We learned through surveys that 59% of organic dairy farmers in the Northeast feed kelp meal. We hypothesize that the antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of kelp improve animal health, and that kelp’s iodine is promptly transferred to milk resulting in concentration of iodine above recommended for human consumption, particularly young children . These hypotheses will be tested by 2 mechanisms: (i) Improve animal health and farm profitability by fine-tuning kelp supplementation, and (ii) An industry-scale survey of the iodine content in organic retail milk in the Northeast. Our overarching goal is to increase farmers’ knowledge about the challenges and opportunities of kelp supplementation including kelp’s potential benefits on improving animal health, as well as its cost effectiveness and impacts on milk iodine levels. Farmers will be confident on how to fine-tune the amount of kelp fed to their milking cows, and how this adjustment reduces feed costs and milk iodine levels.
A core group of 5 organic dairy farmers in collaboration with our team will guide the implementation of this project by feeding kelp meal to their dairy herds. Feeding trials conducted at the University of New Hampshire aimed at investigating different strategies of kelp meal supplementation will provide insights about the profitability of kelp use, as well as cow health, production, and methane emissions. Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI) records of participant dairies will be used to assess the efficacy of kelp meal on improving milk SCC. Surveys, workshops, webinars, and field days will be used by our team to educate farmers about kelp meal supplementation. Our educational program will proceed through a multi-pronged approach including direct-farmer-to-farmer learning, social-media technology transfer, and development of income over feed costs budget.
Sixty organic dairy farmers managing 3,500 cows with milk iodine of 1,370 micrograms/L and annual kelp meal costs of $8,891/farm ($0.07/oz of kelp × 58 cows/farm × 365 days) reduce milk iodine to 800 micrograms/L and annual kelp costs to $4,446/farm after fine-tuning kelp supplementation from 6 to 3 oz/cow/day.
PROBLEM OR OPPORTUNITY DESCRIPTION
Kelp meal is known to contain a wide spectrum of nutritional compounds, including minerals (particularly iodine), polyunsaturated fatty acids, bioactive peptides, and vitamins. Kelp meal is also rich in antioxidants with potential animal health benefits and phlorotannins with antimicrobial properties.
Our 2013 survey (Northeast-SARE award# G12-049) revealed that 59% of organic dairies in the Northeast feed kelp meal seasonally or year-round (245 total survey respondents). Specifically, our survey showed that 131 or 92% farmers (142 respondents) feed kelp meal to their milking cows, while 116 or 82% (142 respondents) feed it to dry cows and heifers, and 84 or 60% (140 respondents) to calves. Farmers feed kelp meal because (i) it improves body condition and overall animal appearance, (ii) it decreases milk somatic cells count (SCC) and the incidence of pinkeye and reproductive problems, and (iii) it helps to control nuisance flies. Although these anecdotal claims seem to justify the use of kelp meal, there is limited scientific evidence to support its remarkable popularity among northeastern organic dairies.
Excess iodine intake is a growing public health concern. We demonstrated that milk iodine increased linearly with feeding incremental amounts (0, 2, 4, or 6 oz/day) of kelp meal to organic dairy cows. American children 1 to 3 year-old should consume 2 cups of low-fat or fat-free milk daily as part of a healthy diet. This recommendation would result in excess iodine intake of 85, 342, and 448 micrograms daily if drinking milk from cows fed 2, 4, or 6 oz/day of kelp meal, respectively, based on the tolerable upper intake limit of 200 micrograms/day of iodine consumption recommended to 1 to 3 year-old children. Chronic consumption of excess iodine increases the risk of thyroiditis, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and goiter. However, a systematic evaluation of the content of iodine in organic retail milk has not been conducted to date in the US. Also lacking is a comprehensive evaluation of the effects of kelp meal on farm profitability, and markers of milk quality and udder health through on-farm research and analysis of DHI records. Producing and marketing fresh, high quality milk to improve consumer health are core values of organic dairy agriculture. This project builds on our previous research to help organic dairies maintain consumer trust by unraveling challenges and opportunities of kelp meal supplementation in the Northeast.
Our team will engage northeastern organic dairy farmers in a research and educational program focused on fine-tuning kelp meal supplementation for improving farm profitability and animal health, while comprehensively assessing the concentration of iodine in organic retail milk for the first time in the US. Our educational and research components will address the top concerns about kelp meal use including its cost effectiveness and impact on milk SCC, its capacity to increase milk iodine content to levels potentially toxic to humans, and the amount of kelp to be fed. We observed no differences in the yields of milk and milk components in organic dairy cows fed incremental amounts of kelp meal (0, 2, 4, or 6 oz) during the winter or 4 oz of kelp during the summer. These valuable insights will be integrated in our educational approach.
Kelp meal has been shown to improve health of large and small ruminants. However, kelp meal is an expensive supplement and most research to date showed no consistent improvements in production with feeding kelp. Thus, farmers need research-based information to make educated decisions about the trade-offs between potential benefits in animal health and no consistent effect on milk production when feeding kelp. Our unpublished results showed that kelp meal reduced milk SCC during the grazing season suggesting that kelp may have helped cows to cope better with heat stress and fly pressure resulting in improved milk quality and udder health. However, these results need to be validated with larger number of animals. To solve this limitation, we are proposing to recruit 5 organic dairy farmers who will feed kelp meal to approximately 350 milking cows (700 total) during 2 grazing seasons. On-farm trials will be enhanced by assessment of DHI records from participant dairies, thus providing farmers with the information they need to make profitable decisions about kelp meal.
Our laboratory was awarded a Northeast SARE grant (#GNE15-101) to investigate the effects of kelp meal on rumen microbial communities. while educating farmers about kelp supplementation by developing The Kelp Meal Feeding Guide. This guide will be integrated in our current research and educational program to streamline federal resources. We are confident that our University and on-farm feeding trials coupled with workshops, field days, social media outlets, video, and peer-reviewed publications make our research and educational program effective and integrated.
We hypothesize that the antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of kelp meal improve animal health, and that kelp’s iodine is transferred to milk resulting in concentration of iodine above the recommended level for human consumption, particularly children. These hypotheses will be tested by 2 mechanisms:
Mechanism 1: Improve animal health and farm profitability by fine-tuning kelp meal supplementation.
Mechanism 2: Measure milk iodine concentration through an industry-scale survey of retail samples of organic milk in the Northeast.
Mechanism 1 (Fine-tuning kelp meal supplementation – University Research) – Study 1:
A 84-day long feeding trial was conducted at the University of New Hampshire-Organic Dairy Research Farm (UNH-ODRF) from February to May, 2017. Twenty milking cows received diets containing soybean meal or canola meal as the sole protein sources supplemented or not with kelp meal in a factorial replicated 4 x 4 Latin square design (4 treatments and 4 periods) with 14 days for diet adaptation and 7 days for data and sample collection. Dietary treatments were fed as total mixed rations (TMR) and consisted (dry matter basis) of 55% grass-legume mix baleage, 2.5% liquid molasses, 2% roasted soybean meal, 2% mineral-vitamin premix, and one of the following energy-protein mix: (1) 28.5% ground corn, 10% soybean meal, and 0 oz kelp meal, (2) 28.5% ground corn, 10% soybean meal, and 3 oz kelp meal, (3) 26% ground corn, 12.5% canola meal, and 0 oz kelp meal, and (4) 26% ground corn, 12.5% canola meal, and 3 oz kelp meal. In the 2 diets without kelp meal, ethylenediamine dihydoiodide (EDDI) was fed to keep rations with similar concentrations of iodine. Our rationale is that canola meal contains goitrogenic compounds that reduce the transfer of iodine into milk, whereas soybean meal is deprived of such metabolites. If kelp meal is economical to feed or positively impacts animal health, canola meal may allow farmers to continue feed kelp without producing milk with excess iodine.
Individual intake and milk production were measured daily throughout the trial. Milk samples were collected and analyzed for fat, protein, lactose, urea nitrogen (MUN), and somatic cells count (SCC). Feeds and TMR were collected in each period and analyzed for dry matter, crude protein, neutral and acid detergent fiber, ash, and minerals. Blood samples were collected and analyzed for thyroid hormones and cortisol. Data were analyzed using the MIXED procedure of SAS according to a Latin square design with a 2 x 2 factorial arrangement of treatments.
Mechanism 1 (Fine-tuning kelp meal supplementation – University Research) – Study 2:
A 63-d long experiment was conducted at the UNH-ODRF from February to May 1, 2018. Following a 2-wk covariate period, 19 multiparous and 1 primiparous organically-certified lactating Jersey cows were used. Cows averaged (mean ± standard deviation) 102 ± 52 days in milk, 467 ± 60 kg of body weight, and 23.8 ± 3.45 kg/d of milk at the beginning of the study. Cows were assigned to 2 groups in a completely randomized block design. Animals were paired (n = 10 pairs) and each pair balanced by parity, days in milk, or milk yield. Within pairs, cows were randomly assigned to 2 treatments. Each experimental period lasted 21 d, with the first 2 weeks used for diets adaptation. Samples were collected on weeks 3, 6, and 9. The basal diet was fed in a component feeding system (i.e., alfalfa hay allocated to each cow first followed by concentrate top-dressed to hay). The forage-to-concentrate ratio averaged (% of diet dry matter) 60:40. The 2 experimental diets fed in the first period (d 1-21) consisted of (1) basal diet (control) or (2) basal diet plus 2% of kelp meal (400 g/d, dry matter basis). In period 2 (d 22-42; step-down phase) cows were fed: (1) control diet or (2) 0.5% kelp meal (100 g/d, dry matter basis). In period 3 (d 43-63; withdraw phase), kelp meal supplementation was discontinued, and all cows received the control diet. The GreenFeed system (C-Lock Inc.; automated head chamber apparatus) was used to measure gas emissions (methane and CO2 production and O2 consumption). All 20 cows had access to the GreenFeed system and visited the unit regularly during the study. To analyze the effects of kelp meal withdrawal on milk iodine concentration, milk samples were collected at the end of period 2 and at 24, 48, 72, 96, and 168 h after kelp feeding was discontinued. The rationale behind this study is that previous in vitro work showed that high levels of kelp meal (up to 5% of the diet dry matter) decreased methane emissions possibly as a result of the antimicrobial properties of phlorotannins present in kelp, thus inhibiting the growth of methanogenic microorganisms in the rumen. However, inclusion of 5% of kelp meal in dairy diets is not practically feasible because of the high iodine intake, which may result in negative effects on animal and human health.
Individual intake and milk production were measured daily throughout the trial. Milk samples were collected and analyzed for fat, protein, lactose, urea nitrogen (MUN), and somatic cells count (SCC). Feeds and TMR were collected in each period and analyzed for dry matter, crude protein, neutral and acid detergent fiber, ash, and minerals. Blood samples were collected and analyzed for thyroid hormones and cortisol. Data were analyzed using the MIXED procedure of SAS with repeated measures over time.
Mechanism 1 (Fine-tuning kelp meal supplementation – On-farm Research):
Approximately 600 milking dairy cows/year from 4 organic dairy farms (2 in Maine and 2 in Pennsylvania) were used in the summer of 2018 and 2019 in a study to investigate the effects of kelp meal on milk iodine and SCC. Baseline data (milk and feeds) were collected prior to the beginning of the study for analysis of nutrients (see above) and milk SCC. Cows were fed 2 oz of kelp meal for 3-5 months in each farm. During the kelp meal feeding period, farms were visited monthly for collection of feeds and milk. Feeds were analyzed for crude protein, neutral and acid detergent fiber, ash, and minerals (including iodine), while milk samples were tested for fat, protein, lactose, MUN, SCC, and iodine. Milk and feed samples were also collected after the kelp meal feeding period was completed. Baseline milk SCC, kelp meal feeding period milk SCC, and post-feeding period milk SCC will be analyzed to test the effects of kelp meal on milk SCC. Dairy Herd Improvement records from all farms will be used. We are also collaborating with an organic dairy farmer in VT who has been feeding kelp meal consistently for over 5 years. We will analyze his herd milk SCC before and after feeding kelp meal to assess changes in milk SCC over time.
Mechanism 2 (Milk iodine industry-scale survey):
A survey was conducted during 3 different times of the year to evaluate the potential differences in milk iodine concentration across seasons and management systems (organic vs. conventional). Organically-certified dairy cows must graze during the grazing season (usually from April to November in the Northeast) to comply with federally-mandate rules, while conventional cows are generally raised in confinement systems. Therefore, we are expecting to see differences in the concentration of iodine in milk from organic versus conventional sources. All states of the Northeast region (i.e., NH, MA, ME, RI, CT, NY, NJ, DE, MD, VT, PA) and Washington D.C. were visited for purchasing milk from selected grocery stores. We visited the most populated cities in each state with population greater than 100,000 people. In ME, VT, and DE, no cities met the 100,000-population threshold, so milk was purchased from the most populated city in each of these 3 states. The number of grocery stores selected to be visited in each city was proportional to the population size. The first survey was conducted in June 2017 to represent early pasture season; the second survey was done in October 2017 to represent the end of the grazing season and the last survey was conducted during the winter (March 2018) to represent feeding practices that do not include pasture in cows’ diets. Milk from all states and Washington D.C. were purchased in the first (early summer) and third (winter) surveys, while only New England states were surveyed in the fall season. The fall season survey was done to capture differences in feeding practices and changes in pasture botanical composition compared with the early pasture season survey. In our surveys, 22 cities and 73 popular grocery stores were visited and over 3,800 observations were recorded and 375 milk samples were bought including all different types of milk, packages, and brands. Milk with 2% fat concentration was purchased (organic and conventional) because reduced fat milk is the most consumed and also recommended by the US dietary guidelines.
Mechanism 1 (Fine-tuning kelp meal supplementation – University Research) – Study 1:
Updated production results associated with the feeding trial are presented in Table 1 (see attachment; Table 1). Cows fed diets containing soybean meal and kelp meal produced more milk than those fed canola meal and EDDI. Improved milk production with kelp meal may be related to its minerals and vitamins better matching the basal diet compared with EDDI. Dry matter intake was increased by 1.2 kg/d in cows fed canola meal compared with those fed soybean meal with no differences between both iodine sources (kelp meal vs. EDDI). Concentrations of milk fat, protein, lactose, and total solids decreased, while milk non-fat content tended to decrease in cows fed soybean meal vs. canola meal. These results may be explained by a dilution effect caused by increased milk volume with feeding soybean meal rather than canola meal. Yields of milk lactose and solids non-fat were greater in diets containing soybean meal than canola meal and followed milk production. Likewise, cows fed kelp meal showed increased milk lactose yield in comparison to those fed EDDI. The concentration of MUN was greater when feeding soybean meal vs. canola meal likely because protein from soybean meal is more degraded in the rumen than that from canola meal. No treatment effects were observed for yields of milk fat and protein and milk SCC.
Milk iodine concentration and concentration of blood metabolites were also analyzed and are presented in Table 2 (see attachment). Milk iodine concentration decreased in cows fed kelp meal and canola meal suggesting that goitrogenic compounds (i.e., glucosinolates) present in canola were effective in binding to iodine, thus preventing its transfer to milk. In contrast, no diet effects were observed for the serum concentrations of thyroid hormones and cortisol except that the serum concentration of thyroid stimulating hormone was lower in cows fed canola meal. The serum concentration of urea-N followed that of MUN and increased in cows fed canola meal vs. soybean meal without an effect of iodine source (kelp vs. EDDI). The serum concentration of iodine tended to increase in cows fed canola meal vs. soybean meal, while cows fed kelp meal showed lower concentration of iodine in serum compared with those fed EDDI. These results suggest that iodine from EDDI appears to be more bioavailable than iodine from kelp meal.
Nitrogen intake and urinary excretion of nitrogenous metabolites are presented in Table 3 (see attachment). As expected, N intake followed dry matter intake and was greater in cows fed canola meal than soybean meal. Urinary N excretion expressed in grams/d or as a proportion of N intake decreased with feeding canola meal versus soybean meal, suggesting improve N use efficiency in cows receiving canola meal. The urinary excretion of uric acid increased with feeding kelp meal rather than EDDI. However, neither urinary excretion of allantoin nor total purine derivatives was affected by iodine source. Purine derivatives (i.e., uric acid and allantoin) are used as internal markers to estimate microbial protein synthesis in the rumen. Therefore, the inconsistent effect of kelp meal on the urinary excretion of uric acid and allantoin indicate that further research is needed to evaluate these responses.
Mechanism 1 (Fine-tuning kelp meal supplementation – University Research) – Study 2:
Treatments (kelp vs. non-kelp meal) did not affect dry matter intake (mean = 20.4 kg/d) and yields of milk and energy-corrected milk (mean = 24 and 28.3 kg/d, respectively). Concentrations and yields of milk fat and true protein, as well as CH4 and CO2 production were also unchanged. Specifically, CH4 production averaged 389 g/d (elevated phase; 0 vs. 400 g/d of kelp meal), 394 g/d (step-down phase; vs. 100 g/d of kelp meal), and 380 g/d (withdraw phase; no kelp meal feeding). Mean CH4 yield (19.2 g/kg of dry matter intake) and intensity (13.9 g/kg of energy-corrected milk) were similar between treatments as well. In contrast, cows fed kelp showed greater concentration of iodine compared with those that did not receive kelp in their diets during the elevated (838 vs. 215 μg/L) and step-down (562 vs. 252 μg/L). As expected, no significant differences in milk iodine concentration was found during the withdraw phase between cows that received kelp meal before and those that have not (201 vs. 202 μg/L). Iodine concentrations in milk samples collected at the end of period 2 (i.e., step-down phase) and at 24, 48, 72, 96, and 168 h after kelp feeding was discontinued averaged 588, 402, 261, 234, and 184 μg/L, respectivelly.
Estimated I intake from kelp meal averaged 240 and 60 mg/d during the elevated and step-down phases, respectively. This resulted in I intake of 34- (elevated phase) and 8.5-fold (step-down phase) greater than required (i.e., 7.1 g/d) based on the NRC (2001). Treatments did not significantly affect plasma thyroid stimulating hormone (mean = 0.445 µIU/mL), free T3 (mean = 4.43 ng/mL), free T4 (mean = 0.74 ng/mL), cortisol (mean = 31 ng/mL), and urea N (mean = 10.9 mg/dL). In addition, no treatment effects were detected for white and red blood cells count, which averaged 7.60 × 103 and 5.86 × 106 cells/µL, respectively.
Overall, dietary inclusion of 2% kelp meal did not affect animal or enteric CH4 production, thus suggesting that greater amounts of kelp meal, increased feeding time or both may be required to depress methanogenesis. It should be also noted that despite excess iodine intake particularly during the high-phase, cows showed no signs of impaired health.
Mechanism 1 (Fine-tuning kelp meal supplementation – On-farm Research):
Feed and milk samples and DHI data from 2018 and 2019 are being currently processed and analyzed. Project collaborator Dr. Kathy Soder is leading this project component.
Mechanism 2 (Milk iodine industry-scale survey):
A total of 374 retail samples of 2%-reduced fat organic (n=131) and conventional (n=243) milk was purchased in grocery stores (n = 73) between June 2017 and March 2018 from 11 northeastern states and Washington DC.; 115 samples were processed as ultra-heat temperature (UHT) pasteurization and 259 were traditionally pasteurized. The overall milk iodine concentration for conventional milk averaged 395 ± 13 μg/L and was similar to organically produced milk (387 ± 14 μg/L). Milk iodine concentration showed a significant seasonal effect with lower values observed during the summer (conventional = 393 ± 17 μg/L; organic = 336 ± 23 μg/L) and fall (conventional = 354 ± 26 μg/L; organic = 314 ± 28 μg/L) and higher values in the spring (conventional = 437 ± 17 μg/L; organic = 513 ± 22 μg/L). These findings showed that milk iodine concentration was likely influenced by different feeding strategies between the summer and winter. Notably, increased intake of goitrogenic compounds present in pastures is possibly responsible for the reduced milk iodine observed in organic milk. Milk processing affected milk iodine concentration with UHT milk showing significantly higher iodine (428 ± 16 μg/L) than traditional pasteurization (354 ± 12 μg/L). We were expecting a higher concentration of iodine in organic versus conventional milk due to the high prevalence of kelp meal supplementation in organic dairy farms in the Northeast.
We will invite approximately 245 organic dairy farmers who participated in our 2013 survey, and deliver advertisements to about 1,000 farmers in the Northeast through dairy meetings [e.g., Vermont Organic Dairy Producers Conference, Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA)-NY Organic Dairy and Field Crop Conference, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA) Annual Field Days and Conference], newsletters, email networks, and farmer-oriented publications and websites (e.g., NODPA News, Graze, On Pasture). Recruitment materials will include background information about the project and an opportunity to sign up as participant by conducting on-farm research or providing access to DHI records. We recently surveyed the Northeastern organic dairies and learned about kelp meal supplementation practices, knowledge level, and educational needs. These insights will be used in our educational program and recruitment approach.
This project combines a comprehensive educational and research program to fine-tune kelp meal supplementation for improving farm profitability and animal health, while surveying the iodine content of organic retail milk. The educational program will be based on our previous survey and will proceed through a multi-pronged approach that includes field days, direct-farmer-to-farmer learning, social-media technology transfer, workshops, and development of a decision aid tool (i.e., The Kelp Profitability Calculator). This tool will be based on income over feed costs and sensitivity analyses condensed into an Excel spreadsheet and posted on University and project Facebook webpages for farmer access. We will also recruit 6 farmers who will conduct on-farm feeding trials. University and on-farm research results including the effects of kelp meal supplementation on farm profitability (measured as income over feeds costs) and animal health (measured via reduced milk SCC or incidence of pinkeye and mastitis) will be shared and discussed with participants in workshops and field days. These project activities and knowledge transfer and exchange will help farmers make informed decisions about how to fine-tune kelp supplementation in their family dairies. We will also engage milk processors and the general public in our workshops to educate them about the relationship between kelp meal supplementation and milk iodine, while bring their perspectives to our integrated research and educational program.
Educational activities of our project to date include:
-Why consumers should be concerned about the iodine content of milk and milk-alternative beverages? (Presentation at the Department of Agriculture, Nutrition, and Food Systems Seminar Series, University of New Hampshire, Durham): November 17, 2017.
-University of New Hampshire Agriculture Experimental Stations Field Days (UNH farms including both dairy herds; overview of the project and presentation of project results ): October, 2017 & 2018.
-Field days at the Wolfe’s Neck Farm (Overview of the project and highlighting some project results): July 18, 2018 and September 10, 2018.
-Penn State Extension “The Dairy Grazing Management Webinar Series (https://psu.app.box.com/s/xqdlxvnl21eqhoem77iked92mqdxh3tn): December 19, 2018.
-Project workshop “What’s in Your Milk” (Presentation at NOFA-NY Annual Winter Conference): January 19, 2019.
-Project workshop “Annual Forage Crops and Supplementation Strategies for Grazing Dairy Cows” (Presentation at Granite State Graziers Annual Grazing Conference): February 16, 2019.
-Project workshop “Opportunities for Strengthening Organic Dairy in the Northeast: From Kelp to Grass Fed to Human Health” (Presentation at NOFA-VT Annual Winter Conference): February 17, 2019.
-Project results were presented in 2019 American Dairy Science Association Annual Meeting with 3 posters titled: 1) “Interactions between iodine and protein sources: Effects on milk yield, milk components, and urinary N excretion in Jersey cows; and 2) Interactions between iodine and protein sources: Effects on milk iodine and thyroid hormones in Jersey cows; and 3) Effect of kelp meal on milk yield, methane emission,
and thyroid hormones in Jersey cows. The meeting took place in Cincinnati, OH (June, 2019).
-Project results were presented in the VIII Brazilian Congress of Milk Quality (VIII Congresso Brasileiro de Qualidade do Leite – CBQL) in Lages, Santa Catarina, Brazil: September, 2019.
-Project results were presented in the VII SIMLEITE International Symposium of Dairy Cattle (VII SIMLEITE -Simpósio Internacional de Bovinocultura Leiteira) in Viçosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil: October, 2019.
1,000 Northeastern organic dairy farmers learn about kelp meal supplementation educational opportunities and receive an online survey to gauge their interest in participating in project activities. (September 2016)
We conducted a survey with the support of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA) that helped our team to initially identify farmers who are feeding kelp meal in the region, how much is being fed, and which class of animals receive kelp. A list of organic dairies feeding kelp meal was produced from our original survey. Another survey is currently being prepared to identify whether farmers still feeding kelp or if they discontinued. Our goal is to understand changes in farmers behavior relative to feeding kelp meal.
200 farmers return the survey; 150 farmers agree to participate in our educational program; 6 farmers agree to conduct kelp meal feeding trials and become peer-leaders helping disseminate project results. (December 2016)
Four organic dairy farms (2 in ME and 2 in PA) agreed to conduct on farm-research by feeding kelp meal to their milking cows. A farmer from VT who has been consistently feeding for last 5 years also agreed to participate by providing Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI) data.
100 farmers attend 3, 2-hour workshops in New England and Pennsylvania that explain performance target, known benefits and challenges about kelp meal supplementation, ongoing kelp research, on-farm feeding trials, and The Kelp Profitability Calculator; 40 of these farmers agree to provide access to dairy herd improvement
(DHI) records. (January to March 2017)
We found difficult to obtain reliable and consistent DHI from organic dairy farmers feeding kelp meal as most farmers do not feed kelp year-round. Therefore, we decided to work closely with 5 organic dairy farmers so we could obtain more consistent DHI data. Project information and background regarding kelp meal profitability, supplementation level, benefits and challenges have been disseminated to farmers during project events including field days, workshops, and webinars.
80 farmers attend field days at University of New Hampshire (UNH) and lead dairies about fine-tuning kelp supplementation and its cost effectiveness. (June 2017)
The University of New Hampshire Agriculture Experiment Station organize annual field days highlighting the research conducted at the UNH farms including both dairy herds (conventional and organic). Our team has been actively participating in such events presenting project results and information about kelp meal supplementation and other dairy nutrition related materials to farmers, students, faculty, and extension educators. In addition to field days, project team has delivered presentations at universities and farmer conferences (e.g., NOFA-NY, NOFA-VT, NH Granite State Graziers, VT Organic Dairy Conference).
On-farm feeding trials start in 6 lead dairies to investigate the effects of kelp meal on animal health, milk iodine, and farm profitability. (June to August 2017)
Four organic dairy farmers (2 in ME and 2 in PA) did feed kelp meal for approximately 4 months during the last grazing season. About 600 milking cows were supplemented with kelp meal this past summer. We are also collecting DHI records form a farm in VT that has consistently fed kelp meal for the last 5 years.
Farmers consult with project team via email, phone calls, and Facebook about the impact of kelp meal on milk quality, animal health, and feed costs. (Ongoing)
Our team has been consistently communicating with organic dairy farmers regarding kelp meal supplementation through emails, phone calls, workshops, farmer conferences, and field days.
90 farmers attend field days at UNH and lead dairies to learn about the results of the kelp meal feeding trials. (June to September 2018)
The University of New Hampshire Agriculture Experiment Station organize annual field days highlighting the research conducted at the UNH farms including both dairy herds (conventional and organic). Our team has been actively participating in such events presenting project results and information about kelp meal supplementation and other dairy nutrition related materials to farmers, students, faculty, and extension educators. We are also collaborating with Wolfe’s Neck Farm (WNF) in Newport (ME) to enhance our educational program. WNF receives thousands of visitors per year including farmers, dairy industry personnel (veterinarians, nutritionists, milk processors), and extension educators. WNF is feeding kelp meal and data collected will be incorporated in the general project database.
65 farmers who attended field days at UNH and lead dairies and participated in project surveys and educational program submit kelp meal supplementation strategies for project team to review. (October 2018)
Our team has been working closely with 5 organic dairy farmers in addition to several others who expressed interest in learning more about by attending our field days, workshops, webinar, and presentations in farmer conferences.
Project team produces a video-clip to educate farmers, milk processors, and the general public about the relationships among kelp meal supplementation, milk iodine, and human health; video is disseminated via project Facebook and UNH websites. (March 2019)
We delivered a 50-min webinar regarding kelp meal supplementation to grazing dairy cows in partnership with Penn State Extension in their “The Dairy Grazing Management webinar series” (https://psu.app.box.com/s/xqdlxvnl21eqhoem77iked92mqdxh3tn ). We will deliver one additional video highlighting additional project results in the near future.
60 farmers fine-tune kelp meal supplementation to reduce feed costs, thus improving the economic sustainability of organic dairying in the region. (June to September 2019).