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

Project Overview

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:

Information Products


  • Agronomic: canola, rapeseed, sorghum (milo)
  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing management, pasture renovation, grazing - rotational
  • Crop Production: cover crops, crop rotation, multiple cropping
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Production Systems: holistic management, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Problem and Justification: Forage-based dairy systems have been targeted due to greater methane 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, while maintaining productivity and decreasing enteric methane emission and promoting environmental stewardship.  Solution and Approach: The utilization of forage brassicas in a dairy grazing management plan will offer producers a high quality feedstuff and a 60-day longer fall grazing season, while decreasing on-farm enteric methane emissions. When pastured dairy cattle were supplemented with forage turnip, researchers reported a 15% increase in the summer milk yield and a 14% increase in the late fall milk yield compared with cattle consuming forage sorghum (Sorghum bicolor, 4). The project team will establish field plots and a grazing experiment to determine the animal performance and methane mitigation potential of three forage brassica species. These experiments will provide the project team with science-based recommendations for use of individual brassica species on northeastern dairy farms. By educating producers on forage brassicas, we are giving them forage options to best develop an economic and environmentally sustainable production model for many years to come.  

    Performance targets from proposal:

    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.


    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.