Understanding Opportunities and Risks Associated with Alternative Milking Strategies

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2020: $29,737.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2022
Grant Recipient: University of Vermont Extension
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Dr. Heather Darby
University of Vermont Extension

Information Products


  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Education and Training: decision support system, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, technical assistance, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, risk management
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Access to information on a diversity of production practices can help farmers successfully evaluate and implement practices that improve farm viability. One practice increasing in popularity is altering milking frequency. Farmers are interested in utilizing this practice to overcome labor challenges, financial stress, cow and farmer quality of life concerns. However, as decreasing milking frequency ultimately results in lower milk production, the cost savings and other gains attained through this system must outweigh the costs of lower production and potential changes in milk quality. As farm economics are impacted by so many farm management and external factors, it is critical that we better understand the considerations and impacts associated with these systems in the Northeast. To our knowledge there has been no alternative milking frequency research conducted in the US let alone the Northeast. Through a survey, this project will gather important data about the characteristics of northeast farms employing alternative milking frequencies. This project will also expand our existing production benchmarking, Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI) testing program, and cost of production analysis gaining an additional 12 participants using alternative milking frequencies. The data gathered from the benchmarks will be used to develop metrics by which other interested farmers can make informed decisions. Further, webinars, on-farm workshops, conferences, and factsheets will be developed to aid farmers in understanding the risks and challenges associated with alternative milking frequencies as well as key factors leading to successful adoption of these practices to help them make successful management decisions.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to understand the economic and production metrics for farms that have adopted alternative milking frequencies through implementing benchmarking on farms in the Northeast. This project benefits the farmers by strengthening their knowledge and providing them with decision making tools to assess the feasibility of adopting alternative milking frequencies on their farms,


    Access to animal specific, high quality herd production and quality data through dairy herd monitoring programs is often too cost prohibitive, or perceived as such, for farmers to consistently use it for monitoring purposes. Although farmers have some idea of their production and quality, they don’t always know if they are on-par with other dairies of similar nature. Although there are currently available benchmarking programs for the dairy industry, these programs are typically offered through lenders with a heavy focus on financials and are not production system specific.


    This project will create new information and benchmarks for farms currently or interested in utilizing alternative milking frequencies. The information and tools created will allow farmers to accurately decide if this practice is the right fit for the sustainability and viability of their farm.

    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.