Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » Madison, Wisconsin » U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center » Environmentally Integrated Dairy Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #412712

Research Project: Managing Nutrients and Assessing Pathogen Emission Risks for Sustainable Dairy Production Systems

Location: Environmentally Integrated Dairy Management Research

Title: Stocking methods for greener pastures

item Young, Eric

Submitted to: Forage Focus
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/9/2024
Publication Date: 3/4/2024
Citation: Young, E.O. 2024. Stocking methods for greener pastures. Forage Focus. March 2024 issue. pg. 8-9.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Few studies have compared nutrient and runoff losses between grazing management systems and hay production with manure application. Four edge-of-field runoff monitoring stations at the Marshfield Agricultural Research Station in Stratford, Wisconsin were used for a paired watershed experiment comparing hay crop production to three grazing systems. The four fields were managed as hay during calibration (2013-2018) followed by a grazing phase (2018-2020) with three treatments (continuous stocking, CS), primary paddock stocking (PPS) and adaptive multi-paddock stocking (AMPS). The CS system provided unrestricted access to pasture all season, whereas PPS and AMPS used temporary fencing to create temporary paddocks, with heifers rotated every 10 to 15 days or 2 to 3 days for PPS and AMPS, respectively. Surface runoff, sediment, nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) loads were monitored year-round. Results showed that grazing increased average runoff volume by as much as 1.7-fold compared to hay production. While grazing tended to decrease N and P concentrations, the greater surface runoff from grazing tended to increase loads compared to the hay field. CS had larger mean sediment (2.0-fold), total N (1.9-fold) and total P loads (1.2-fold) compared to the control and lower forage availability. AMPS had lower N and P loss as a percentage of applied manure N and P (1.3 and 1.6%) compared to the control (2.5 and 2.1%), PPS (2.5 and 2.6%), and CS (3.2 and 3.0%). Stocking method had a marked impact on runoff and nutrient loads, suggesting nutrient management tools should account for stocking management of pastures.