As consumer demand for organic milk increases, so does the need to offer alternative production solutions to farmers and producers. At the West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC), we meet and exceed the standards for organic dairy production, and seek to provide practical, innovative solutions for those looking to raise organic dairy herds.
Our organic dairy herd consists of 110 certified organic dairy cattle (genetic composition is 40 percent Holstein, and 60 percent crossbreds consisting of Holstein, Jersey, Swedish Red and Normande).
Forages and Feed
With all of the various options for feeding organic dairy herds, we've taken a closer look to identify benefits of several feeding systems specific to organic dairy cattle.
Organic is a system, not just a product. In order to meet specific cultural, biological and mechanical practices for raising and maintaining an organic herd, we must also develop and use alternative methods for ensuring herd health, including breeding considerations.
Out-wintering continues to increase in popularity, and has become an important research topic among stakeholders. In particular, we are seeking to determine if out-wintered dairy cattle will stay healthy and comfortable. If so, out-wintering could reduce winter housing costs.
Pest and Fly Management
Flies and other pests can decrease milk production and spread disease. At the WCROC, we are looking at methods to control and manage flies on organic dairies.
- Effects of Flies on Dairy Cattle Welfare and Productivity
- Fly Control for Grazing and Organic Dairies
- Unique Fly Control Methods for Organic Dairy Production (YouTube Webinar)
We have also completed a study to describe the prevalence and practices used to manage internal helminth parasites and external arthropod parasites on organic and conventional dairy herds in Minnesota. All organic dairy herds in Minnesota and a convenience sample of conventional herds were invited to participate in the study.
The organic industry is growing and consumer demand remains high. However, with fluctuating milk prices and rising feed costs, can an organic dairy herd be a profitable option for producers? We did some comparisons and research; here's what we learned.