- Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing management, grazing - rotational, rangeland/pasture management, stocking rate
Our project seeks to better understand how high-density management-intensive rotational grazing (MIRG) strategies can regenerate degraded agricultural land while improving farmer livelihoods. In 2009 we began managing 143 acres of compacted, degraded soils on a former conventional dairy farm and have since anecdotally seen vast productivity improvements with our MIRG of cattle. As we begin managing an additional 375 acres of former dairy land, we have an opportunity to level-up our grazing practices and better understand MIRG’s capacity to regenerate degraded land. Our project proposes using the batt-latch technology for high-density MIRG to allow more herd moves per day while requiring less farmer time.
Commodity milk has greatly declined as a viable farming business due to market volatility, production practices, and a degraded landscape resulting in a high rate of farm closures and land transfers now with a significant increase predicted. Despite this market failure, the Northeast is well suited to grass-based ruminant production (e.g. beef) and productive grassland strategies that enhance soil health and economic efficiencies may help bolster surviving dairy farms while offering an economically viable business for new and existing farmers. We believe this study could have positive widespread impacts on the Northeast and offer a piece of the puzzle in keeping much of the land in question in agriculture while also regenerating degraded soils and impaired ecosystems.
We are excited to share the project results through on-farm workshops, On Pasture publication, and many Northeast farming conferences.
Project objectives from proposal:
This project seeks to analyze the impact of three grazing management regimes (see methods: LD-MIRG, HD-MIRG, and UHD-MIRG) on pasture productivity, soil health and farmer livelihood in the context of revitalization efforts on highly degraded grassland. We will implement three 2-acre treatments on land that heretofore has been conventionally managed for intensive hay production. We want to test whether increasing the stocking density and number of herd moves per grazing day can increase the stocking rate (i.e. carrying capacity) of the pastureland while improving soil health. We also want to economically assess the impact of employing batt-latch technology to implement each MIRG regime. We hypothesize that the batt-latch technology will greatly improve the economic efficiency of an intensive grazing system requiring multiple herd moves per day by way of minimizing farmer time and increasing stocking rate. We predict that the highest stocking density and greatest number of moves per day will correlate with the largest improvements in pasture productivity and soil health. Success in the context of this project will entail determining strategies for an economically efficient means of regenerating highly degraded grassland.