Submitted to: American Forage and Grassland Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/22/2000
Publication Date: 7/18/2000
Citation: Rotz, C.A., Martin, N.P., Grabber, J.H. 2000. Crop options for an expanding dairy farm in wisconsin. American Forage and Grassland Conference Proceedings. 9:100-104.
Interpretive Summary: Declining milk prices are reducing the profitability of Wisconsin dairy farms. To remain viable, many farms are expanding by adding more animals. With more animals, more forage must be produced to meet the nutrient needs of the herd. Adding more animals may also increase the nutrient load on the land, increasing the potential for nutrient losses to the environment. Purchase or leasing of more cropland may be required to spread the additional nutrients over more land. Several cropping options are available to provide additional forage and feed to the herd. Better economic and environmental information on the tradeoffs among these options is needed to help farmers better plan the future of their operations. Long-term simulations of various cropping strategies on a representative dairy farm showed that adding pastureland with rotational grazing provided the greatest economic benefit to the farmer and the highest potential for reducing nitrogen leaching losses into ground water. Adding another silo and more corn, barley, or soybeans to the farm provided a little less economic benefit to the farmer with only a small reduction in nitrogen leaching loss. Adding pasture or any of the grain crops provided similar reductions in phosphorus loading of the soil, which may reduce the long- term loss of phosphorus and the resulting eutrofication of surface waters. These results illustrate that dairy farmers should consider adding rotationally grazed pasture as they expand or alter their land base and cropping strategy.
Technical Abstract: The Dairy Forage System Model (DAFOSYM) was used to evaluate the economic and environmental impacts of adding 50 acres of corn, barley, soybeans, or pasture to a 150 acre, 100-cow dairy farm in Wisconsin. The greatest benefit came from adding rotationally grazed pasture where annual farm profit increased about $20,000. Volatile nitrogen (N) loss from the farm increased 10%, but N leaching loss per land unit decreased 46%. Adding a bunker silo for more corn silage and 50 acres of corn, barley for feed grain and straw bedding, or soybeans for roasting and feeding all had similar impacts. Volatile N loss and N leaching loss per land unit were reduced about 15% and 20%, respectively. Annual farm profit was increased about $10,000 with more corn or soybeans and $14,000 with barley. All crop options reduced soil phosphorus accumulation by about 9 lb/acre/year. Therefore, adding pasture to an expanding dairy farm may provide equal or better environmental benefit and greater profitability than other crop options.