1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
Our interdisciplinary team, with the guidance of our major stakeholders, aims to strengthen organic dairy farming in the Northeast. Here we will determine how farming region and farm size within the Northeast impact the importance of forage diversity of organic pastures and the value of oilseed supplementation as a strategy to enhance dairy herd productivity through the following objectives: • Objective 1: Identify how targeted augmentation of a perennial ryegrass-white clover mixture with cultivars adapted for an increasingly wider range of cold tolerance and drought affects organic pasture establishment and growth, dry matter production, grazing season length, nutritional quality, and resistance to pests. • Objective 2: Enhance farmer knowledge about multi-cultivar mixtures for pasture utilization through farmer-led research. • Objective 3: Conduct on-farm and University research trials to evaluate oilseed supplementation as an approach to enhance the nutrition quality of forage-based diets for milk production, milk composition, and herd health. • Objective 4: Enhance learning opportunities among farmers, researchers, educators, and students in the Northeast and beyond via workshops, field days, and eOrganic webinars.
1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Twenty organic dairy farmers will critically evaluate their dairy enterprises via development of management and economic decision tools for enhancing farmers’ capacity to optimize the use of pasture and supplemental resources. To address Objectives 1 and 2, research at collaborating institutions (UNH, UVM, UMaine, and USDA-ARS) and dairy farms will be conducted during the four-year project to investigate the effect of multi-cultivars mixtures of regionally adapted forage species on extending the grazing season while enhancing pasture productivity. To address Objective 3, feeding trials will be conducted at the UNH to determine the effects of oilseed supplementation on milk production, milk composition, animal health, and farm profitability. Research led by collaborating organic dairy farmers (NH, ME, VT, NY, and PA) will follow-up in Years 3 and 4 to evaluate the viability of oilseed as an energy supplemental source during the winter season (Objective 3). Objective 4 will be accomplished through delivery of outreach activities and establishment of a farmer-researcher-Extension educator network contributing to the project sustainability beyond its four-year lifespan.
3. Progress Report:
Data was collected during the 2012 grazing season and over the winter time on the three participating Pennsylvania farms. Plots containing perennial ryegrass cultivar mixtures were established in the fall then harvested during the summer whenever canopy height reached 25 cm. A post-doctoral research associate was hired to conduct the Pennsylvania farm data collection and to oversee data summarization and interpretation of all 18 participating farms in 5 states.