An Analysis of Environmental Management Approaches with Six Midwestern Dairy Farms: Informing Progress Toward a Sustainable Agriculture

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $148,851.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Mrill Ingram
Environmental Resources Center, UW-Madison

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: general animal production
  • Education and Training: technical assistance
  • Energy: energy use
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    This project aims to analyze the gaps and the strengths of six different approaches to managing the environmental impacts of Midwestern dairy farming. Our goal is to identify whether and how each approach falls short of achieving (or promising to achieve) environmental sustainability, and how it might be complemented with an “Environmental Management System” in order to strengthen farm sustainability. The six management approaches are: certified organic, certified by the Midwest Food Alliance, grass-based Holistic Management, biodynamic, a permitted Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO), and a conventional farm meeting NRCS requirements for incentive payments. Methods include document analysis as well as six on-farm case studies to pinpoint environmental vulnerabilities and develop and publicize recommendations toward filling the gaps with each approach. In collaboration with the case study farms, we will test the capacity of an Environmental Management System (EMS) to fill gaps found with each type of farm using tools we’ve developed for EMS implementation.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Expected outputs include 1) analyses, case studies and recommendations for the certification, permitting structures and management procedures associated with different environmental management approaches and their gaps and strengths in managing for sustainability; 2) evaluation of improvements on six dairy farms achieved through an EMS; and 3) press releases, presentations, a guide for farmers and articles about the project findings and recommendations. Outcomes will include improved environmental management on six model farms, increased clarity among practitioners and advocates about the environmental sustainability potential of different management programs, and improved understanding of what an EMS offers to sustainable agricultural practice.

    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.