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ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #311825

Research Project: Multifunctional Farms and Landscapes to Enhance Ecosystem Services

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Title: Mob grazing for dairy cows

Author
item Soder, Kathy
item Hafla, Aimee - Former ARS Employee
item Hautau, Mena - Pennsylvania State University

Submitted to: Lancaster Farming
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/30/2014
Publication Date: 12/10/2014
Citation: Soder, K.J., Hafla, A., Hautau, M. 2014. Mob grazing for dairy cows. Lancaster Farming (Corn Talk & Foraging Around Special Section). p. E13-14.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Proponents of mob grazing emphasize increased forage use efficiency and soil improvement by grazing mature forage with stocking densities up to 560,425 lb/ac 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 mob grazing. Data collected on 4 organic dairy farms in PA and NY practicing mob grazing included: pasture and soil nutrient analyses, stocking density, botanical composition, and pasture stratification. Herds were mixed breed with milk yields ranging from 26 to 37 lb/d per cow. Stocking density ranged from 44,000 to 377,000 lb/ac 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 13 in. and higher and 49% from below 13 in. Across years, forage CP, NDF, and NEL 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 mob grazing by using forages more mature than recommended in management-intensive grazing systems by allowing longer periods of forage rest.