- Agronomic: corn, sugarbeets, sugarcane, grass (misc. perennial), hay
- Animal Products: dairy
- Animal Production: feed/forage, feed rations, grazing management, grazing - rotational
- Education and Training: farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, value added
- Production Systems: organic agriculture
- Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures
Organic dairies are faced with the challenge of sourcing and purchasing organic feed grains. With short supplies, escalating feed prices, and recently falling organic milk prices, farmers are searching for alternative energy sources for feeding lactating dairy cows. Sugarcane molasses, a rich source of sugars, particularly sucrose, appears to be a viable source of supplemental energy and minerals. However, milk production responses have been inconsistent on organic dairy farms that are currently using molasses as the sole energy supplement during the grazing season. Scientific research is lacking to help organic dairy producers to make informed decisions regarding energy supplementation for grazing cows. Compared to energy from corn meal, it can be hypothesized that energy from molasses would be timely released in the rumen with pasture degradable proteins leading to increased nitrogen utilization and reduced nitrogen output to the environment in pasture-based systems. Eighteen organic lactating dairy cows will be supplemented with either molasses (12% of total dry matter intake) or corn meal (12% of total dry matter intake). Specific objectives include: 1)evaluate the effects of molasses supplementation on milk production, milk components, and nitrogen metabolism of grazing dairy cows; and 2) evaluate the profitability (income over feed costs) of molasses supplementation. The proposed research will take place on the Burley-Demeritt farm, which is the site of the University of New Hampshire’s Organic Dairy Research. The results of this research will be used to develop feeding recommendations for molasses supplementation for organic dairy farmers, consultants, and industry professionals.
Project objectives from proposal:
The overall goal of the current project is to enhance farmers’ capacity to produce high quality environmentally-friendly organic milk at lower costs to improve farmers’ quality of life while meeting the growing consumer demand for organic dairy products. Compared to energy from corn meal, it can be hypothesized that energy from molasses would be timely released in the rumen with pasture degradable proteins leading to increased N utilization and reduced N output to the environment in pasture-based systems.
The following objectives, with inputs from stakeholders, were developed:
Objective 1: Evaluate the impact of molasses vs. corn meal supplementation on enhancing milk production, milk components, and microbial protein synthesis while reducing N output to the environment in pasture-based systems.
Objective 2: Evaluate the impact of molasses vs. corn meal supplementation on enhancing farm profitability.
The following relevant Current Research and Information System (CRIS) abstracts were recovered with searching “Organic Dairy Farming”, “Organic Dairy Cows and Molasses”, “Organic Dairy Cows and Carbohydrates”, “Organic Dairy Cows and Grazing”, and Organic
Dairy Cows and Pasture”:
Reberg-Horton, S. C., Marcinkowski, D. P., Halloran, J. M., Griffin, T. S., Gallandt, E. R.,
Jemison, J. M., Kersbergen, R. J., Stokes, M. R., Anderson, G. W., Schwab, C. G., and Erickson, P. S. REDUCING OFF-FARM GRAIN INPUTS ON NORTHEAST ORGANIC DAIRY FARMS.
Parsons, R. L., Wang, Q., Rogers, G., and Kauppila, D. ORGANIC DAIRY FARMING IN VERMONT: PROFITABILITY ANALYSIS AND EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS.
Parsons, R. L., Wang, Q., Rogers, G., Kauppila, D., Dalton, T., Kersbergen, R., and Goode, T. PROFITABILITY AND TRANSITIONAL ANALYSIS OF NORTHEAST ORGANIC DAIRY FARMS
Parsons, R. L. and Wang, Q. PROFITABILITY AND TRANSITIONAL ANALYSIS OF VERMONT ORGANIC DAIRY FARMS: IDENTIFYING KEY FACTORS FOR SUCCESS
The number of responses was smaller than expected when one considers the importance of dairy within the organic sector. However, there is a growing body of research relevant to organic dairy, primarily of European origin. Economic analysis to evaluate the profitability of organic dairy farming continues to be needed because of the rapidly changing conditions of the dairy sector in different areas of the US. The study of reducing off-farm grain inputs is important because of the high costs of organic grains. Objectives 1 and 2 of the current research proposal will build on previous nutritional and economic organic dairy research with the additional benefit of investigating the environmental impact of grazing supplementation strategies (Objective 1).