Improving management strategies for organic dairy herds

September 14, 2020

Organic dairy farmers will soon have additional resources for improving management strategies from the University of Minnesota (U of MN) certified organic dairy program located at the West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC), Morris, MN. Dr. Bradley Heins, Associate Professor of Dairy Science at the WCROC, was recently awarded three grants totaling $2.1 million through the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to further research in the areas of disbudding alternatives for organic dairy calves, pre-weaned calf rearing options, and the effect of high-legume diets on milk quality.

  • Disbudding, or horn removal, presents a unique challenge in pain management for organic dairy producers. They must use organic-approved treatments and management practices while maintaining animal welfare. This research project will look at alternative methods for disbudding and pain management and provide scientific evidence to producers.
  • Dr. Heins and his research team will be evaluating various calf rearing options in the context of calf health, welfare, and wellbeing. Specifically, they will look at individual housing, group housing, pair housing, and raising calves with cows on pasture. Ultimately, the team will provide recommendations on best calf rearing options for organic producers.
  • Using a multiregional approach, the U of MN is partnering with the University of New Hampshire and the University of Maine to look at how farmers can utilize nutrient-rich legumes on pasture to positively impact milk production and herd health.

Research projects began September 1, 2020 and continue through 2023.

As a U of MN entity, the WCROC is uniquely positioned as a premier land-grant organic dairy research facility. Previous organic dairy research projects have evaluated herd health, forages and feed, pest and fly management, and outwintering.    

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