Maximizing Milk Production On Wisconsin Pastures: Lessons From The Paddock

2017

  • Chelsea Zegler
  • Mark Renz
  • Geoff Brink
  • University of Wisconsin Madison, Department of Agronomy
  • USDA-ARS U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center
Project Media

Wisconsin has the largest number of organic dairies in the United States with over 450 dairy farms that represents more than 25% of the nation’s certified organic dairy farms (USDA NASS, 2014). Despite the large amount of organic dairy operations in Wisconsin, interest in expansion of existing and new operations exist due to consumer demand for organic milk (Greene and McBride, 2015). With the challenges that expanding operations face (e.g. purchasing land), interest in maximizing pasture performance exist. Previous research has shown that pasture productivity, forage quality, soil fertility and pasture management are all critical to maximizing milk production, but these factors have been observed to vary widely across farms. We visited pastures from organic dairies throughout Wisconsin to assess productivity and determine what facets measured could be improved to maximize milk production.