involved and the potential for a positive impact on the quality of life.
8) Perhaps the biggest impediment to reducing the total labor requirement for these farming operations is the type of milking and feeding system used for the dairy herd. Since the facilities have already been invested in, prior to adoption of IRG on these farms, parts of the farming operation other than IRG are dictating the labor requirements.
9) Additional parts of the farming operation are maintained for winter housing and feeding of the dairy herd. Operations such as mechanically harvesting feed and storing it for the winter months contribute to the need for additional labor in the summer months.
10) The Gilberts only have on year of semi-seasonal calving. They are in a transition that includes building a New Zealand milking parlor this winter. The study may only present part of the labor involved in the transition process.

– There needs to be additional studies done on alternative types of housing, feeding and milking systems of labor demands are to be reduced
– Specific areas of study that need to be looked at are in the area of the category “Dairy Tasks” in this study. They include: barn chores, cow care, feeding, manure management and dairy herd management.
– Areas that need to be further researched should not only focus on the capital investment required but also the amount of labor required. Areas to examine should include:
o New Zealand style milking systems and what labor savings there are compared to conventional systems
o Low cost feeding systems with an emphasis on labor savings
o Low cost manure handling and storage systems
o Ways of extending the grazing season such as stockpiling forage
– Extending the grazing season would reduce the amount of mechanically harvested forage required, and reduce the need for manure handling and storage systems and potentially the labor requirements to accomplish the work
– There is not enough research on the whole process of transitioning from a conventional system to IRG systems. Not a lot is known about the labor impacts of transitioning and IRG system to include seasonal milking and whether there is any labor savings over the course of an entire year.


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.