2011 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
The long term goal of this project is to reduce the reliance of New England organic dairy farms on imported grains. The objectives of the project are to:.
1)evaluate the milk yield and forage quality of four contrasting cropping systems and to identify the level of grain importation needed for each system;.
2)identify systems that reduce the importation of grain and prevent the accumulation of nutrient excesses to enhance the sustainability of organic dairies;.
3)quantify the efficacy of direct weed control tactics in the cropping systems, and determine the effect of weeds on total yield, quality and net return;.
4)quantify the net return and exposure to risk and identify the economies of scale for each system; and.
5)host conferences, field days and on-farm trials that will be followed up with personal interviews with organic farmers to assess impact.
1b.Approach (from AD-416)
This project will contrast four cropping systems for supplying conserved
forages and grains to an organic dairy herd. These systems were chosen by
a team of organic dairy farmers, processors, and non-profit farm
organizations to represent the cropping systems and rotation sequences
typical in New England. An interdisciplinary team of farmers and
researchers will analyze the systems for their impact on profitability,
risk management, herd nutrition, nutrient cycling, and weed management.
The cropping systems will be established at the University of Maine and the
University of New Hampshire.
Both universities will host farm-scale, unreplicated plots of each cropping
system. These multi-acre plots will allow for realistic assessments of
labor demands and equipment time for each system and provide ample forage
for feeding trials. Multi-acre plots also allow for larger scale
ecological processes to operate as they would in a working organic system.
The same cropping systems will also be planted on smaller plots in a
randomized complete block design with four replications at the University
of Maine. Feeding trials at New Hampshire and Maine will monitor the milk
production of each system for three years. Herds at both locations will be
divided into four treatment groups and fed rations based on each of the
systems. During the course of the feeding trials, forages from each system
will undergo the intensive and thorough analysis for nutrient composition
and nutrient digestibility measurements as required for inclusion in the
database of the newly created Ruminant Feed Analysis Consortium.
Measurements will include a variety of chemical, in vitro, and in situ
Northern New England is a leader in the certification of organic dairy farms, with 20% of the dairy farms in Maine currently certified as organic. Feed is the single largest expense for these farmers. This dependence on imported feed also complicates nutrient management, making it a challenge to balance fertility needs with available manure. The USDA Organic Research and Education Initiative (OREI) provided $827,000 for a project entitled “Reducing Off-Farm Grain Inputs on Northeast Organic Dairy Farms” (FY2005-2009), for research and outreach conducted cooperatively by the University of Maine, University of New Hampshire, Maine Organic Milk Producers, and USDA-ARS New England Plant, Soil and Water Laboratory. The goal of this project, which was extended to FY2010, is to maximize on-farm production of energy and protein. In FY2010-11, research was conducted to modify an ARS developed model of conventional dairy farms to accommodate organic dairies. Detailed weather files for six National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) weather stations in Maine were constructed for use in the Integrated Farm Systems Model (IFSM). Information was gathered from organic dairy farmers to formulate economic comparisons among different production systems. Research information from this project is being transferred directly to organic dairy farmers in New England, and will help them develop economically viable production systems.