Dairies Share Successes With Extending the Grazing Season

This fall we held two pasture walks to explore what strategies two different dairies use to graze late into fall months. These events were part of a new program funded by United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) to support farmer meetings in the Champlain Valley. We discussed grazing strategies, markets and economics, and of course, had some fun visiting other farms. Focus on Dry Matter Intake and Genetics for a No-Grain Dairy The first farm we visited was Mike Eastman's 220-acre farm in Addison. He has been grain-free for about 12 years, and gets a premium by shipping milk through Organic Valley as "Grassmilk." Mike likes to keep things simple; instead of permanent high-tensile fence, he uses single-strand polywire, with the flexibility to graze or hay a field. He manages his stocking rate so he can regularly graze into December, only starting to feed supplemental hay in November. To make up for no grain, Mike ensures his cows are consuming enough dry matter in good quality forage, including a mix of grass species and legumes such as clover and birdsfoot trefoil. Mike moves his cows to fresh pasture after each milking, and allows adequate rest by using a 60- to 90-day rotation. By mid-summer many pastures will head out and go to seed. As a result, he has not seeded or plowed his fields in 20 years. Post-grazing, Mike likes to see a mat of grass from animal trampling, which protects the soil and keeps it cooler in hot, dry summer months. Instead of a set rotation, he fol

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