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ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Research Project #432219

Research Project: Forage brassicas to mitigate methane emissions and increase economic sustainability of forage-based dairy systems

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Project Number: 8070-21000-010-04-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Oct 1, 2016
End Date: Dec 31, 2020

This proposal will concentrate on three areas to improve the knowledge and education of utilizing forage brassicas on pasture-based dairy farms in the Northeast. These areas are: 1. Nutritional value and methane mitigation potential of forage brassicas - We will evaluate forage quality and glucosinolate concentrations biweekly of forage brassicas during the grazing season. A continuous culture fermentor system will be used to assess the methane mitigation potential of forage brassicas. This information will help us quantify nutritional intake of the animals to relate this information to animal productivity and economics below, as well as to evaluate how forage brassicas fit into an on-farm grazing program. 2. Animal Production - Milk production, milk composition, and body condition will be monitored on a biweekly basis to evaluate animal productivity. This information will also be used to calculate economic impact and feasibility of implementing a sprouted grain system. 3. Implementation and Economics - Information collected will include opportunities and challenges that the participating dairy farmers faced as they made the decision to implement forage brassicas into the diet for various animal groups. Additionally, economic information, including income over feed costs and return on investment information, will be collected and summarized.

The utilization of forage brassicas in a dairy grazing management plan will offer producers a high quality feedstuff and a 60-day longer fall grazing season, while decreasing on-farm enteric methane emissions. When pastured dairy cattle were supplemented with forage turnip, researchers reported a 15% increase in the summer milk yield and a 14% increase in the late fall milk yield compared with cattle consuming forage sorghum (Sorghum bicolor, 4). The project team will establish field plots and a grazing experiment to determine the animal performance and methane mitigation potential of three forage brassica species. These experiments will provide the project team with science-based recommendations for use of individual brassica species on northeastern dairy farms. By educating producers on forage brassicas, we are giving them forage options to best develop an economic and environmentally sustainable production model for many years to come.