2004, ARS News Service: A dairy grazing research
and demonstration program is being launched by Agricultural
Research Service scientists in Ohio to help family dairy
farms both in Ohio and nationwide.
The research at the North Appalachian Experimental
Watershed in Coshocton is part of an ARS dairy grazing
project being done in cooperation with two other ARS
facilities, the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in
Madison, Wis., and the Pasture Systems and Watershed
Management Research Unit at University Park, Pa., as
well as Ohio State University (OSU) and OSU's Ohio Agricultural
Research and Development Center.
Ohio ranks fourth in the nation for number of dairy
herds, but, as with the rest of farming nationwide,
dairy farms in Ohio are going up in size and down in
This fall, ARS soil scientist Lloyd B. Owens and colleagues
at Coshocton are using simple electric fences to create
small paddocks to rotate cattle from one part of a pasture
to another every day or two. They are testing a system
called management-intensive, or rotational, dairy grazing.
ARS scientists will monitor manure runoff and water
quality. OSU scientists will check on how different
forage grasses and plants hold up under intensive grazing,
as well as how the animals fare and the quality of milk
from grass-fed cows.
The idea is to spread out the grazing so that cattle
are always eating only the freshest growing tips of
forage grasses, which are the most nutritious and tastiest
parts of the plants. This could help make small dairy
farms more profitable by raising the per-cow profit
margin. Grazing eliminates the need to provide livestock
feed to confined animals, and grazing newly grown forage
might also allow more cows per acre, further lowering
This could help alleviate economic pressures on farmers
to convert to mega-dairies with 1,000 to 2,000 cows
confined to feeding barns. Such large dairies face higher
costs, including those associated with manure storage.
Rotational grazing may spread manure more evenly in
fields, lessening the chances of pollution.
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific