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


    In NC, alfalfa and prairie grass pastures were successfully grown organically and mixtures were more valuable than alfalfa alone with productivity life up to 4 years.  Cows managed organically (except for supplemental feed) were similar to conventional cows in production, health and reproduction.  Commercial organic and conventional dairies have similar prevalence of mastitis-causing organisms. Herbal products were shown to have potential as alternatives to antibiotics for maintaining milk quality on organic dairies. Evaluation of various fly repellents in AR provided only transient effects in reducing horn fly populations suggesting a need for differing formulations or approaches to manage those pests.

    Project objectives:

    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 pasture 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.