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Stop the Presses! MIG More Profitable Than Conventional Dairy Farming!

By   /  December 1, 2014  /  4 Comments

If you’re a dairy farmer you’ll want to know that even if your gross income per cow is smaller, your overall profitability is greater. If you’re not into dairy, you’ll still be interested in improved animal health for grazing animals vs confinement.

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Who knew, right? Well, except for all of us…but the details, the data, that is the good stuff.
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About the author

Author and editor emeritus

Rachel's interest in sustainable agriculture and grazing has deep roots in the soil. She's been following that passion around the world, working on an ancient Nabatean farm in the Negev, and with farmers in West Africa's Niger. After returning to the US, Rachel received her M.S. and Ph.D. in agronomy and soil science from the University of Maryland. For her doctoral research, Rachel spent 3 years working with Maryland dairy farmers using management intensive grazing. She then began her work with grass farmers, a source of joy and a journey of discovery.


  1. Tom Ritter says:

    Good info Rachel and good additions Jim!

    For those in the area, you have a great opportunity to meet and tap into Jim’s great wealth of knowledge/experience on 12/6/14: http://www.missourilivestock.com/Forages_Section_Speakers.html

    I had the opportunity to take in several hours of his presentation at a fencing company’s customer appreciate day last year. I was so impressed I bought and have enjoyed (several times) his audio book:

    Kick the Hay Habit (A Practical Guide to Year-around Grazing) Audiobook (6 Compact Disc Set) and likely can get it at his website:

    No affiliations with any of above, but think all are great assets!

    Also, I have friends that MIG dairy farm here in SE MO and have learned a great deal from them. Always tell others considering MIG to make friends with a dairy that is doing it as the dairies have great feedback system (milk production) to let the know what does and does not work in their area.

  2. Juan Alvez says:

    Rachel, nice article and I concur with Jim’s opinion.

    Also, in a study done a few years back, I compared MIG, Conventional and Continuous grazing and found MIG to be more sustainable than conventional/continuous in five (out of nine) indicators: water, soils, biodiversity, financials and animal husbandry.

    • Rachel Gilker says:

      Hi Juan,
      Thanks for your kind words. Your study sounds interesting. We’d be interested in learning more (Kathy’s on the phone as I type!). Any info you can share?
      Happy Holidays,

  3. Jim Gerrish says:

    Hi Rachel, Another good article on the bottom line value of grazing vs. conventional dairy farming. The sad thing is Dr. David Zartman at Ohio State University reported essentially the same thing as far back as the late 1980s. U of Wisconsin found the same results and published them back in the early to mid-1990s. U of Missouri published similar reports before I left there in 2003. This sort of info and the known economic response has been around for decades now.

    The Big Question is why hasn’t the entire industry moved towards grass-based dairy production in light of such significant differences in profitability and environmental benefits?

    I see two main road blocks. For the farmer, I think it the fear of change more than any other factor. For the overall dairy industry, there are too many supporting businesses and services with vested interest in maintaining the status quo. As the profit margin grows for the farmer, it usually means someone else is making less money in the associated industries. Our ‘friends’ in agri-business have little motivation to change production models because it means fewer inputs the farmer needs to purchase.

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