Bridge seasonal changes in pasture quality

March 24, 2015

Pasture is the primary source of forage for grazing dairies. For organic dairies, the National Organic Program livestock production regulations require a minimum of 120 days grazing per animal. In the northern United States, this requirement is typically met by a May to September grazing season, and profitability depends on pastures that provide a uniform, season-long supply of highquality forage.

However, in this region, seasonal variation in temperature and precipitation creates a challenge. The predominant forage plants undergo a “summer slump” in production. To create a more uniform and extended forage supply, research studies have recommended diversifying pasture systems to include warm season species in the summer. An approach to improving diversity in a farm’s forage base is to combine annual and perennial crops in separate fields. Grazing systems using these different approaches to achieve diversity require biological, environmental and economic analysis.  Brad Heins, Assistant Professor of Organic Dairy Management at the West Central Research and Outreach Center, tells more in Hoard's Dairyman.