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Feeding strategies on certified organic dairy farms in Wisconsin and their effect on milk production and income over feed costs

Feeding strategies on certified organic dairy farms in Wisconsin and their effect on milk production and income over feed costs

Journal of Dairy Science 97(7): 4612-4623

ISSN/ISBN: 0022-0302

PMID: 24819131

DOI: 10.3168/jds.2013-7763

The purposes of this study were (1) to analyze and categorize certified organic Wisconsin dairy farms based on general farm characteristics and feeding strategies during the course of 2010, and (2) to evaluate herd milk production and income over feed costs (IOFC). An on-site survey containing sections on farm demographics, feeding, grazing, and economics was conducted on 69 farms (12.6% survey response rate). A nonhierarchical clustering method using 9 variables related to general farm characteristics, feed supplementation, and grazing was applied to partition the farms into clusters. A scree plot was used to determine the most appropriate number of clusters. Dry matter intake was approximated based on farmer-reported total amounts of feed consumed (feed offered less refusals). Milk production was evaluated using reported milk rolling herd averages (RHA). Income over feed costs was calculated as milk sales minus feed expenses. The farms in clusters 1 (n=8) and 3 (n=32), the large and small high-input farms, respectively, included more feed ingredients in their lactating cow diets and relied more heavily on concentrates than farms in other clusters. Cows on these farms were predominantly Holstein. Clusters 1 and 3 had the highest RHA (6,878 and 7,457 kg/cow per year, respectively) and IOFC ($10.17 and $8.59/lactating cow per day, respectively). The farms in cluster 2 (n=5) were completely seasonal, extremely low-input farms that relied much more heavily on pasture as a source of feed, with 4 out of the 5 farms having all of their operated land in pasture. Farms in cluster 2 relied on fewer feeds during both the grazing and nongrazing seasons compared with farms in the other clusters. These farms had the lowest RHA and IOFC at 3,632 kg/cow per year and $5.76/lactating cow per day, respectively. Cluster 4 (n=24), the partly seasonal, moderate-input, pasture-based cluster, ranked third for RHA and IOFC (5,417 kg/cow per year and $5.92/lactating cow per day, respectively). Breeds other than Holstein were used more prevalently on farms in clusters 2 and 4. Results indicated extreme variation in animal breed, structure, and feeding strategies among Wisconsin organic dairy farms. Feeding strategies appeared to be major determinants of RHA and IOFC. These findings may serve current organic and transition farmers when considering feeding management changes needed to meet organic pasture rule requirements or dealing with dietary supplementation challenges.

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Accession: 053225321

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