Research and educational support for organic dairy farming in the South

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2009: $250,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Steven Washburn
North Carolina State University

Annual Reports


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


  • Animal Production: parasite control, grazing management, livestock breeding, grazing - rotational, stocking rate, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance
  • Pest Management: biological control, competition, cultural control, physical control
  • Production Systems: transitioning to organic, organic agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Economically viable and sustainable dairy farms make important contributions to local economies and to local communities. Organic dairy farming is relatively new and under-developed in the South but it may provide an attractive alternative for some of the region's dairy farmers and thereby enhance the viability of family dairy farms and the regional dairy sector. However, optimal strategies for animal health, reproduction, parasite control, and pasture management systems are likely to differ for organic dairy farms in the South compared to organic farms in other regions. Therefore, a more localized biological research and information network is critical to both the short-term and long-term success of organic dairy farms across the South. The work outlined in this proposal includes use of on-farm demonstrations in cooperation with current organic or transitioning dairy farms in both North Carolina and in Arkansas. In addition, applied research studies are planned using resources from private organic dairy farms along with the dairy research herd at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems in Goldsboro, NC. Mastitis and udder health, reproductive management, parasite control, and pasture management systems will be studied under southern U.S. environmental conditions. Research findings will contribute to the still limited body of literature available on US organic dairy production. As part of the current proposal and in collaboration with the SARE professional development program, we -- plan to provide multidisciplinary in-service training for dairy professionals along with educational programs and networking opportunities for prospective organic dairy producers, in order to strengthen the overall knowledge base for organic dairy production in the region. The project will assist dairy producers to optimize pasture and forage production with strategic use of - legume forages and approved soil fertility and herd management practices which are necessary for profitable and sustainable organic dairy sector. The expected outcome is the description, and adoption of appropriate, economically feasible management practices for organic dairy herds, thereby resulting in a more profitable and sustainable organic dairy industry in the South.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Monitor 8 to 10 organic dairy herds total in Arkansas and North Carolina to document types, efficacy, and implications on profitability of changes in practices for organic forage production, feeding, animal health, and management. 2: Conduct a multi disciplinary systems-based research trial with allocations of lpasture areas and cattle to be managed organically in comparison to comparable conventionally managed land and cattle at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) in North Carolina. Various aspects of pasture management and animal management including production, reproduction, and herd health will be monitored within the two systems across the term of the project. 3. Applied research to evaluate organic treatments for mastitis (NC) and alternative methods of parasite control (AR) will be conducted on cooperating organic dairy farms. Demonstrations to potentially improve organic pasture and forage production will be conducted on cooperating farms in both states. 4. Provide dairy advisors and organic dairy producers with management information, recommendations, and develop a resource network to support the emerging organic dairy industry in the South.

    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.