|SNIDER, MIRIAM - University Of Vermont|
|ZIEGLER, SARA - University Of Vermont|
|DARBY, HEATHER - University Of Vermont|
|BRITO, ANDRE - University Of New Hampshire|
|BEIDLER, BRENT - Consultant|
|FLACK, SARAH - Consultant|
|GREENWOOD, SABRINA - University Of Vermont|
|NILES, MEREDITH - University Of Vermont|
Submitted to: Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/28/2021
Publication Date: 8/4/2021
Citation: Snider, M.A., Ziegler, S.E., Darby, H.M., Soder, K.J., Brito, A.F., Beidler, B., Flack, S., Greenwood, S.L., Niles, M.T. 2021. An overview of organic, grassfed dairy farm management and factors related to higher milk production. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. 6:624-632. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1742170521000284.
Interpretive Summary: Specialty milk markets, such as grassfed and organic, are gaining in popularity with dairy farmers and consumers. However, there is a lack of research outlining dairy production practices, producer-identified research needs, or social factors that affect these production systems. A nationwide survey of organic, grassfed dairy farmers was conducted to self-assess farmer knowledge of production practices, and to identify areas needed for future research and outreach efforts. Based on these results, more research is needed to define financial and production benchmarks, develop more effective communication strategies to reach and educate organic, grassfed farmers, and identify methods to improve milk production through improved forage quality.
Technical Abstract: Organic, grassfed (OGF) dairy, which requires higher pasture and forage dry matter intake (DMI) compared with standard organic dairy practices, is unique both in its management needs and in production challenges. The OGF dairy sector is rapidly growing, with expansion of this industry outpacing other dairy sectors. There is a lack of research outlining OGF dairy production practices, producer-identified research needs, or social factors that affect OGF systems. The objectives of this study were to, with a group of OGF dairy producers, 1) assess information regarding current production practices and producer knowledge, and 2) identify agronomic and social factors that may influence milk production on OGF farms across the United States. A mail survey, focused on demographics, forage and animal management, knowledge, and satisfaction of their farm was developed and distributed in 2019, with 167 responses (47% response rate). The majority of producers indicated they belonged to the plain, or Amish-Mennonite, community. Milk production was greater on farms that had Holstein cattle, as compared to farms with Jerseys and mixed breeds, and employed intensive pasture rotation. Furthermore, most producers reported the use of supplements such as molasses and kelp meal, which can improve milk production, but also increase feed costs. Producers who indicated that they were at least satisfied with their milk production also reported high levels of knowledge of grazing management and cow reproductive performance. Based on these results, more research exploring financial and production benchmarks, effective communication strategies to reach OGF producers, and methods to improve cattle production through improved forage quality is needed.