NEPC 2013 Annual Meeting: Research Needs

The next session, Pasture-Based Farming Research Needs Determination, was a break out session. A Producer Sector session and a Public Sector session ran concurrently.

These are the 2013 research needs requests from the Private Sector session.

In order of priority, with statements in bold of specific items that need to be addressed. The top 4 are new this year. Not all priorities were reclassified as to priorities. The conference was cut short because of an incoming winter storm and blizzard so these research priorities could not be put before the whole Consortium. They were reviewed by the Executive Committee at their February teleconference. Further disposition is pending.

  1. Exploring and explaining the impacts of stream and streambank exclusion. This priority is an immediate need and is based on problems in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, especially in Maryland. Regulations are coming out of EPA’s regulations, based on total maximum daily loads (TMDL).

Currently, the issue is being interpreted by NRCS discretion, and farmers may have to completely fence out streams with a 10-foot wide buffer, and with permanent fence. In one instance at least, this is costing more than $75,000 and may push the farmer into cropping and out of livestock. (Refer back to page 7 about flood prone fencing.)

There is not a clear scientific-based answer on the impacts of careful grazing management on streambanks and water quality. Therefore, the regulations are not based on science but by perception. Why does a grassed land use require an ungrazed grass buffer between it and the stream? Direct deposition of animal wastes in water is a very small portion of total waste excreted especially when riparian area pastures are rotationally grazed. This issue calls for further research or existing research be compiled and directed to the proper authorities on the impacts of grazing riparian areas.

  1. More focus is needed on parasite issues for small ruminants, especially given climate change and possibly a longer grazing season.

    • Efficacy of botanical wormers? Are products on the market worth the money?
    • Effects of organic and conventional treatments on parasites?
  2. Farmers need more information about FDA requiring all barns used to store food to be registered. Is there a minimum of $500,000 in farm revenues on this? Executive Committee determined this was actually not a research item, but a concern that needs to be directed to FDA for an answer.

  3. How to improve land with low inputs, especially land with C+ slopes, and silvopasture. This is a primary concern, especially given losing moderate quality land to corn production and pushing marginal land into production and grazing.

  4. Evaluate and promote forage species and improved varieties under grazing management and changing climatic and soil conditions with emphasis on extending the grazing season. Research problems with orchardgrass persistence. Specifically why is orchardgrass dying? – What is being done with this 2012 priority?

  5. Determine the management strategies and costs of transition or conversion from row crops to productive and sustainable grazing lands and soils. How do you start the soil biological community when transitioning from row crop to grazing lands? Study leading edge advances in alternative energy sources.

  6. Quantify the economics of whole-farm systems including the effects of breed selection, livestock diversification, and grazing management on animals and pasture health to promote safe, healthy, and secure local community food systems. Summarize CLA and human nutritional benefits present in grass-fed products.

  7. Determine the environmental impacts and profitability of alternative supplemental feeding strategies for animals on high quality pastures. What is the effect of stock density as it pertains to soil health and animal health? Compare high density or mob stocking to management intensive grazing. (Editor’s note: This may be more a matter of definition of what mob stocking is. See Soder poster paper abstract, Case Study: Dairies Utilizing Mob Grazing in the Northeast, in companion document, NEPC 2013 Annual Conference Poster Paper Abstracts.)

  8. Evaluate increasing production and quality management aspects of pasture-based animal products. What is the potential to increase production and what is the capacity of supply and demand?

  9. Identify and address the limiting factors and marketing opportunities in dairy and livestock pasture-based production systems. Produce summaries that are accessible to Extension education and other non-profits.

  10. Explore new alternatives for transfer of knowledge and information to increase adoption of research findings with the agricultural community such as mentoring, case studies, and creative use of technology in promotional materials. Produce summaries that are accessible to Extension Education and other non-profits.

The Public Sector came up with similar suggestions for needed research. They included orchardgrass die-off, demonstrating the water quality effect of livestock in grazed riparian areas, and silvopasture research. The silvopasture research area was extended to include conversion of understocked or low quality tree forestland to pasture.

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