Effects of grazing vs. confinement on first lactation performance of dairy replacement heifers

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2005: $9,600.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Matching Federal Funds: $2,000.00
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
A.Fay Benson
Cornell Co-op Extension

Annual Reports


  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: housing, preventive practices, grazing - rotational

    Proposal abstract:

    Previous university farm research indicates that heifers in managed intensive grazing show improved first lactation performance as compared to heifers in confinement. The project manager will do a controlled study working with two commercial dairies to see if these results persist in real-world conditions. Outreach will be through workshops and pasture walks targeted at contract heifer grazers and commercial dairy farms. If this study supports the previous research it will encourage large confinement dairies to see grazing of their dairy replacements as a viable option. This will increase the need for Contract Heifer grazers, which will be a new business opportunity for rural land owners/farmers to graze these animals, which will help the rural economy. Another result will be healthier animals raised in an ecologically friendly manner.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The project leader will contact the 2 dairies April 1st 2005 or before. Breeding records will be reviewed to select 50 recently bred heifers from each farm. 25 randomly selected heifers will be designated the “MIG” group and 25 will be designated the “Confinement” group. All animals will be weighed and a body condition score will be determined for each animal. The animals will be put in their designated raising regime by apx. May 1st. The project leader and/or SWCD cooperators will visit both the groups throughout the grazing season. A 6-month grazing season is expected. At the completion of the grazing season both groups at both farms will be again weighed and a body condition assigned. The MIG groups and the Confinement groups will then be housed in the normal manner for the participating farms. With the help of Dr Stone and John Conway, the animals will be assigned a special code on the host farms computer system. Both farms use Dairy One’s Dairy Comp 305 software. The protocol for compiling health information will be synchronized on both farms. At freshening, calving ease will be noted and any calving difficulties will be entered. The production and any metabolic problems will be compiled.

    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.