From Trent Schriefer, Manager of the Organic Dairy Research Farm
Fall is here at the Organic Dairy Research Farm, and the cows are moving up to the barn for the winter. We have had a very productive pasture season with just enough rainfall to supply adequate forage and lush high protein feed for the cows. This season we added an extra fifteen-acres of pasture for the dry cows and breed heifers, which helped to significantly reduce the load on our pastures. Our dairy was easily in compliance with the new National Organic Program’s pasture rule that requires cows to be on pasture for a minimum of 120 days in order to receive at least 35% of their dry matter intake. We are currently milking 36 cows and have braced ourselves for many calvings during the remainder of the season. We are projected to be milking fifty cows by March and currently have a daily average of 35 pounds of milk per cow.
Classes continue to visit the farm to gain first-hand knowledge of organic dairy production, pertinent research trials, and the agro-ecosystem management practices on the farm. Many classes take advantage of our on-site applied learning opportunities that include pasture species identification, animal behavior, milk handling, and more. A new eight-credit experiential Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems class, Team Experience in Agro-ecosystem Management – TEAM Organic, is being taught at the farm this fall and spring. The course provides students with the opportunity to learn and apply the environmental, social, and economic principles involved in organic food production. Currently, eight students are enrolled from five different majors.
Interdisciplinary research is on-going at the Organic Dairy Research Farm and highlights include:
- John Aber, Matt Davis, and Bill McDowell continue impactful research on ground water, water budgets, the Lamprey River, manure management, and more.
- Ruth Varner, Alix Contosta, and the lab group continue to monitor and assess soil respiration.
- Tom Foxall and Megan Seneca are monitoring stress factors on lactating cows associated with grass-based dairy systems in comparison with total mixed ration (TMR) systems.
- Joanne Curran-Celentano and Amy Beliveau are studying the effects of grass-based dairy systems versus total mix ration (TMR) systems as well as how value-added factors affect cheese production.
- Andre Brito continues a long-term study assessing the value of feeding kelp to calves and is in the beginning stages of a trial that examines the effects of feeding kelp to lactating dairy cows.
- Rich Smith is currently looking at pasture systems, their productivity, and the length of the grazing season.
- Many more collaborative and individual research studies are slated for this winter and upcoming spring.
Finally, the Organic Research Dairy Farm was host to Stonyfield Farm employees, USDA groups, foreign visitors, farmers, and community members throughout the fall. As the premiere organic dairy farm at a land grant university, ours continues to be a leader among active and supportive facilities for ground-breaking research as well as exceptional education and outreach.