Examining pasture-based dairy systems to optimize profitability environmental impact, animal health and milk quality

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2003: $226,903.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Steven Washburn
North Carolina State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn, rye, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: parasite control, feed rations, manure management, pasture fertility, grazing - rotational, winter forage, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: nutrient cycling
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, networking, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance, whole farm planning
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management, traps
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, sustainability measures


    A 3-year dairy grazing experiment at 3.2 vs. 2.2 cows/ha was conducted by NC State University with related projects on immunocompetence measures (Va Tech); a cooperating farm study of fatty acids in milk related to pasture intake (Clemson); and rolled barley/molasses or citrus pulp/molasses partially replacing corn supplement (Clemson). Higher stocking rate with more supplement yielded more milk, similar health and reproduction, lower measures of immunocompetence, but more stored forage fed off pasture. Higher pasture intakes associated with higher CLA in milk. Supplement source did not affect milk yield although protein percentages were lower on the citrus pulp diet.

    Project objectives:

    1). Examine and quantify factors affecting economic and production efficiency of environmentally sound pasture-based dairy systems in the region;
    2). Characterize potentially beneficial differences in the composition of milk produced under pasture-based production systems;
    3). Characterize the antioxidant components of forages and their impact on cow immunocompetence and health;
    4). Provide interactive educational programs for dairy producers and industry leaders to enable them to make informed production and management decisions.

    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.