Dairy Cows On Pasture: An Environmental Plus

This article comes to us from Ann Perry and the Agricultural Research Service's Ag Research Journal. It was originally published in the May/June issue of 2011. Every year, a hefty dairy cow tucked away in a snug barn produces more than 20,000 pounds of milk, along with an impressive amount of manure and an array of gases. New modeling work by an Agricultural Research Service team in University Park, Pennsylvania, suggests that a dairy cow living year-round in the great outdoors may leave a markedly smaller ecological hoofprint than her more sheltered sisters. Agricultural engineer Al Rotz led a team of scientists at the ARS Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit through a modeling study that evaluated how different management systems on a typical 250-acre Pennsylvania dairy farm would affect the environment. “If we try to reduce one environmental factor in this complex production system, we can end up increasing others,” Rotz says. “So there’s a real need to look at all the environmental aspects together.” Several other ARS University Park scientists collaborated on the project, including animal scient

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