Forage brassicas to mitigate methane emissions and increase economic sustainability of forage-based dairy systems

Final report for LNE16-352

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2016: $192,009.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2020
Grant Recipient: USDA-ARS
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
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Project Information

Summary:

Increasing feed costs as well as growing demand for organic and grassfed markets for meat and milk products has dairy and livestock farmers seeking ways to extend the grazing season. Annual forages such as brassicas can be used to ‘fill gaps’ when other perennial pasture forages are not as productive, such as mid-summer and late fall. Brassicas also show promise in reducing methane emissions in grazing livestock, thereby reducing their environmental impact. We took a multi-prong approach to evaluate the potential for using brassicas on grazing farms in the Northeast. First, a survey was developed and disseminated to grazing farmers throughout the Northeast to assess their current knowledge level and research needs relative to using brassicas in grazing systems. While the survey was being distributed, a field day was held on a dairy farm currently using brassicas for late fall grazing. Twenty-three farmers, farm consultants and agency people (but mostly farmers) attended to listen to presentations on establishing and grazing management of brassicas, as well as take a tour of the hosting farmer’s brassica plots. A total of 26 surveys were received and summarized by the research team. The main results of the survey were: farmers were very interested in exploring alternative forages such as brassicas but were hesitant to try them due to lack of knowledge on successful establishment and concerns with animal health. An in vitro study was conducted using continuous culture fermentors to evaluate the effects of different brassicas (turnip, canola, and forage rape) on ruminal fermentation and methane output of an annual ryegrass diet. Results found that all three brassicas reduced methane output by approximately 50% when compared to annual ryegrass, without negatively impacting nutrient digestibility. A forage plot experiment was conducted to evaluate three different brassicas (canola, turnip, and forage rape) for fall forage production potential when compared to the commonly used annual ryegrass. The three brassicas produced nearly double the forage yield of the annual ryegrass, with two to three times the protein and energy, which would result in significantly more grazing days, and greater animal productivity, in the late fall when other forages are typically dormant. A two-year grazing study was conducted at the University of New Hampshire organic dairy to evaluate the effect of partially replacing baleage with grazing canola during the late fall on milk production and composition of Jersey cows. Milk production and composition were similar between treatments. Cows grazing canola consumed 40% less conserved feed than the control cows, resulting in significant cost savings. Outreach and education activities that included the field day mentioned above, recorded webinars, fact sheets distributed online and at agricultural field days, three online trainings, and one published trade journal article. As a result of these activities, we know of 10 farmers who implemented brassicas on their farms, and at least 40 farmers who stated that knowledge gained here had them considering implementing brassicas into their grazing systems, particularly those who were looking to transition to organic and/or grassfed production.

Performance Target:

Ten dairy producers include forage brassicas into the diets of 750 grazing cattle, resulting in a reduction of 10.4 kg methane per cow and 780 kg methane per farm annually. Farmers reduce feeding costs by $1.50/cow/day and $6,750/farm/year by extending the fall grazing season by 2 months.

 

Introduction:

Forage-based dairy systems have been targeted due to greater methane output to gross energy intake ratio compared with confinement systems. Moreover, winter feeding costs are constantly increasing, reducing the farm profitability during times of low to no pasture production. Therefore, in order to maintain both economic and environmental sustainability of their farms, producers need alternate forage options to extend the fall grazing season, maintaining productivity, and decreasing enteric methane emissions to promote environmental stewardship.

The utilization of forage brassicas in a dairy grazing management plan offers farmers a high-quality feedstuff and a longer fall grazing season, while decreasing on-farm enteric methane emissions. The project team conducted a survey, an in vitro experiment, established a field plot study, and conducted a grazing experiment to determine animal performance and methane mitigation potential of forage brassicas. These experiments provided the project team with science-based recommendations for use of brassicas on northeastern dairy farms. By educating producers on forage brassicas, we provided them with information to best develop an economic and environmentally sustainable production model.

Educational activities included an on-farm field day where presentations on establishment and grazing management of brassicas were made in addition to a field tour of brassicas being grazed, webinars on incorporating brassicas into grazing systems were presented and recorded for future viewing, fact sheets were distributed at our activities as well as general agricultural events and posted online, invited presentations were made at farmer meetings, pasture walks and scientific meetings, and trade journal articles were written to further disseminate information discovered by this research.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Dr. Leanne Dillard (Researcher)
  • Dr. Jessica Williamson (Educator)
  • Dr. Andre Brito (Researcher)
  • Dr. Eric Billman (Researcher)
  • Mathew Haan (Educator)

Research

Hypothesis:

We hypothesize that brassicas will produce equal or superior animal performance while emitting less methane per cow compared with annual ryegrass, thereby making brassicas a viable alternative forage to extend the grazing season.

Materials and methods:

Year 1 (2016):

Survey:  A survey was developed and distributed to farmers at field days, pasture walks, or sent via email or the postal service to assess farm demographics and current knowledge and research needs related to including brassicas in grazing systems.

In vitro study: In summer 2016, a continuous culture fermentor study was conducted to determine nutrient digestibility, ruminal fermentation and methane production of canola, forage rape, turnip, and annual ryegrass, all fed with an orchardgrass-based diet. Diets were randomly assigned to fermentors in a 4 × 4 Latin square design using 7 d for adaptation and 3 d for collection. Diets were (on a dry matter basis): 1) 50% orchardgrass + 50% annual ryegrass; 2) 50% orchardgrass + 50% canola; 3) 50% orchardgrass + 50% forage rape; and 4) 50% orchardgrass + 50% turnip. Feedings occurred 4 times daily throughout 4, 10-d periods. Methane samples were collected every 10 min using a photoacoustic gas analyzer (LumaSense Technologies, Inc.; Santa Clara, CA) during the last 3 d of the experiment. Effluent samples were collected on d 8, 9, and 10, composited by fermentor, and analyzed for volatile fatty acids, pH, and ammonia-N (to calculate protein metabolism), as well as dry matter, organic matter, crude protein (CP), and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) for determination of nutrient digestibility. Forage samples were analyzed for CP, NDF, sulfur, and glucosinolate concentrations. Data were analyzed using the GLIMMIX procedure of SAS.

Forage plot study: Three brassicas (turnip, forage rape, and canola) as well as annual ryegrass (control forage) were established in replicated forage plots in a randomized block design in Aug 2016 to evaluate forage yield and quality to assess suitability for fall forage production systems in the Northeast. Treatments were seeded at 4.5 kg/ha (brassicas) and 16.5 kg/ha (ryegrass) into a prepared seedbed located at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, Pennsylvania Furnace, PA. Data was collected for forage yield and forage nutritive quality (crude protein, NDF, net energy for lactation (NEL) every two weeks. Fall sampling ended when weather no longer permitted forage growth. Spring sampling began at forage green-up and continued until forages reached full maturity (seed-head appearance). Forage samples were sent to Dairy One Forage Analysis Laboratory (Ithaca, NY) for determination of CP and NDF. Estimated energy content was calculated. Data were analyzed using the GLIMMIX procedure of SAS.

 

Year 2 (2017):

Forage plot study:  The forage plot study was repeated in 2017 as outlined above.

Grazing study: The grazing study outlined below for 2018 below was first attempted in 2017. However, due to a drought and establishment method (no-till brassicas into an existing perennial pasture), forages did not establish satisfactorily, therefore, the study was delayed by one year. Additional details are described in the “Research Results and Discussion” section.

 

Year 3 (2018):

Grazing study: In July 2018, 6, 1.25-acre paddocks were planted at the UNH Organic Dairy. Three pastures were planted to annual ryegrass and three pastures planted to canola. Canola were chosen based on nutritive value and in vitro methane mitigation data from the forage plot study in Year 1. Approximately 45 days after planting in late summer, 20 lactating Jersey cows were blocked based on milk production and randomly assigned to either a control (CONT) or canola (CAN) diet. The CONT group consumed a total mixed ration (TMR) only in confinement. The CAN group had part of the baleage in the TMR replaced with grazing canola overnight (6 pm until 5 am) and offered TMR during the day with 67% of the baleage removed. Brassica pastures were rotationally grazed. The length of the grazing season was dependent on forage growth, which was 7 weeks long in 2018.  Pasture intake was determined by feeding an indigestible marker. Animals had ad libitum access to water at all times and were milked twice daily. Forage yield and quality were determined every 14 days. Forage samples were sent to Dairy One Forage Analysis Laboratory (Ithaca, NY) for determination of crude protein, non-fiber carbohydrate, and NDF.  Milk production was monitored twice daily and milk composition was determined three times a week. Fecal samples were collected every 14 days to estimate pasture intake. Methane emission data was collected through the use of a Greenfeed system (C-Lock, Inc.). Data were analyzed using Proc Mixed of SAS (Statistical Analysis Software, Carey, NC) using a Repeated Measures statement after the second year of the study was completed in 2019.  Means separation will be determined using the LSMeans statement with α = 0.05.  Additional regression analysis on the variation in methane output was be conducted and correlation coefficients for significant variables calculated using the Reg and Corr procedures of SAS.

 

Year 4 (2019):

Grazing study: The grazing study at UNH was replanted and repeated for a second year of data collection.

 

Year 5 (2020):

Laboratory and data analyses was completed for preparation of final output (peer-reviewed publications, webinars, fact sheets). COVID-19 restrictions prevented any face-to-face meetings and reduced our ability to disseminate information or visit interested or participating farmers.

Research results and discussion:

Survey:  Twenty-six surveys were completed and returned to our team. The average farm size was 201 acres with 82 head of dairy cattle on each farm. 38% of respondents raised their own heifers. Average knowledge of brassica management was ranked 2.6 on a 5-pt scale. 69% of respondents were already or planning to add brassicas to their system in the next 12 months, but were seeking additional information on establishment and grazing management. 100% of those indicating they were already using or planning on using brassicas stated they would be in mixtures with small grains and annual ryegrass. Respondents stated that research needs included more information on varieties, feeding levels to prevent animal health issues, and forage yield and quality.

 

In vitro study: There were no differences (P > 0.28) in nutrient (dry matter, organic matter, CP, NDF) digestibilities among treatments. Total volatile fatty acid concentrations (87.2 mol/100 mol), pH (6.47) and acetate (A: 44.6 mol/100 mol) were also not different (P > 0.20) among diets. The acetate-to-propionate ratio was greater (P < 0.01) in ryegrass and canola than rape and turnip. Daily methane production was greater (P < 0.01) in ryegrass than all other diets (68.9 vs. 11.2 mg/d). Methane, whether expressed as g per g of organic matter, NDF, digestible organic matter, or digestible NDF fed was greatest (P < 0.01) in ryegrass but similar (P > 0.18) among brassica diets. A significant negative correlation was observed between total glucosinolates and methane production. However, when multiple regression analysis on methane production was completed, neither total nor individual glucosinolates were a significant component of the model. Addition of brassicas provided similar nutrient digestibility to annual ryegrass while reducing daily methane production, potentially making brassicas an alternative for annual ryegrass in pasture-based ruminant diets

 

Forage plot study: Three harvests occurred in 2016, and four occurred in 2017, at two-wk intervals following initial harvest. Brassica yields (655 – 768 lb/ac) were greater (P < 0.05) than annual ryegrass (307 lb/ac), and net energy of lactation [NEL (0.79 – 0.81 Mcal/lb)] concentrations in canola and rapeseed were greater (P < 0.05) than ryegrass (0.73 Mcal/lb). Additionally, total nutrient yields (lb/ac) resulted in consistently greater (P < 0.05) for CP (157 – 182 lb/ac), NDF (116 –  145 lb/ac), and NEL (486 – 804 Mcal/ac) than annual ryegrass (CP = 78 lb/ac; NDF = 99 lb/ac; NEL = 225 Mcal/ac). These increased brassica yields allow for twice as many potential grazing days as annual ryegrass, thereby extending the grazing season with high-quality forage and decreasing feed costs.

Grazing study:  Canola herbage yield 2,696 lb of dry matter/ac, with 24.1% CP, 42.2% non-fiber carbohydrate, and 16.5% NDF. As expected, cows grazing canola consumed 37% less (P < 0.05) total mixed ration than control cows (27.3 vs. 43.1 lb/d of dry matter). Estimated herbage dry matter intake (pre- minus post-grazing mass) averaged 16.7 lb lb/d. Milk yield did not differ between diets. Milk true protein concentration was greater (P < 0.05) in canola than control cows, but milk protein yield was similar between diets. While milk fat content was not affected by diets, milk fat yield tended (P = 0.08) to decrease with feeding CAN (2.38 vs. 2.22 lb/d, which may be associated with the low fiber in canola herbage compared with baleage. Control cows had elevated ( < 0.01) milk lactose concentration relative to canola cows (4.70 vs. 4.61) without change in milk lactose yield. Milk somatic cell score was greater (P = 0.05) in canola than control. Methane production was significantly reduced ( < 0.01) in cows grazing canola. Overall, canola herbage can partially replace up to 67% of baleage in the diet without negative effects on milk yield and composition while reducing methane production.

Note: Forage brassicas were first interseeded into an existing perennial pasture in fall 2017 at the UNH Organic Dairy. However, stand establishment was poor, in part due to drought, in part due to seeding technique. The experiment was repeated in 2018 and 2019, except that the perennial pasture was first terminated to better establish the brassicas. Even though the first seeding was not successful, this information is important because farmers are interested in maintaining perennial pastures but adding brassicas to those swards for extended grazing. This will help us develop improved recommendations for establishing brassicas.

 

Research conclusions:

Survey:  While farmers show keen interest in brassicas, many did not have enough confidence in limited information that was available to make the jump to incorporating brassicas into their grazing management.

 

In vitro study: All forage brassicas species tested (forage rape, canola, and turnip) significantly reduced ruminant methane emissions to < 1% when fed at 50% DMI compared to a common cool-season winter annual in the region, annual ryegrass, which had methane emissions of 3-5%. At the same time, ruminal fermentation was not impaired, which can be the case with other forages that reduce methane.

 

Forage plot study:  Brassicas had greater dry matter and nutrient yields, allowing for twice as many potential grazing days as annual ryegrass, thereby conceivably extending the grazing season with high-quality forage and reducing feeding costs.

 

Grazing study: Grazing brassicas can replace higher-cost baleage (up to 50%) without negatively impacting ruminal fermentation or milk production. Forage nutritive value of the brassicas was also consistently greater in net energy concentration, and lower in indigestible fiber concentration than ryegrass, and was also not affected by time of harvest. Additionally, the greater DM yield of the brassicas provided substantially greater amounts of available nutrient yields to any potential grazing livestock.

Communications (mostly virtual due to COVID-19 restrictions as this project concluded) with participating farmers showed overall success, but with some caveats such as stand failures (mostly due to unpredictable weather), animal health issues if too much brassica was fed (i.e. fence breakage resulting in cows accessing too much at once), and poor establishment (farmers trying to interseed into an existing pasture rather than a prepared seedbed). When recommendations were followed, farmers mostly reported high success with brassicas.

In summary, brassicas can provide a high-quality forage that retains its quality well into the late fall. However, producers should be cautioned over the abundant sulfur concentrations in brassicas, as they are indicative of elevated glucosinolates that could cause animal health concerns if consumed in excess. This was confirmed by the in vitro study, which found that the diets containing 50% of the forage brassicas, particularly turnip, contained 5 – 20 mg of glucosinolate compounds/g of dry matter fed. Therefore, it is recommended that producers who implement forage brassicas into their livestock rations limit brassicas to 50% of dry matter intake to maximize production and reduce risk of overconsumption of glucosinolates for best results. In summary, forage brassicas can serve as viable alternative forages for producers who desire high yielding, rapidly growing crops that meet high animal productivity standards.

Participation Summary
2 Farmers participating in research

Education

Educational approach:

Extension Educator cooperators (Dr. Jessica Williamson and Mat Haan) disseminated information via webinars, written material, and incorporated results of this project into their field days, conferences, and recommendations to grazing farmers. Both of these folks departed from their current positions during this study, therefore Dr. Leanne Dillard and Dr. Kathy Soder took over these activities.  

Dr. Williamson and Dr. Dillard presented information on establishment and grazing management of brassicas at the farmer field day in 2016, which also included touring brassica pastures currently being used on the farm. This event was attended by approximately 25 farmers, farm consultants, and agency people.

A webinar was presented by Dr. Leanne Dillard on managing forage brassicas in 2017 that was viewed live by 46 people. It is unknown how many views the recorded webinar has had.

Written material (approximately 350 copies of a fact sheet that is also available online, one, trade journal article, and 3 four peer-reviewed journal articles, with a fourth still in preparation) have been disseminated via the internet or printed copies at various field days, pasture walks, and grazing events Brassica-Fact-Sheet-2018   Dillard-Prog-Forage-Grower-Cover-Crops-Sept-2017

The data was presented (either as an oral presentation, a poster, and the fact sheet was always available) at various farmer/stakeholder meetings, including the Northeast Pasture Consortium (NEPC) meeting which draws 80-120 farmers and agency people who support grazing farmers each year. Additionally, the information presented at the NEPC meetings is posted on their website www.grazingguide.org  

The results of this research were formally presented at the following scientific and farmer meetings:

2016

  • American Society of Animal Science annual meeting

2017

  • American Society of Animal Science annual meeting
  • American Forage and Grassland Council annual meeting
  • Northeast Pasture Consortium meeting
  • American Society of Agronomy Conference

2019

  • Northeast Pasture Consortium meeting
  • American Society of Animal Science meeting
  • American Society of Agronomy meeting

2020

  • Vermont Farmers Conference
  • American Dairy Science Association conference.

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Twenty farmers in PA participate in focus group interviews to help project team assess their knowledge about current brassica use.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
25
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2019
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
September 30, 2019
Accomplishments:

Farmers were interviewed orally and with the use of a survey on knowledge, interest and questions regarding use of brassicas in grazing systems.

This data was summarized to help develop products, including a webinar, fact sheet, and trade journal article. Product development will continue during the life of the study.

Milestone #2 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Based on focus groups, online, printed, and technical journal articles are written to address agronomic and grazing management practices of use forage brassicas in dairy production

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
100
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
85
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
16
Proposed Completion Date:
September 30, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
December 31, 2020
Accomplishments:

In vitro study manuscript is published.

Dillard, S.L., A.I. Roca-Fernández, M.D. Rubano, K.R. Elkin, and K.J. Soder. 2018. Enteric methane production and ruminal fermentation of forage brassica diets fed in continuous culture. J. Anim. Sci. 96:1362-1374. doi.org/10.1093/jas/sky030. Dillard-Brassica-CCF-CH4-JAS-2018.

 

A symposium manuscript was published in the Journal of Animal Science that summarized the invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science conference given by Dr. Dillard in 2017.

Dillard, S.L., D.W. Hancock, D.N. Harmon, M.K. Mullenix, P.A. Beck, and K.J. Soder. 2018. Animal performance and environmental efficiency of cool- and warm-season annual grazing systems. J. Anim. Sci. 96:3491-3502. doi.org/10.1093/jas/sky025  Dillard-et-al-Brassica-Symp-Paper-JAS-2018

 

The forage plot study was published in a peer-reviewed journal.  

Dillard, S.L., E.D. Billman, and K.J. Soder. 2020. Assessment of forage brassica species for fall grazing systems. Appl. Anim. Sci. 36:157-166. doi.org/10.15232/aas.2019-01921 Dillard et al Assessment of forage brassica

 

Manuscript outlining an improved methodology for detecting individual glucosinolates in brassicas is currently under review by Journal of Chromatography.

Mocniak, L.E., K.R. Elkin, S.L. Dillard, R.B. Bryant, and K.J. Soder. Non-targeted screening and accurate mass confirmation of individual glucosinolates in brassica varieties by mass spectrometry. Submitted to J. of Chromatography.

 

The grazing study manuscript is currently in preparation for submission to the Journal of Dairy Science. Publication of this manuscript was delayed by COVID-19 restrictions which prevented laboratory and data analyses to be completed prior to the end of the project.

Milestone #3 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Three hundred cattle producers learn about the uses of forage brassicas in dairy cattle production via articles in technical journals, online media, or printed media sources written and submitted by project team.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
300
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
25
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
250
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
50
Proposed Completion Date:
September 30, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
September 30, 2020
Accomplishments:

A fact sheet was developed and disseminated at field days (including our brassica field day), pasture walks, and large ag events such as Ag Progress Days (near State College, PA) where 50,000 people attend this 3-day event. Over 350 copies of this fact sheet were disseminated over the course of the project. It is unknown how many additional electronic downloads occurred from the Northeast Pasture Consortium website (www.grazingguide.net)

Over 15 presentations were made to producer groups, farm consultants and scientists (listed in the results section).

 

Milestone #4 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

One hundred dairy producers and extension educators attend live or view a recorded webinar discussing agronomic, grazing, and environmental stewardship of forage brassicas in dairy production through the Penn State Extension Grazing Guides for Dairy Systems Webinar Series. Attendees will be asked to fill out a survey (including contact information) to determine any current or future brassica interest and stored feed costs

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
100
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
30
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
60
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
10
Proposed Completion Date:
January 1, 2017
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
January 11, 2017
Accomplishments:

A webinar on forage brassicas was presented by Dr. Leanne Dillard in Jan 2017 (documented in products). Approximately 25 participants viewed the webinar live. The webinar was also recorded and is available online for addition dissemination. As of Dec 31, 2020, there were an additional 45 viewings of the recorded video.

Milestone #5 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Two hundred dairy producers and extension educators learn about brassica research at the USDA-ARS booth at AG Progress Days. Attendees will be asked to fill out a survey (including contact information) to determine any current or future brassica interest and stored feed costs.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
200
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
300
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
50
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2017
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
August 15, 2019
Accomplishments:

A demonstration plot of various forage brassicas was planted and displayed at Ag Progress Days (APD; near State College, PA) where 50,000 people attend this 3-day event.  Information was disseminated, including over 300 fact sheet over 3 years of APD. Investigators were present to answer questions. Surveys were collected from farmers.

Milestone #6 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Forty famers learn about methane mitigation potential (Year 1 results), planting, fertilization, grazing management, and soil health benefits of forage brassicas at field day/grazing demonstration conducted at producer farm located in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. Attendees will be asked to fill out a survey (including contact information) to determine any current or future brassica interest and stored feed

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
40
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
19
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
4
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2017
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
October 19, 2017
Accomplishments:

A brassica field day was held at Blue Mountain View Farm on Oct 19, 2017. Nineteen farmers and 4 agency personnel attended. A demonstration field of forage brassicas was available for viewing during the pasture walk. Dr. Kathy Soder (USDA-ARS), Dr. Jessica Williamson (PSU), Mat Haan (PSU), and Matt Bomgardner (farmer host) presented information on establishment, management and challenges of forage brassicas, animal health and production, and economics of forage brassicas. 15 of the farmers completed the survey the day of the demonstration (which is included in the total of 85 responses)

Milestone #7 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Project team follows up with contacts from articles, webinars, field days, and referrals and identifies twenty farmers that are interested in including forage brassicas on their farm

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
15
Proposed Completion Date:
September 30, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
April 15, 2020
Accomplishments:

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this milestone was completed online through the use of webinars, online material and direct contact with farmers via email or phone rather than in-person visits. Interest in using brassicas as a soil remediation, cover crop, and grazing crop has greatly increased. The team recorded at last 40 individual inquiries from farmers regarding the use of brassicas. There are a significant number of cover crop/grazing mixtures that include brassicas, and the results of this research have helped dial in the types and amounts of brassicas to include to improve forage yield while maintaining animal health and productivity.  Based on the popularity of these cover mixtures and our contact with farmers, our goal was more than exceeded by 20 farmers adopting this technology.   

Milestone #8 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Ten of these twenty farmers utilize grazed forage brassicas (at least 1 acre/4 grazing cows) in their production system for the first time and submit establishment and grazing management plan to project team.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
20
Proposed Completion Date:
September 30, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
December 23, 2020
Accomplishments:

Similar to the previous milestone, COVID-19 restrictions prevented us from visiting farms to verify results. However, based on conversations with farmers who showed interest, and by hearing some of their online farm tours presented at various conferences, adoption of brassicas as an alternative forage source to extend the grazing season with a high-quality forage exceeded our expectations, with at least 20 farmers experimenting with brassicas on their farm. Brassica use has gained in popularity among farmers, particularly those who have specific pasture requirements, such as the organic and grassfed markets.

Milestone #9 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Project team follows up with primary beneficiaries identified in Milestone 7 in order to ascertain success and pitfalls of establishment and grazing of forage brassicas in a pasture-based dairy system

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
25
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
12
Proposed Completion Date:
September 30, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
September 30, 2020
Accomplishments:

As with Milestones 7 and 8, COVID-19 restrictions presented unique challenges. Communications with participating farmers showed overall success, but with some caveats such as stand failures (mostly due to unpredictable weather), animal health issues if too much brassica was fed (i.e. fence breakage resulting in cows accessing too much at once), and poor establishment (farmers trying to interseed into an existing pasture rather than a prepared seedbed). When recommendations were followed, farmers mostly reported high success with brassicas.

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

72 Consultations
3 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
3 Journal articles
1 On-farm demonstrations
3 Online trainings
1 Published press articles, newsletters
7 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Workshop field days

Participation Summary

75 Farmers
10 Number of agricultural educator or service providers reached through education and outreach activities

Learning Outcomes

40 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
5 Service providers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of project outreach
5 Agricultural service providers reported changes in knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes as a result of their participation
Key areas in which farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitude, skills and/or awareness:

Due to COVID and departure of the extension team members of our research team, we were unable to formally follow up with a survey. However, informal communications with many of the 40 farmers who added brassicas to their grazing management said that they had learned something new through our research and outreach that gave them the confidence to try brassicas. In addition, other farmers (estimation of 20+?) stated that knowledge they gained from the research and outreach efforts of this project has them seriously considering brassicas in the near future. One of the key points was that we were able to provide specifics on when to plant for successful establishment of the crop (to reduce economic risk) and how to strip graze brassicas to minimize negative impacts on animal health, which were two of the biggest barriers to adoption listed in the initial survey.  

 

 

Performance Target Outcomes

Target #1

Target: number of farmers:
10
Target: change/adoption:

Plant brassicas after crops to improve soil health, crop and animal productivity, and reduce methane emissions

Target: amount of production affected:

5%

Target: quantified benefit(s):

Decreased feed costs, increased crop and animal productivity

Actual: number of farmers:
40
Actual: change/adoption:

Added brassicas to their grazing management

Actual: amount of production affected:

Since we were unable to visit farms, we were not able to verify how much land was put on production. However, farmers who adopted this practice self-reported planting an average of 5 acres on their farms, for an estimated acreage of 200 acres total.

Actual: quantified benefit(s):

We were not able to collect economic data directly from the farmers to verify how much their feed costs decreased, but farmers who did communicate with us stated that feed costs were decreased by $1.00-$1.75/cow/day for an additional average of 45 days of grazing. Results of our survey found that the average herd size was 82 cows, which would equate to a total annual savings of $3,690 to $6,458 in feed costs per farm.

Performance Target Outcome Narrative:

Due to COVID-19 impacts on meetings, travel and direct communication with farmers, we were unable to complete all verification requirements initially planned. That said, we were still able to do some informal verification of our results and impacts from our research, as outlined in sections above.  

The results of this research have affected current agricultural sustainability of grazing dairy farms by: 1) providing evidence of keen farmer interest in, but lack of confidence and knowledge of, incorporating brassicas into their grazing systems; 2) helping farmers improve their understanding of proper establishment and grazing management of brassicas, and 3) showing, through our grazing research, hosting an on-farm field day, and through farmers who planted brassicas on their farm as a result of this project, that brassicas provide a viable option to extending the grazing season. This project will contribute to the future sustainability of grazing dairy farms via providing alternative forage options to extend the grazing season to 1) decrease feed costs; 2) meet grazing requirements for specialty markets such as organic and grassfed; and 3) reduce negative environmental impacts of grazing ruminant production systems. The results of this project have provided critical information for farmers and built foundations for future collaborative research between farmers, researchers and farm service providers by building trust among these groups, and using farmer input for future research projects to further improve the sustainable intensification of grazing-based dairy and livestock systems in the Northeast.

40 Farmers changed or adopted a practice

Additional Project Outcomes

3 Grants applied for that built upon this project
1 Grant received that built upon this project
$120,000.00 Dollar amount of grant received that built upon this project
3 New working collaborations
Additional Outcomes:

An oral presentation was given by Leanne Dillard (post doc) at the American Society of Animal Science meetings in July, 2016 in Salt Lake City, UT. Dillard, S.L., A.I. Roca-Fernández, M.D. Rubano, and K.J. Soder. Nutritive quality and forage yield of three brassica varieties for use in livestock grazing systems. J. Anim Sci. 94 (E-Suppl. 5):284. 2016.

An invited symposium presentation was given by Leanne Dillard on brassica grazing at the American Society of Animal Science conference held in Baltimore, MD in July, 2017.  

An oral presentation was given by Leanne Dillard at the American Society of Animal Science conference held in Baltimore, MD in July, 2017. Dillard, S.L., and K.J. Soder. Enteric methane production and ruminal fermentation from forage brassica diets fed in continuous culture. J. Anim. Sci. 95 (E-Suppl. 4):238. 2017.

An oral presentation was given by Leanne Dillard at the American Forage and Grassland Council annual meeting. Dillard, S.L., Ana I. Roca-Fernandez, M.D. Rubano, and K.J. Soder. Potential of forage brassicas for use in pasture-based livestock systems. Proceedings of the 2017 American Forage and Grassland Council annual meeting, Jan. 22-25, 2017, Roanoke, VA. 2017.

An oral presentation was given by Leanne Dillard at the Northeast Pasture Consortium meeting. Dillard, S.L., Ana I. Roca-Fernandez, M.D. Rubano, and K.J. Soder. Potential of forage brassicas for use in pasture-based livestock systems. Proceedings of the 2017 NE Pasture Consortium meeting, Mar 2-3, 2017, Hagerstown, MD. 2017.

An oral presentation was given by Leanne Dillard at the American Society of Agronomy meeting in Tampa, FL in Oct 2017. Dillard, S.L., and K.J. Soder. Productivity and nutritive quality of three brassica varieties for use in pasture-based systems. Proceedings of the ASA-CSSA-SSSA meeting, October 22-25, 2017, Tampa, FL. 2017. Dillard et al 2017 ASA Meeting Tampa, FL-1

A poster was presented by Dr. Eric Billman on forage brassicas. Billman, E., S.L. Dillard, and K.J. Soder. 2019. Forage brassicas: Extending the grazing season with an alternative forage. Proceedings of the 2019 NE Pasture Consortium meeting, Feb 19-20, 2019, Grantville, PA.

An oral presentation was given by Dr. Eric Billman (post doc) on the brassica research. Billman, E.D., S.L. Dillard, and K.J. Soder. 2019. Brassicas as an alternative forage in the northeastern United States. Proceedings of the American Society of Animal Science-Canadian Society of Animal Science annual meeting, Austin, TX. Jul 8-11, 2019.

An oral presentation was given by Dr. Eric Billman (post doc) on brassica research. Billman, E.D., S.L. Dillard, and K.J. Soder. 2019. Brassicas as an alternative forage for fall grazing systems. Proceedings of the American Society of Agronomy/ Crop Science Society of America/Soil Science Society of America 2019 International Meetings, San Antonio, TX. Nov. 2019.

An oral presentation was given by Luis Silva (UNH graduate student) on the canola grazing study: Silva, L.H.P., Y. Geng, J.P. Sacramento, M. Ghelichkhan, D.C.R. Gomez, Y. Zang, S.L. Dillard, K.J. Soder, and A.F. Brito. 2020. Canola as a Forage Resource. Proceedings of the Vermont Organic Dairy Producers Conference. March 11, 2020. Randolph, VT..

An oral presentation was given by Luis Silva (UNH graduate student) on the canola grazing study: Silva, L.H.P., J.P. Sacramento, D.C.R. Gomez, Y.C. Geng, M. Ghelichkhan, S.L. Dillard, K.J. Soder, and A.F. Brito. 2020. Milk production and composition of Jersey cows grazing forage canola. J. Dairy Sci. 103 (Suppl. 1):277.

An oral presentation was given by Luis Silva (UNH graduate student) on the canola grazing study: Silva, L.H.P., Y. Yang, M. Ghelichkhan, S.L. Dillard, K.J. Soder, and A.F. Brito. 2020. Ruminal metabolism and plasma amino acids in Jersey cows grazing forage canola. J. Dairy Sci. 103 (Suppl. 1):154.

Completion of this project was delayed due to COVID-19. We were still awaiting laboratory analyses of data from the canola grazing study, which is now being finalized for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

As a result of this research, two review manuscripts on brassicas (one emphasizing the forage, the other focusing on animal nutrition/health) are being developed for publication in peer-reviewed journals.

This project was a jumping off point for our research team to evaluate alternative forages. With growing interest in grazing systems, alternative markets such as organic and grassfed, and particularly interest in integrating livestock-crop enterprises (sustainable intensification), this SARE project was influential in the writing of my current CRIS Project at the USDA-ARS Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit, titled “Sustainable Intensification of Integrated Crop-Pasture-Livestock Systems in Northeastern Landscapes”. One of the main objectives of this current research is to evaluate alternative forages and how they fit into a sustainable grazing system. This includes, and goes beyond, brassicas. This SARE project allowed us to first explore this area as a viable area of growth for grazing systems to improve economic and environmental sustainability of grazing-based enterprises in the Northeast.

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.