Systems Evaluation of the Components of Reduced Input Dairy Farms
This study involves analysis of monthly data from 10diverse reduced input dairy operations and a prototype farm. Data is currently being collected on pasture production, soil fertility, feed supplementation, winter management, reproductive performance, and housing systems. Practices include management intensive grazing, outdoor winter housing of the dairy herd, group rearing of calves, cross breeding, and value added sales. The 10 diverse low input farms within our study use these options with varying intensity. Trends and outcomes will be utilized in modeling to evaluate alternative low input systems.
The primary objective of this project is to identify specific components of reduced input dairy operations and study the economic, social, and environmental attributes of these components. An objective is to locate a number of dairy farms within Minnesota that are utilizing a range of the options used on reduced input dairy farms. These are farms that utilize one or more of the following: management intensive grazing, outdoor winter housing of the dairy herd, group rearing of calves, cross breeding, and value added sales. Samples of pasture, soil, and dairy herd feedstuffs will be collected on each of these farms to test nutritional factors and fertility. Each of the farmers will fill out information collecting surveys on herd performance, land performance, and quality of life. The various components used in these reduce input dairy farms will be evaluated according to a systems analysis and an economic analysis. The literature concerning these various components will be reviewed.
The primary objective cannot be met until all of the data have been collected, analyzed and modeled. Ten farmers have been contacted and currently are participating in the project. Samples are currently being collected on each of these farms. We have finished collecting forage samples from the pastures of these farms from June 1, 2003 to the end of the grazing season in 2003, which ranged from the end of August in some farms until the third week of November on other farms. These samples are in the process of being analyzed for their quality and quantity. Soil samples have been collected on each of these farms from pastures that the cows were grazing in during the sampling period. These samples are currently being processed and will be analyzed for their organic matter as well as other soil components that influence soil fertility. Dairy herd feedstuffs samples have been collected and are currently being collected on each of these farms. These samples are in the process of being analyzed for quality. Information surveys have been conducted on each of these farms with the farmers and continue to be conducted to identify the unique components of each of these dairy operations. Information is being collected on the reproductive performance of each of the dairy herds. We are also collecting information concerning the quantity and quality of the milk sold. Trial runs have been completed with SIMHERD, which is a modeling program that will be used to model the impacts of reduced input components on herd performance parameters and economics. Literature pertaining to research completed concerning the reduced input options currently in use on these dairy farms is currently being reviewed.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
This project will be summarized in Eb Ballinger’s Masters Thesis, which is due to be completed in the fall of 2004. Current outcomes of this project include a good relationship that has been developed between the farmers in this project and the University of Minnesota personnel collecting information on each of these dairy farms. The long-term outcome for this project will be the identification of reduced input components that are currently being used successfully on moderately sized dairies in the Upper Midwest. The identification and analysis of the components will likely lead to further research on each of these components and further to possible adoption on dairy farms where there adoption can lead to an increase in the sustainability of these moderately sized dairy farms in the Upper Midwest.