Prescribed Grazing and Feeding Management for Lactating Dairy Cows
New York State Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative in Cooperation with the USDA-NRCS
Syracuse, NY January 2000
by Karen Hoffman Sullivan, Robert DeClue and Darrell Emmick
Dairy farming is a $1.7 billion industry in New York according to the 1996 New York State Agricultural Statistics. There are 700,000 dairy cows in the state located on some 9,200 dairy farms. Despite views to the contrary, most dairy farms in the state are family owned and operated businesses. The average herd size is around 75 cows with 96% of all herds having less than 200 cows.
To maintain dairy farm proﬁtability and ensure long term sustainability of the industry, the use of lower cost production methods, increasing milk production at reasonable cost or a combination of both will be the best alternatives available. In the face of rising fuel and machinery costs, stricter environmental regulations, and general inﬂation in the cost of living, management decisions will need to be based on sound economic as well as environmental planning. While there are production methods which will increase milk production, they can be inappropriate management decisions if they increase costs of production above the rate of expected return and negatively impact the bottom line. Producers need to be looking for methods that can increase production and reduce costs at the same time.
The utilization of pasture as a forage source for lactating cows has been gaining in popularity in recent years. Along with the switch back to pasture have come many questions concerning how to manage the forage to optimize quality, quantity and harvest efficiency as well as what else to feed the cows to optimize milk production. Although each farm represents a unique collection of resource based assets and attributes i.e. soil type, forage species, land base, kind, number, and genetic potential of livestock, many are similar enough that there would be a significant benefit gained from the use of well-managed pasture. The differences from farm to farm simply imply that each farm needs to assess what makes it unique, and creatively apply the principles of prescribed grazing and feeding management.