Submitted to: Popular Publication
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/20/2014
Publication Date: 3/1/2014
Citation: Soder, K.J., Orr, A.N., Hautau, M. 2014. A look at dairy mob grazing in the Northeast. Popular Publication. 21(3):18-19. Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: Proponents of ultra-high stocking density (UHSD) grazing emphasize increased forage use efficiency and soil improvement by grazing mature forage with stocking densities up to 560,425 kg/ha of beef cattle on small paddocks with rest periods up to 125 days. However, it is unclear if this management technique is appropriate for dairy farms in the northeastern United States. A case study was conducted to characterize management practices and forage and soil quality on dairy farms using self-described UHSD grazing. Data collected on 4 organic dairy farms in PA and NY practicing UHSD grazing included: pasture and soil nutrient analyses, stocking density, botanical composition, and pasture stratification. Herds were mixed breed with milk yields ranging from 11.9 to 17.7 kg/d per cow. Stocking density ranged from 49,421 to 377,912 kg/ha with 30 to 49 d of forage rest. Forage consumed was 46 and 45% of total available in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Within the available forage that was eaten, cows consumed 75% of forage from layers 33 cm and higher and 49% from below 33 cm. Across years, forage CP, NDF, and NE**L averaged 24%, 44.7% and 1.43 Mcal/kg respectively. The increase in forage quality during 2012 was likely a result of forage being less mature at each successive grazing. Soil mineral content and pH were within recommended levels. Grazing dairies in PA and NY have taken a modified approach to UHSD grazing by using forages more mature than recommended in management-intensive grazing systems by allowing longer periods of forage rest.